By Katherine Martinelli
Thomas Peter Martinelli (Tom), a native New Yorker and long-time Village resident, died of a heart attack on May 28, 2016 in his home. He was 73 years old.
Tom was born and raised in Queens but fell in love with Greenwich Village as a high school student. When he was 18, Tom began working as a printer at John S. Swift Co. on West and Bethune Streets, where his father was the night foreman. He returned to the job after serving in the Vietnam War as a naval photographer.
In 1978, Tom met his wife Marjorie through mutual friends at popular Chinatown restaurant Wo Hop. It was love at first sight and they were married less than a year later. They moved into a one-bedroom
apartment across the hall from Tom’s W. 10th Street studio apartment, where they remained and raised their two daughters, Katherine and Christina.
When the opportunity arose, Tom and Marjorie purchased A Clean, Well-Lighted Place at 363 Bleecker Street in 1979. They ran the art gallery, which specialized in contemporary prints and custom framing, until Tom’s retirement in 2012. The gallery was one of the last of the old guard, independent shops on the street.
Tom became something of a neighborhood character. He knew everyone and everything about the Village. When he wasn’t busy assembling frames or selling prints, Tom would stand outside the shop chatting with everyone from celebrities to tourists to the UPS guy. Walking around, he could tell you the history of each building, who lived where, how much various apartments had just sold for, and what was being built down the block. He frequented local businesses like Raffetto’s, Murray’s Cheese, Faicco’s, Rocco’s, and Porto Rico Coffee. A day wasn’t complete without a stop in Housing Works to see what treasures he might procure.
The child of an Italian immigrant father and second generation Hungarian mother, Tom learned to cook at an early age. Every night, he prepared a hearty meal from scratch for his family, which they ate together at the dining room table. Eating his food was one of the great treats in life. On the rare occasions he let someone else cook for him, Sevilla, Gene’s, and Pearl Oyster Bar were his favorite restaurants.
Above all, Tom loved being a father and believed that parenthood was the meaning of life. He said that the happiest time of his life was when his daughters were in elementary school at PS3, when he could be found in the classrooms each and every morning. Tom was an even more exuberant grandparent, and shared a special bond with his grandson, who lovingly calls him “Papa Tom.”
Tom’s passing leaves a rift not only in the hearts of his loved ones, but also in Greenwich Village. Tom is survived by his wife Marjorie, daughters Katherine and Christina, son-in-law Evan, grandson Henry, and sister Ann, as well as numerous beloved cousins, nieces, and nephews. He will be missed beyond words.
Publisher’s Note: George Capsis recalls stopping by the shop many times. Once when George was there, Tom Martinelli snapped a shot of a fire engine unable to make the turn from Bleecker onto Charles because of an illegally parked police car, which WestView ran on the front page.