John P. Dalis, who served this city as an alderman a half century ago but who achieved his local notoriety as Chelsea’s city clerk for 26 years, has died.
Mr. Dalis, from an old Greek Chelsea family whose roots here were early on in the restaurant business in Chelsea Square, was 90.
Mr. Dalis was a prominent city hall figure here for much of his adult life. At a time when Chelsea was a far different place than it is today, he was one of a half dozen powerbrokers at city hall who determined, quite often, the direction things took at city hall.
Everyone, it seemed knew Mr. Dalis. Everyone it seemed liked Mr. Dalis. He was a Chelsea icon by the time he reached old age.
Mr. Dalis was never involved in the investigation into public corruption here during the early 1990’s that ensnared four former mayors with indictments, trials, convictions and sentences served.
Mr. Dalis was above all that.
He left the clerk’s office about three months into receivership in 1991 when James Carlin was appointed to lead the city by then Governor William Weld.
He was appointed to his position by former Chelsea Mayor John Slater in 1965. The city was in a slow free-fall at the time – old families moving out, impoverished newcomers moving in, the housing stock old and decrepit, politics becoming incestuous and inert with city hall strained to the bone to meet financial obligations in the down market.
Mr. Dalis treated his position as city clerk with thoroughness and respect. He was always independent with all those who came into his office.
“He was very professional. A lifelong resident. He loved the city. He probably knew more people than anyone else in the city and his office ran seamlessly,” said Chelsea Record President Stephen Quigley.
Indeed. Mr. Dalis presided over hundreds of marriages. He ruled on one close mayoral election and he used his wits about him to keep straight and calm during the heated recall of a controversial mayor when the city was set to explode. In that instance, he made sure to have everyone in his office treat both sides fairly and a literal street fight was avoided.
John P. Dalis was born in Chelsea, the son of Peter and Constance Stasinopoulas Dalis. His father owned a small diner in Chelsea Square, right in the square about 30 feet south of the spot where the Pulaski Memorial stands today.
That small diner, know as Dalis’ Diner, was Chelsea Square’s sparkplug cum outpost in the late night for several decades. After the war, the Dalis shut down the diner, having bought the block that now houses the K of C.
On the first floor of that sprawling 19th Century block, the Dalis carved out their modern piece of the city, a restaurant that could seat perhaps 80 people and which served buffet style all day everyday and all night for many, many years.
When the city changed, into the late 1960’s and into the early 1970’s, the Dalis Family closed the restaurant.
That’s when Johnny got into local politics.
He served as an alderman and as an alderman at large.
Dalis was all business. He wasn’t much for joking or for expressing intellectual beliefs. He was on balance a common man, a hard working Greek man who had been successful in the restaurant business like his father before him and who carried on into a life of politics before retiring in 1991.
After that, it was a long, quiet, dignified ride into the sunset for Mr. Dalis.
For many, many years he lived on Jones Avenue in the apartments there. He lived nearby to his lifelong friend and city hall colleague former City Treasurer Syd Brown.
They could be seen almost daily making their rounds in Chelsea during receivership and in the years after.
Mr. Dalis was also very proud of his relationship with the Metro Credit Union where he was a founding member as well as a member of the board of directors.
He was a short, fit man with a winning personality who always looked you right in the eye.
There was not an ounce of swagger or affect in Mr. Dalis. He was a good judge of character. He was loyal always to his friends. He pounced upon opportunity when it showed itself and he was never afraid of hard work.
He knew a thing or two about making money and saving money. And he always kept himself physically fit.
Mr. Dalis’ death marks a major departure of a man of stature who had an awful lot to say and do about Chelsea during his time on this earth.
He never married but he knew how to enjoy himself and he loved life and he especially loved his life.
He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Funeral arrangements were directed by the Smith Funeral Home.