04 Jun HBI Mourns the Passing of Carmela Vertullo Pearce
June 3, 2019
HBI was saddened to learn of the passing on May 27th of Carmela Vertullo Pearce at the age of 87. Carmela was a lifelong Hyde Park resident and, except for a brief stint after she was first married, resided in the Vertullo Building on Fairmount Avenue for most of her years.
HBI acquired the 1867 building from Carmela and her sister in 2011 and completed a comprehensive rehabilitation of it in 2015, restoring its storefronts and exterior to its 1890s appearance and making other interior improvements; the property is home to five small businesses and four upper-story apartments.
The lead-up to HBI’s acquisition of the property was a real courtship, involving many warm and wide-ranging conversations between Carmela and HBI staffer at the time, Jeff Gonyeau, over coffee and homemade treats at Carmela’s kitchen table on the second floor of the building. Carmela was a treasure trove of information about Hyde Park and how the neighborhood has evolved over the years—changes she had observed first-hand—but she was also the current eyes and ears of her end of Fairmount Ave., observing everything while energetically running errands on foot in her baseball cap and sunglasses, or heading to church events, or to play in her bowling league at Ron’s Ice Cream and Bowling on Hyde Park Ave.
By the time HBI began its work in Hyde Park as part of its Historic Neighborhood Centers program in 2008, Carmela was already thinking about her future in the building, which she had been managing on her own for many years. HBI was interested in the structure because of its historic and architectural value (it is one of the few surviving wooden structures from the era of Hyde Park’s early development in the 1860s) but also because of its potential to house additional businesses and residents in its under-occupied spaces. Carmela was initially skeptical of HBI’s interest and of its plan to invest a substantial amount to rehabilitate the building, but she agreed to a deal, and negotiated her ability to stay on in her 2-floor unit as a tenant—preserving her ability to remain in the comfortable apartment and community she loved, but removing the ever-increasing burden and expense of property management.
Carmela’s father, Pasquale Vertullo, purchased the building in 1932. An entrepreneurial and industrious immigrant from Italy, he ran a cobbler’s shop on the ground floor for many years while renting spaces to other commercial tenants, and he and his wife raised their son and two daughters “above the shop” in a large, rambling apartment. When HBI suggested renaming it “The Vertullo Building” in honor of her father’s and her family’s long association with the structure and with the community, Carmela—a self-described “tough cookie”—initially demurred, accusing Jeff Gonyeau of being “too sentimental.” However, she relented, and HBI knows that she was secretly proud of seeing her family memorialized in this way, and of helping to usher in a new era for this prominent historic structure in Hyde Park.
She will be greatly missed, but here’s to Carmela Vertullo Pearce (1931-2019)—a great lady, a deluxe hostess and story-teller, and a genuine part of Hyde Park history.