Anthony Mario Natelli, R.I.P.
I take little comfort in these opportunities to say goodbye to people who have been a major influence on me. Tony Natelli was a very positive one, not just on me, but on everyone whose life he graced.
Short of stature, Tony possessed a giant intellect - and an even larger heart. I remember the first time he walked into my office in Winchester Hall. We were struggling with an issue regarding park development in the Urbana region.
Tony wanted to fix the problem. He understood the need to build parks as an amenity for his development project. He made it clear he wasn't there to advocate for a particular perspective, just to solve the problem.
Another conversation I had with Tony is the best example of just who he was, and what his fully-lived life really meant to all of us.
I was trying to imagine the Villages of Urbana project, awed by the sheer size of the finished community. I asked Tony if he'd be willing to discuss it with me.
That short meeting opened my eyes to the thought process Tony used when he looked at a large tract of land and envisioned a bustling community, filled with families, parks, and memories in the making.
Tony Natelli lived to build communities, not a collection of houses. Avenel is a testament to his commitment, and the Villages of Urbana will be when the work is done.
A measure of the greatness of a man is taken on how he handles stressful situations, how he conducts himself, not just when the sun is shining, but when the chips are down.
Tony Natelli kept a positive and professional public persona under the most stressful situations. Whether the discussion dealt with school capacity, traffic, parks, or permits, Tony conducted himself in a positive manner and a spirit of cooperation.
I suggested to several people that they should visit a Natelli Community to get a sense of the style of product that they encouraged in their developments. What I really should have told them was to call Tony and arrange a personal meeting. A better way to measure a Natelli project was to meet Tony and allow him to share his broad vision.
Those of us who knew him will miss his tremendous influence. As sad as his untimely passing is, we can take some solace in the fact that his legacy has passed to his son Tom, and Tom has continued the outstanding tradition of focusing on building neighborhoods and communities, not just subdivisions.
I've known land developers who left much to be desired when it comes to laying out the whole story. On rare occasions, I've actually had a developer intentionally misrepresent a proposal to me, counting on a level of naiveté to slip something by me.
I never had to worry about that with Mr. Natelli. If he said he'd do something, it would get done. Conversely, he expected nothing less in return.
Tony Natelli's fingerprints are on the land in southern Frederick County, and his lasting contribution will be manifest in little children learning to ride a bike on the sidewalks, in the flower gardens blooming each spring, and the families gathering to celebrate the holidays in the Villages of Urbana.