By DANIEL KITTREDGE The community is mourning the loss of a long-serving civic leader. John E. Lanni Jr., who was active in local politics for four decades and served a combined 16 years on the City Council, passed away Oct. 14 at the age of 77. "e;I think
The community is mourning the loss of a long-serving civic leader.
John E. Lanni Jr., who was active in local politics for four decades and served a combined 16 years on the City Council, passed away Oct. 14 at the age of 77.
“I think he’s going to be remembered as a person who listened, who didn’t act rashly,” said Michael Sepe, a close friend of Lanni’s and chairman of the Cranston Democratic City Committee. “He was very deliberate in how he was going to vote. He really studied issues, and I think people really respected him for that.”
Professionally, Lanni spent more than 25 years as the auditor of revenue for the Bonanza/Coach USA/Peter Pan Bus Lines, according to an obituary. Over the years, he was active in St. Mary’s Church in Cranston, the St. Mary’s Feast Society, and the Santa Maria DiPrata Society. He also served in the Rhode Island National Guard.
Locally, he will be remembered by many as a three-term Democratic councilman from Ward 5 and a five-term citywide councilman. He also served as the council’s president for three terms – the only Democrat in the city’s history to do so.
Sepe said his first got to know Lanni in 1976, through an unsuccessful campaign for state representative. Their relationship, and Lanni’s influence on the local political scene, grew exponentially from that point.
“We go back a long way … John became a vital part in the Democratic Party,” Sepe said.
Lanni’s other civic and political roles included being elected to the state’s 1986 Constitutional Convention, serving as a member of the party’s state committee and leading the Democratic Fifth Ward Committee as chairman.
On a personal level, Sepe said he and his wife, Valerie, were close friends with Lanni and his late wife, Lois. The couples traveled together often, to places like New York City, Atlantic City, Lake George and Saratoga Springs. Lanni was Sepe’s son’s godfather.
“That’s how close John and I were,” Sepe said. “We did a lot of traveling together. But basically, we became friends through politics.”
Sepe remembered being hospitalized during his own first year on the City Council, and how Lanni visited him daily.
“That’s a good friend, a good brother,” he said.
A number of community members and elected leaders offered remembrances of Lanni in the days after his passing. At City Hall, flags have been lowered to half-staff. A police escort was planned for Lanni’s funeral procession on Wednesday, while former Democratic councilman Richard Santamaria, who served as council vice president under Lanni, said he planned to arrange for an honor guard of current and former council members at St. Mary’s Church as well.
“It’s the best way I know to honor him,” he said.
Lori Carlino and her husband, former councilman and City Committee chairman Mario Carlino, shared a remembrance of their relationship with Lanni and his wife on Facebook.
“John was always the behind the scenes type of guy who helped others in moving the City of Cranston forward. He was a quiet man of few words, but when he spoke, people listened, as his wisdom, guidance and dedication was absolute!” it reads.
“As the years went on and Mario stepped down from the City Council, our party encouraged John to run and represent Ward 5. He was a little reluctant to be in the forefront, but as a loyalist, he graciously agreed,” it continues. “From then on, John continued to prove himself as a leader, not only for the ward 5 community, but for the entire city of Cranston. He eventually gained the support of Council members and became Council President. Through it all, John always remained humble and maintained one thing for sure, his love for his family. He always began speeches thanking his friends, family and The Love of His Life, Lois! They are reunited once again and will be dearly missed.”
Christopher Buonanno, chairman of the Cranston Republican City Committee, issued a statement last week honoring Lanni’s legacy and offering condolences to the late councilman’s family.
“In politics, there are very few things that can transcend a party moniker. In today’s hyper-partisan political climate, people often forget to focus on the commonality from which to build consensus and compromise instead of focusing on the differences that cause friction and divisiveness,” Buonanno said. “Cranston is lucky to have had Mr. Lanni, who was a Democrat, on their City Council for so long, as he focused on the former, and not the latter. His love for the City of Cranston was always first in his motivation, and Cranston was a better place because of his leadership and service on the City Council.”
He added: “The City of Cranston has lost a fine gentleman on this day. Personally, I am grateful to have known John, and seen him work through the years. This city has lost a faithful servant who will not be soon forgotten. He taught much to many people but I will remember the most important lesson he taught me; the love for the city and its people and the drive to do the right thing for them is more important than anything else, even one’s party. It’s a lesson that many politicians on all levels of American government may need to be reminded of.”
In an email to the Herald, Robert Santurri Jr. said he got to know Lanni during his final term on the council, from 2017 to 2019. He recalled Lanni’s efforts to ensure members of the public were heard during debate over a resolution asking the General Assembly to ban concealed-carry gun permit holders from bringing firearms into schools.
“John was the epitome of what our elected officials should be,” he said. “He loved Cranston, and that showed in every meeting while he was on the City Council. He knew the budget like few others and was always generous with his time in discussing the issues facing the city.”
Ward 5 Councilman Chris Paplauskas wrote on social media that Lanni “left his mark on our city and especially Ward 5 over his long tenured service.”
“He was always a gentleman and passionate about Cranston,” he said. “He will be missed but his work for our beloved Cranston will be felt for many years to come.”
Ward 4 Councilman Ed Brady wrote on Facebook: “Growing up in Cranston the name John Lanni was truly a staple in my neighborhood and throughout Cranston. I remember continuing to see LANNI campaign signs year after year throughout my childhood. I truly didn’t understand the significance of his public service to the city of Cranston until I was fortunate enough to briefly serve with him on his last term decades later! Even though we were from opposite parties Mr. Lanni sat next to me on my first term as a council person and always answered my questions with kindness and sincerity. His passion and service for the city of Cranston is truly appreciated and Cranston is definitely a BETTER place to live because of Mr. Lanni.”
Council President Michael Farina, who served as the body’s vice president under Lanni, wrote on Facebook that he “learned so much from his leadership and truly was privileged to learn from him.”
“He was a good man, a fair leader and even though we had challenges he truly fought for what he though was good for Cranston,” he added.
Ward 3 Councilman John Donegan wrote on Twitter that Lanni’s “service to our City spanned decades in which he served with dignity, compassion, and integrity.”
“He was an encyclopedia of institutional knowledge, and always willing to share that upon any request,” Donegan added. “He was one of the first people to encourage me to run for City Council, and I am forever indebted to him for that. Our City has lost a dedicated public servant, and our Council Chambers forever more empty with him gone.”
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello also offered a statement on social media.
“I am saddened to learn of the passing of former City Council President John Lanni,” the speaker said. “He was dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Cranston residents and he will be sorely missed.”