The spirit of friendships made on the beach endures
I first met Albert Peter Angelone in Coop's. I knew him as Angie, a kind of quirky, friendly guy who loved to fish often alone and at odd hours of the day.
He was a hard fisherman on an Island of hard fisherman distinguished by the fact that he was always ready to provide a helpful hint about where the fish might be hitting. When I would find his car parked at a location where I intended to fish I considered it to be as good a sign of fish as terns diving on bait.
But I did not have his staying power. His car would often be there when I arrived and be there when I left.
Angie Angelone enjoyed the peace of fishing along the Vineyard's many beaches. Photo courtesy Angelone family.
Angie spoke in clipped phrases and laced his conversation with hard to figure references. He was always asking me, "You know what I mean?" But more often than not, I didn't know what he meant.
Unfailingly polite and courteous, after we met he called me Mr. Sigelman. "Angie, call me Nelson," I told him. "Okay, okay, Mr. Sigelman," he said.
Angie was not one of those guys who talked about what he did before he arrived on the Vineyard. There was no bragging, no war stories, just an occasional cryptic mention that provided a hint of some type of police work but not much more.
He was also not the sort to brag about fish caught (and he caught plenty of fish) or anything else. The closest he ever came to that was when we started talking about deer hunting with black powder rifles and he dug out an aged photo from his car of a big buck he had shot with a flintlock rifle.
He said he no longer hunted. When I asked him why he just shrugged off the question. He never mentioned the wear and tear on his body that made hiking in the woods and dragging out a deer problematic.
Funny what we do not know about the people we meet. I wish now I'd spent more time talking to Angie.
Saturday he died. I had the opportunity to get to know Angie much better over the past few days writing his obituary.
I never ever would have imagined that the funny guy with the New York accent had once been one of the Secret Service's top undercover agents. But well before he retired to the safety and security we take for granted on Martha's Vineyard, Angie was fighting crime in the front-line trenches.
He worked undercover in some of the country's toughest neighborhoods investigating and arresting counterfeiters. And he earned a reputation among his peers as a man who could always be counted on in a tight fix.
On Monday I talked to George Rogers, the Secret Service's assistant director of the office of inspection. The fact that he took the time to speak to me was an obvious testament to Angie's status.
When George was younger, the two men worked the streets of New York together. There were too many stories to tell and those that he could tell me I would not be able to write about.
George said he was from upstate New York, a country kid who liked to hunt and fish. When Angie learned that George liked to fish he assured him that despite the fact that they were in the heart of New York City they could still catch fish.
Angie told George to meet him at 5 am near their office located near where the World Trade Center used to be. They drove out to Kennedy Airport and parked.
"We walked out past the big tall weeds, willows, junk refrigerators and broken down rusty cars and ended up fishing right off the approach of some runway," recalled George. "And I don't know what it was, it must have been about every six minutes, one of these jets came over, but you know what? We caught fish."
Over the roar of the planes Angie said to George, "I told you I'd show you where there were fish."
Later, Angie was transferred from undercover to the presidential protection division. George said that some people questioned the wisdom of moving the street-wise undercover agent to the more visible post. In the end Angie turned out to be terrific, he said.
The most public demonstration of his steadfastness came while he was guarding President Gerald Ford during a visit to San Francisco. The president was by his limousine when a shot rang out.
A photograph taken that day shows people ducking behind the limousine. Angie is shown standing alone, on the other side of the limo, his hand reaching for his gun and his eyes scanning for the source of the danger.
It was an incident that as far as I can tell none of his Vineyard friends knew anything about. Even after he discovered the joy and peace of fishing on the Vineyard, Angie still shied away from publicity. On the rare occasions he let me reference a catch, he would always remind me, "no pictures." I just put it down to him being a quirky guy.
Angie was one of those guys who did not need company to go fishing. The fish kept him company. Dogfish Bar, Bend in the Road Beach, Mink Meadows or Chappy, Angie was apt to show up anywhere. Because he fished almost every day he was also apt to turn up where the fish were and the fishermen weren't.
I often came across Angie fishing alone up at Dogfish, his pipe an unmistakable marker even in the dark. He always had a good word. "How ya doin?" he'd ask me.
In recent years, I ran into Angie fishing with his wife Mary Ann. As any fisherman will attest, a husband and wife that can live together and fish together require true love and devotion to stay together.
"When we first got married the one thing he said to me is I've got to have a week to be able to hunt in New York," said Mary Ann from the small home they built in West Tisbury. "And by the time we moved to Maryland a week had become, God, I don't know how many weeks."
Later, after he was injured, he could no longer hunt. "But he always fished," said Mary Ann, "no matter where we lived he always fished."
Angie fished a lot. But Mary Ann said that Angie always told her he wasn't a real fisherman.
"I think he thought a real fisherman spends 23 hours out fishing," she said with a laugh. "But he was a good fisherman and the past couple of years I started to fish with him. And I've got to say he was the most selfless person. He would tie my lures, he would take the fish off the hook - otherwise the fish would have died by the time I got it off - but he didn't want me to get hurt and I think he was happier when I caught a big fish then when he did."
Angie was a part of a Vineyard fraternity bound by a love of fishing. He left the house early to go fishing Saturday morning. When he did not show up for an appointment later that morning Mary Ann contacted friends and fishermen and asked them to help locate her husband.
By late afternoon fishermen were looking around the Island's beaches for some sign of his vehicle. Early that evening, acting on a hunch about where Angie might have gone, Cooper Gilkes and Robert Morrison, went to a spot near Mink Meadows and found Angie.
There is no sadness in the fact that he died on an Island he loved doing what he loved, but he will be missed.
Mary Ann told me, "Island fishermen are the greatest people in the world."
Angie was definitely one of them.
Service for Angie
A funeral mass will be held for Angie on Saturday at 12 pm at the Our Lady Star of the Sea Church on Massasoit Avenue in Oak Bluffs. His family has invited everyone to the family residence at 18 Coffins Field Road, West Tisbury after the service to share memories. I think it would be helpful for those who plan to stop by to bring a dish to share.