Nicholas A. Colasanto, 78, a former Alexandria City Council member, a lawyer, realtor, raconteur, prodigious performer of marriages, sports fan and a power in the town for many years, died of a heart ailment Feb. 8 at his home in Alexandria.
Despite his Yankee origins and Italian heritage, "Nick" Colasanto was what is respectfully known in the South as a "good ole boy." For almost 40 years, he took his coffee and doughnuts every morning at Shuman's Bakery, where many of Alexandria's businessmen and politicians gathered in an atmosphere redolent of a time when issues seemed simpler and politics more direct.
In his own time, Mr. Colasanto was a first-rate vote-getter. He would tell audiences that God had sent him to Alexandria and that he had come to love the city. In 1977, when a youngster began laughing at that story, the councilman challenged him to step outside. He always prided himself on being accessible to the public. He once broke his hip trying to answer two telephones at the same time.
In 1979, when Mr. Colasanto lost a bid for an unprecedented fifth three-year term on the council, he declared: "I'm sad. I didn't want to lose. My political career is over." In 1981, he tried and failed again.
Although no longer in office, he was able to perform civil marriage ceremonies. In one year he did 800 of them for a fee of $15 each. Mr. Colasanto's own marriage, to the former Phyllis Sirica, lasted only 32 days in 1937, but marrying people was one of the pleasures of his life.
"I used to go to church weddings all the time," he said in an interview with The Washington Post. "They were nice, but they would never advise the kids on what to do after the wedding. Somebody's got to help the kids. I wanted to marry people and talk to them."
The touchstone of Mr. Colasanto's advice to newlyweds was to open a joint savings account, put money in it and leave it there.
Mr. Colasanto first caught the public eye in Alexandria from 1947 to 1949, when he was the city manager. He was fired from the job because, he used to say, he refused to accept bribes. "And I didn't have enough sense in those days to know that you had to ask the council for everything," he added. This was a reference to his practice of authorizing expenditures for city services without consulting the lawmakers.
He was first elected to the City Council in the 1960s. After a period out of office, he served continuously from 1970 to 1979.
Observers believed that he lost in 1979 because one of his assistants had been charged with irregularities in running bingo games and another associate was implicated in the operation of massage parlors. An additional factor was the widely publicized declaration by officials that a building he owned was so rundown that it was unfit for human habitation.
Mr. Colasanto was born in Waterbury, Conn. He graduated from Holy Cross College, where he played on the football team. He attended law school at Fordham University for two years and in 1930 moved to Alexandria. He earned his law degree at the old National University law school and hung out his shingle in Alexandria. As a young man, he played semiprofessional football here.
The law was his main livelihood until 1963. He then devoted most of his time to politics and real estate, although he still gave legal advice to friends. By his own account, his real-estate holdings were extensive.
Along the way, he was active in the Alexandria Lions Club, the Salvation Army, the Sons of Italy and similar groups. He was admired as an effective fund-raiser. Another of his passions was sports and the games would show whether the players had a quality that Mr. Colasanto prized very highly: guts.
In 1970, his brother, James, an Alexandria Municipal Court judge, was shot to death on the doorstep of his house by a man who had brooded for five years about a complaint that the judge had dismissed.
Mr. Colasanto's survivors include a sister, Rae C. Capuano, and a brother, Michael Francis Colasanto, both of Alexandria.