TODAY'S ALEXANDRIA, with its chic boutiques, restaurants and other expressions of urbanity, is barely a generation or two removed from a much different era. Then, most townspeople didn't mention the "northern" in Northern Virginia, and movers and shakers were called "good ole boys" and shared deep local ties and interests. Nicholas A. Colasanto, who died last week at the age of 78, was one Alexandrian who succeeded in transcending these times as well as anyone--from his days as a young lawyer and semi-professional football player through time as city manager and then four three-year terms as a member of the city council.

Though it wasn't until after his childhood and college days in New England that "Nick" Colasanto came to Alexandria, he adopted the city with a fierce passion, mixing his law practice with politics, real estate and active participation in the Alexandria Lions Club, the Salvation Army, the Sons of Italy and the lives of many neighbors who came to him for personal as well as legal advice. As a councilman, he was a popular vote-getter who prided himself on being accessible and who won a reputation as a raconteur, fund-raiser, and father figure for the hundreds of couples he married over the years.

For nearly 40 years, Mr. Colasanto took his coffee and doughnuts every morning at Shuman's Bakery, where many of Alexandria's businessmen, politicians and lawyers gathered for old-fashioned exchanges and talk about the day's events. And clearly he reveled in politics. In 1979, when Mr. Colasanto lost a bid for an unprecedented fifth term on the council, he commmented, "I'm sad. I didn't want to lose. My political career is over."

But the memories of that career are not, and Mr. Colasanto's contributions to the city he so loved will long be recalled with affection.