DEA’s Grimaldi Hangs Up His Spurs

Published in Pawtucket Times, January 25, 2015

With 40 years in state government under his belt, including 29 years at Elderly Affairs, Larry Grimaldi begins to move into his next stage of life, publicly announcing his retirement earlier this week. The retirement date, Feb. 6, is set in stone, his papers to personnel filed.

Sixty-five year old Grimaldi, who currently serves as Chief, Program Development at the state’s Division of Elderly Affairs (DEA), looks forward to his retirement next month, but with “mixed emotions.” While the North Providence resident is satisfied with his professional accomplishments over his career, in retirement “there is an anticipation of the unknown.” It’s not an uncommon experience for those planning to “hang up their spurs” after successful careers, he says.

Once retired, “I will take a little time to breathe and look around for things I just might want to do,” says Grimaldi, noting that first on his short list is to drive across the country in April with his wife, Katherine, in a small SUV. Not a bad decision with lower gas prices.

Grimaldi has no regrets as to how his career at DEA panned out. “It was marvelous,” he tells this columnist.

Throughout the Years

After graduating from the University of Rhode Island in 1970 with a Bachelors degree in Journalism, Grimaldi worked for Providence-based companies Davol Rubber Company as a Quality Control Inspector and, three years later as a technical writer at BIF Industries. But he would leave the private sector to work as a Revenue Officer for the state’s Division of Taxation from 1975 to 1986.

A job advertisement for the position of Communications Coordinator at the state’s Department of Elderly Affairs (now a Division within the Department of Human Services) would catch Grimaldi’s attention. He jumped at the chance to apply. “It would really allow me the opportunity to put my college education and communication skills to good use,” he remembers.

Grimaldi learned a lot about the state’s aging network, honing his communication skills and building relationships. The late William Speck took him under his wing, teaching him the art of disseminating information to seniors and their caregivers, elected officials, and to the aging network, too.

According to Grimaldi, the statewide DEA information and public outreach campaign for the roll-out of the Medicare Part D program in 2006 received an Innovations in Health Care Award from RI Quality Partners (the federally designated Medicare Quality Improvement Organization for Rhode Island).

Putting his writing skills to good use, for over 27 years Grimaldi penned over 600 “Rhode Island Senior Beat” columns that appeared in many of the state’s daily and weekly newspapers. Since last year, the prolific writer produced over 60 weekly columns, “Taking Charge,” that appeared in the Providence Journal.

Grimaldi is also responsible for producing the nationally acclaimed ‘Senior Journal’ on the state’s public access cable. Since he took the helm as DEA’s information officer, more than 620 programs have been broadcast. Over 75 older volunteers have “lent their ideas, time, talent, and unique perspective” to this effort, he says, noting that this November the show celebrated 25 years on the air.

In 2012, DEA’s cable show received the “Volunteers Matter Award” from the Washington-based National Association of State Units on Aging and Disabilities, says Grimaldi, noting that it was one of three programs recognized at that conference that year.

During his DEA career, Grimaldi was responsible for providing an estimated 300 monthly trainings to the state’s Information and Referral Specialists and professionals in the aging network. He brought DEA’s greetings and information to United Way and the POINT (Aging and Disability Resource Center for Rhode Island) events and to local health fairs and expos.
As his final retirement day approaches on February 6, 2015, Grimaldi says that he will miss his DEA relationships and those in the aging network that have developed over the years. “They are exceptionally dedicated people,” he says, noting that they now have to do more work with less resources.

Colleagues Say Their Goodbys

Grimaldi “has been the face of DEA for decades,” says DEA Director Charles Fogarty. “He is a warm, caring, and energetic man who has a real passion for helping older Rhode Islanders live full and productive lives. To thousands of seniors over the years he became a trusted friend on matters they cared about most. He really represents the best in public service in Rhode Island,” notes the newly appointed DEA Director.

Former DEA Director Corinne Calise Russo, who now serves as Deputy Director of the state’s Department of Human Services, describes Grimaldi as the “consummate professional.” He is a “great trainer with exceptionally strong people skills,” says the Warwick resident who was former director at the North Providence-based Salvatore Mancini Senior Center.

According to Russo, Grimaldi was key to getting DEA’s widely used pocket manual out to the public on a timely manner each year. “He was actually like a one person production line for this manual, compiling information, ensuring accuracy, and designing it, even negotiating with the printer for a good price and product. It is a “wonderful resource for families, physician offices, community partners and elected officials”, she says.

Susan Sweet, a passionate advocate for older Rhode islanders, says that Grimaldi “fulfilled his responsibilities admirably because he took those responsibilities seriously. He has been the information guru at DEA. Nothing could be more important”

His columns provided accurate information and guidance to older persons, people with disabilities, their families and the general public, Sweet says, giving “trustworthy and helpful tips and thoughtful advice with a cheerful lilt and a timely presence.”

Paula Parker, LCSW, Assistant Director at DEA, agrees with Sweet’s assessment of Grimaldi’s writing skills. “I have been awed by his commitment to accurate, current and effective communication about aging issues for both the public community and for his colleagues at DEA and other state agencies”, she says. “I think that Larry’s most impressive skill is his ability to re-frame complex issues (such as Medicare Part D, Social Security retirement benefits, and other governmental programs) in language that is clear, concise and understandable to most people”, adds Parker.

Grimaldi certainly earned his spurs serving under eight DEA Directors. He has earned the right to hang them up.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12 is a Pawtucket writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

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