HARWICH — Albert Raneo is a man of community. He served the town of Harwich in an official capacity for 25 years, and following retirement has continued serving for an additional 25 years through volunteer
“I try to do as much as I can to help people,” said Raneo, 88. “I do it because I want to, it’s in my heart.”
Long-time Harwich residents know Raneo through for his work running the town's highway department. He served as the elected highway surveyor for 18 years, and when the town charter altered the shape of government in 1988 and the position became appointed, he served for an additional seven years as director of highways and maintenance.
Newcomers know Raneo through his volunteer efforts at the Brooks Academy Museum and at the Harwich Farmers Market on Thursdays during the summer and fall. He serves as a caretaker of the Brooks Academy and the museum, making necessary repairs and doing some exterior trimming.
He is a man very proud of his Cape Verdean heritage and works on a continuous basis to educate people about the many contributions the Cape Verdean community has made to Harwich. He makes presentations to students at Monomoy Regional High School and surrounding schools on Cape Verdean culture and the valuable contributions it has made to the cranberry industry.
His cousin, Angelina Raneo Chilaka, started the Cape Verdean Heritage Oral History Project, making video recording and capturing the recollections and stories of Cape Verdean life in Harwich. Raneo assisted and consulted on the projects. He said a new book project is being started collecting the stories and experiences of Cape Verdeans who lived along Queen Anne Road in the 1920s.
These days, Albert Raneo makes his way across the town line to The Chronicle office every week as the new edition arrives and picks up about eight copies of the paper. He delivers them to several senior citizens who don’t have the mobility or opportunity to obtain the newspaper.
His definition of a good citizen is “a person who never has to be asked to do something, a caring person who is not afraid to be involved, the person who does something not looking for recognition, and enjoys working and being with people.”
Raneo was born in Harwich and grew up here, graduating from Harwich High School when it was located in the former middle school building, now the Harwich Cultural Center. He left for a few years, serving briefly in the military until it was learned he previously had a year-long paralysis caused by rheumatic fever.
He then went to New York and worked for a couple of years as an assistant communications supervisor for Colonial Airlines. He met his wife Josephine, a Harwich girl, while in New York. The couple came back to Harwich and started a family.
His father was working for M.F. Roach Co., and Raneo soon joined the company building roads on the Lower Cape. Raneo worked there for 16 years and learned a great deal about highway construction.
Raneo’s father, Henry Brooks Raneo, decided to run for the highway surveyor’s position in Harwich. Albert relates the story of the seven-vote loss in the election. Some members of the Cape Verdean community were not familiar with the voting experience and they were told to mark and “X” on the ballot. Some voters thought they should mark the “X” for the person you didn’t want, X-ing that person out.
Raneo said he was dissatisfied with the road surveyor’s lack of respect for people in the community and the maintenance performance provided, and he told the highway surveyor so. “I confronted him and he said that if I could do better, I should run for the job so that he could beat me like he beat my dad.”
Raneo spent seven weeks knocking on doors and talking to people throughout town. He worked to get more of the Cape Verdean community to register to vote. He won the election in 1970 by a three-to-one margin, beginning a tenure during which he won five more elections before the position became appointive.
He continued to serve the community in other ways as well over that period. Raneo was a high school basketball referee for 25 years, and was a lifetime member and president of the International Association of Basketball Officials. He also served as a member of the town’s recreation commission for seven years and was inducted into the Harwich High School Hall of Fame in 2007.
Raneo has received other recognitions for his services. He was chosen Outstanding Young Man of America in 1968 by the US Jaycees, named Citizen of the Year by the Gala Cape Verdean American Club of Providence and Citizen of the Year by the Cape Cod NAACP in 1990. He served on the board of directors and was president of the Barnstable County Highway Association for four years and was elected to the board of directors of the American Public Works Association.
The Albert and Josephine Raneo love to travel, often making trips to the Cape Verde Islands and to Aruba where Papiamentu, a Portuguese-Cape Verdean-based creole is spoken.
And yes, Albert Raneo is the one who started the very popular swap shop at the landfill that became more widely known as the Treasure Chest.