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INTRODUCTION Dianne Santos and Tom Constantino

by Dianne Santos

B
ack in 1960 when The Noteworthy Tom had a deep appreciation of what had
Company was a fledgling business come before him; he loved antiques and old
and employed only seven people, I buildings. If anyone could breathe new life into
interviewed for an office position. Even back an old building, he could. Aesthetics were
then, it was immediately apparent to me that always important to Tom, and this was reflected
Tom Constantino was a very unusual man. in both the office and manufacturing plants.
Over the years, I had a first-hand opportunity Holidays were special to Tom, and he enjoyed
to see how multi-faceted the man was. Tom had a throwing a party; even the most ominous event
zest for everything that came his way, whether could evolve into a major celebration. He truly
it was an opportunity or a problem. He met enjoyed people from all walks of life. Where
them both head-on. Insatiable with his energy else would one meet a newly ordained Native
and drive, he worked endless hours to build his American Bishop, a breeder of Jack Russell
business. He always said, “inch by inch it’s a terriers, a winemaker from the Finger Lakes
cinch; yard by yard it’s awfully hard.” And inch region, a sculptor of a religious statue to be
by inch he moved the company along. At the placed in the Vatican gardens or a wandering
end of every year he would sit back and reflect, guitarist who told donkey tales? Well, working
and then write down his resolutions for the new for Tom Constantino, I experienced all those
year. Tom always had a goal; he challenged introductions and many more. Variety sure was
himself and was relentless in pursuing his many the order of the day.
dreams. I’m very honored Carol has given me the
Although his love of business was paramount, opportunity to write this introduction. Although
there was another, softer side to the man. A I could go into depth about Tom’s multi-faceted
dedicated son, he spoke of his mother in personality, the letters from various friends and
almost reverent tones. He appreciated the associates provide the reader with an inside view
beauty of nature; he found time to take oil from different perspectives. In describing his or
painting lessons, wrote poetry, had a soft spot her relationship with Tom, each writer captures
for animals (he even led a publicity campaign the many interests Tom had. There is one
defending the Grand Canyon burros) and thing, however, that we all have in common; we
genuinely cared about his employees. There was are all richer for having experienced the
always time for a laugh, time for a prayer, time uniqueness of this man.
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to spend with friends.
BASIC BUSINESS BELIEFS
by Tom Cummings

om Constantino was a self-made concepts discussed in management meetings or


business man. He possessed the reverberated in boardrooms of major
entrepenural spirit and a belief and conglomerates.
understanding of the free enterprise system that Those principles are basically homegrown and
is seldom found in one individual. His drive, earthy ideas that worked well for Tom in the
zeal and belief in the litterbag and the evolution of Noteworthy. Tom, being a mentor
advertising specialty industry provided the of many management people in his lifetime,
impetus for the growth in Noteworthy. Beyond often passed on these thoughts.
all of this, Tom developed over the years a It is our belief that these thoughts that Tom
unique set of business precepts. These ideas used so well are worthy of outlining here to
and beliefs are not normally found in develop a better understanding of Tom
management text books or discussed in Constantino, the man, the manager, the
advanced college classrooms. entrepreneur.
Few business people have heard these

BUSINESS PRECEPTS
• In pricing, don’t be a hog. • Build on strengths.

• Whether you lease or whether you buy, you • What the mind can conceive, the body can
pay the price to occupy. achieve.

• Don’t promote controversy. • Be a man before being a businessman.

• A good businessman must be a student of • In business, it is important to practice the


letters. selfish act of giving.

• Do a lot with a little. • The donkey should set an example for us in


business in terms of quality of character,
• There is a “key” to every building and when keenness of hearing, (listening skills) and sense
you find that “key” you can best utilize the of direction and purpose.
building.
• Don’t be a know-it-all; be a do-it-all.
• In establishing new product pricing, treat the
volume considerations as though you have a • Look for the good in people and it will be
real piece of action. there.

• You don’t need credit if you have the cash. • I’m like the donkey – a beast of burden to
serve mankind.
• Inch by inch it’s a cinch. Yard by yard, it’s
very hard. • The only promise that I make is that I make
no promises.
• Always hang around with people smarter than
you. • Seek much, need little and you will always
have a lot.
• Reach for the stars and you’ll get a little
stardust.
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NEW YORK STATE
SMALL BUSINESS PERSON
OF THE YEAR AWARD

F riends and colleagues admired Tom


Constantino from the beginning for
his unique blend of business sense,
drive, compassion and love. In 1988, the state
and federal governments showed that they too
as note pads, auto floor mats, book jackets,
coloring books, activity books, postcards and
other items.

recognized these qualities in Tom. The U.S.


Small Business Administration honored him in
March of that year with its New York State
Small Business Person of the Year award. In
May, he and Carol travelled to Washington D.C.,
where Tom competed with 49 other state
winners for the National Small Business Person
of the Year award. He almost won that contest
as well, finishing third nationwide.
Tom was nominated for the state honor by
Sen. Hugh Farley, who spoke on the floor of
the Legislature when Tom won the award. Both
the Senate and the Assembly honored Tom
with resolutions citing his outstanding
achievements and expressing pride in his being
named the state’s top small business person. Tom being congratulated by New York State Senator
Hugh Farley on winning the Small Business Person
The application for the award was extensive, Award.
and the resulting document revealed much
about Tom and about The Noteworthy
Company. Contestants were judged on the As the product line widened and the number
staying power of their companies, growth in of employees increased, the company expanded
sales and in the number of employees, its holdings as well. Tom made a series of
innovativeness of products or services, ability to corporate acquisitions, each one planned to fit
overcome adversity, and community involvement. his business and personal philosophy and to
Carefully planned expansion of product lines, bring Noteworthy closer to being a self-
services and land and buildings kept contained operation. He also purchased and
Noteworthy in the forefront of the advertising renovated a number of buildings in Amsterdam
specialty industry. Tom began the company on in order to enter the warehousing business, rent
his own in 1954, so Noteworthy had been in space to other companies that needed it, and
business 34 years when he won the award. stimulate Amsterdam’s economy.
Employment grew from one in the beginning – The litterbag, which remains the company’s
just Tom – to seven in 1961, 91 in 1979 and staple, is a statement of Tom’s corporate
220 in 1987. Sales volume increased from philosophy, because it puts an advertising
289,000 dollars in 1966 to 2 million dollars in message directly in front of the customer as he
1976 and 10 million dollars in 1986. or she drives everywhere in the car. In 1954,
The product line, which began with the Americans were beginning a love affair with
“Travel Tissue Pak” and the now-famous cars, and Tom sensed that the market would
litterbag, has grown to include many different grow. The millions of cars on the road today
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kinds of bags made of paper and plastic, as well are testimony of how right he was.
Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks. Tom and
Noteworthy worked to promote Kateri’s cause,
and that work took Tom to Rome where he
met Pope John Paul II.
Tom promoted other Native American causes
as well, and became friends with Iron Eyes
Cody, a national spokesman for Keep America
Beautiful. He set up several different Native
American scholarship funds, and a Native
American museum was established in
Noteworthy’s headquarters building.
Tom was active in United Way, the Mohawk
Valley Heritage Association, the American Red
Cross, Hospice, Keep America Beautiful, the
National Council for the Encouragement of
Patriotism, the Flag Foundation, the Crime
Prevention Council, Big Brothers/Big Sisters,
the Montgomery County Chamber of
Commerce, the Amsterdam Free Library, the
Caughnawaga Museum, the Knights of
Columbus and the Sons of Italy.
Tom was a devoted family man. He loved his
Kluge Presses in the early 60’s. wife Carol and his sons, Nicholas and Anthony,
and made time to be with them despite the
demands of his work and his other interests.
Staying power, increasing sales, growing
employment, innovative products and services,
But the litterbag also is a statement of Tom’s
ability to overcome adversity and community
personal philosophy. By using litterbags,
involvement were the standards the
motorists were making a conscious effort to
Small Business Administration used to select its
prevent litter and to beautify America,
New York State Small Business Person of the
something very dear to Tom’s heart.
Year in 1988. They were tough standards, but
Noteworthy at first produced only paper
Tom Constantino rose to meet them, as he did
litterbags, expanding to include plastic in the
everything else.
1960’s. Plastic is a petroleum product, and by
1973 the oil crisis had led to a tripling of
petroleum prices. Tom was forced to buy
polyethylene in larger quantities than he
needed and to pay more for it than he could
afford. But that experience convinced him that
he needed to be self-sufficient and produce
his own plastic. He borrowed money to purchase
machines for the task, bought a building to
house the machines, and became his own
supplier of polyethylene sheets for making
litterbags.
Tom’s community involvement – and the
company’s – extends far beyond the
environmental benefits of the litterbag. His
strong religious faith sustained him in business
and also led him to embrace many religious Iron Eyes, Smokey Bear,
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causes, including the beatification of Kateri industrialist Sidney Grossman and Tom.
Energy . . .
Enthusiasm . . .
Excitement . . .

T
homas B. Constantino often used
these words to describe the
importance of the letter ‘e’ in
Noteworthy. “for it is without the ‘e’ that
“Noteworthy” would be “not worthy” . . . But that
little ‘e’ gives us the extras that make us worthy
of note.
How appropriate it is to reflect on these “e”
words and realize that they best define Thomas
B. Constantino.
This is a collection of memories. The picture
of Tom that emerges from these reflections is
that of a man who had many facets, or perhaps
interests, dimensions and loves. If it can be
said of anyone that “The whole is greater than
the sum of its parts,” it can be said of Tom
Constantino. Yes, he was an outstanding
businessman, a pillar of his community, a family Stanley Linham and Frank Nowlin sharing a moment at
the Promotional Products Trade Show.
man and a man of great personal faith. But
those who have contributed to this collection –
and all who met this extraordinary man –
knew he was so much more. Tom was particularly devoted to one Native
American, Kateri Tekakwitha, the “Lily of the
Mohawks.” He was a tireless crusader for the
cause of her sainthood and was instrumental in
Stan Linham, who hired Tom as an the drive for her beatification in 1980. This
advertising salesman in the early 1950’s, may involvement and other acts of faith brought
have put it best when he wrote: Tom into contact with many religious leaders
“Tom gave every indication that he was including Pope John Paul II. Monsignor Paul A.
willing to work for success; I recognized that Lenz, executive director of the Bureau of
this young man had a fire in his gut to Catholic Indian Missions, wrote:
succeed. He lived an exemplary life as a “The beatification of Blessed Kateri
husband, father, Catholic and supporter of Tekakwitha at St. Peter’s in Rome was such a
charities, his church, Native Americans and great event, and it was made even more
others. He was honest and straightforward; what pleasant and meaningful with Tom going out of
you saw was what you got. Tom was his way to do everything he could for everyone.
compassionate – to a fault. His employees grew Somehow Iron Eyes Cody, the noted American
as he did. His church was the benefactor of all Indian who was present with Tom at the
his good deeds. His love and devotion to Native ceremony, did not have a ticket for the
Americans was all-consuming. He was a born audience with the Holy Father. Tom gave up his
organizer and leader. Amsterdam and the ticket so Iron Eyes could meet Pope John Paul II.
Mohawk Valley may never have a better It happened, though, that someone then
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ambassador to the world than Tom.” arranged for Tom to be present also.
Graces. . . and Tom was present from beginning
to end. Our centre always provides a large
selection of Padre Pio literature and religious
items to thousands in attendance, and each
purchase was packed in one of ‘Tom’s
Noteworthy Bags’. Tom came to the table and
was looking over the books and rosaries, etc.
From one of my sisters he purchased a book
and it was put into a plastic bag and given to
him. Continuing to look down the table, his
generous nature took over and he started
purchasing book after book and item after item
for his many dear friends and relatives, each
time refusing the offer of another bag and
slipping his purchase into the already bulging
bag in his hand. Finally, after stuffing absolutely
too much into this poor bag, the handles gave
out, the bag broke and his purchases were
scattered at the feet of hundreds of others
crowded around the literature tables. Without
skipping a beat, Tom turned to my sister,
Maria, and deadpanned, ‘Damn these cheap
Tom with Monsignor Paul Lenz, Executive Director of the bags! If I were you, I’d complain to the
Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions. president of the company!’ He picked up his
items in good humor, slipped away from the
tables and left Maria gazing open-mouthed after
him!”
“Everyone knew of Tom’s great devotion for
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. He wanted to see
her canonized by the church and was the
leading layperson for the cause of Blessed
Kateri. He and The Noteworthy Company were
responsible nationally for much of the interest
of Native Americans and others by providing
photos, articles and prayer cards to make
Blessed Kateri better known.”

Tom also was devoted to Padre Pio, and


those at the National Centre for Padre Pio in
Barto, Pennsylvania knew him well. Julia
Ciccarone, writing on behalf of her mother, Tom and Carol with Bishop Hubbard.
Centre President Vera Calandra, recalled Tom’s
generosity, and also his humor.
“One of the many ways in which Tom assisted
the Nation Centre was to send us thousands The Most Rev. Howard Hubbard, Bishop of
upon thousands of the plastic bags which he the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, also
manufactured, in all sizes. Mostly they were reflected on Tom’s many-sided personality.
overruns from the various contracts that he had “Tom Constantino lived to fulfill his identity
with different companies and clients, so it was not as a Christian gentleman in his relationships
unusual to see the devotees of Padre Pio with his wife Carol and family, with his civic
from all over the United States carrying ‘Tom’s and business associates, with the church, with
Noteworthy Bags’ advertising a lumber company the community of Amsterdam and of the
in St. Louis back to their hometown in Texas. Mohawk Valley, and – in a unique way – with
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“It was the very first of the Padre Pio Days of the business he founded, The Noteworthy
Company. His very choice of the word a statue in the Vatican Gardens from the same
“noteworthy” for this business venture quietly mold, all made this a truly inspiring occasion.
but clearly expresses the standard of excellence It was through Tom’s generosity that the Shrine
Tom envisioned and mandated for a business has this work of art and tribute to the Blessed
that, in its very identity as the first and largest Mother.
producer of the litterbags, is connected with “There were many other indications of Tom’s
concern and respect for the environment. interest in and devotion to the Shrine. The
“That term ‘Noteworthy’ characterizes the Kateri float, the donkey cart in which Bishop
vigorous and generous support that Tom Pernicone approached the Shrine on Italian
Constantino accorded the churches in Pilgrimage Day, the centennial celebration, the
Amsterdam and the Auriesville Shrine over the visit to the Shrine of the Kateri conference
years. I call attention to his having had when the conference was held in Syracuse, are
a sculpture created for the Vatican. I am well just a few of the occasions when Tom’s interest
aware of Tom’s magnanimous support for our and generosity benefited the Shrine – and
Diocese of Albany. The term ‘Noteworthy’ also occasionally made life interesting.”
describes his enthusiastic promotion of the
heritage of the Mohawk Valley and his
participation as a civic leader and businessman
in the life and projects and dreams of the area The Very Rev. Msgr. Edward R. Glavin, for
community.” many years pastor of Tom’s beloved St. Mary’s
Church in Amsterdam, recalled that a dozen
years ago the church needed to raise 1.5
million dollars for a major reconstruction and
redecorating project that included the church,
the pipe organ, the rectory and even the
parking lots. All this was to coincide with
Father Glavin’s Golden Jubilee celebration.
“For the campaign, we decided to have a stiff
cardboard triptych in beautiful colors which
would both tell the story of the Parish and its
glories. It would also be the instrument for fund
raising. Father Gulley and I decided that we
would ask Tom to advise us on this triptych,
and we met with him, bringing with us photos
of the city, the church, the school, and a beautiful
stained glass widow, the great organ, the choir,
etc. We discussed with Tom the material to be
on the six panels. Finally Tom said to us, “It’s
Rev. Robert Boyle, S.J. former Director of the National not up to me to say this to you, but don’t you
Shrine of the North American Martyrs in nearby think we should include a prayer?” Father
Auriesville, New York. Gulley and I laughed and, of course, agreed. So
one panel was devoted to the “Magnificat,”
which was chosen as the prayer for the success
of the campaign.
“Coming back from Noteworthy, Father Gulley
Father Robert J. Boyle, S.J., was the director
and I laughed at ourselves that it had taken Tom
of the Auriesville Shrine for several years. He
Constantino to put the prayer into the triptych.”
also recalls the sculpture mentioned by Bishop
Hubbard, a copy of which Tom also gave to the
shrine:
“The most memorable occasion in my
association with Tom was the acquisition of the Tom’s strong religious faith was an integral
statue of Our Lady Fatima designed by part of his business and family life as well.
Frederick Shrady. It was a truly blessed event. Carlyle A. “Bud” Wilson II of Bocar
The speedy approval by the Jesuit superiors, the Enterprises, Indianapolis, Indiana, relied on the
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beautiful sculpture, the sharing in the event of Bible to characterize Tom.
“We knew each other very well, and also away with a new idea or stimulating different
each other’s families. We spent many hours insight on an old one, be it for business or for
together. We both gave to Mr. Longears. We the never-ending number of caring causes in
shared donkeys. Most of all we shared our love which Tom was always involved.
of ideas and values. I could write a very lengthy “As a client, Tom was always open to an idea.
tribute to my friend who has gone home, but Always willing to listen. More important, as a
five Bible verses say it all. They represent what person, the simplest “hello” usually wound up
Tom believed, and he lived by them in all his at least a 15-minute session about something
being: that made me feel better about myself or our
“You shall love the Lord your God with all mutual world – business or personal. The
your heart and soul and mind and strength, industry is a better place and more often finds
and your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). itself being part of important national and
Be doers of the word and not hearers only, world causes because of Tom”.
deceiving yourselves (James 1:22). A couple of years ago, Marvin presented
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so Carol with “The Counselor’s” lifetime
faith without works is dead also (James 2:26). achievement award in Tom’s memory. During
Faith working through love avail much the presentation, he said:
(Galatians 5:6b). “Not surprisingly, though dollars and cents
For you Brethren have been called to liberty; seemed to be anywhere but at the top of the
only to not use liberty as an opportunity for list of priorities to which Tom committed
the flesh, but through the love of Christ serve himself and business, his company is among
one another (Galatians 5:13)”. the Top 20 Suppliers this year. But this special
Other business associates around the country award has more to do with a lifetime devoted to
may or may not have mentioned Tom’s faith the most singularly worthwhile cause
specifically in their recollections, but all knew imaginable – the betterment of mankind.”
of his deep personal commitment to his family,
his business, his church and his community.
Bill Larsen, president of Bill Larsen and
Associates Inc., remembers that he and Tom
“had to learn to love one another” because
they both were impatient and eager to get
things done and sometimes took it out on each
other. But “The thing that made it work was
the fact that we were both good at our
respective jobs and we both knew it.”
Tom and Bill worked together to develop the
red poly danger flag, which first came out
with one side red and one side white. But that
wasn’t legally acceptable in Wisconsin, so Tom
redesigned it in pure red poly. Millions of sales
later, it is an industry standard.
“The thing that most people didn’t
understand about Tom – and neither did I
until years later – is that when you didn’t get
your on-time delivery, it was more often than
David McNeer and his dad, John McNeer meet McGruff in not because Tom was into some worthy project.
the Noteworthy trade show booth.
Tom, of course, was totally involved in both
donkeys and Catholic charities. I never did
understand that combination, but maybe Tom
did, and consequently more times than his
Marvin Spike, president of the Advertising production manager cares to remember, the
Specialty Institute, knew Tom for a long time: equipment was tied up doing some totally non-
“During nearly a quarter century that I was profit endeavor for one or the other, while bona
privileged to know Tom Constantino – in many fide, profitable orders sat idly by waiting their
cases to learn from and admire him – there turn after Tom’s personal contribution was
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was hardly ever a contact in which I didn’t walk taken care of.
“Tom and I exchanged many promotional endless brochures helped to educate, inform
ideas over the years, and I credit him for and inspire distributors and their sales forces
teaching me more about direct mail than any on how to use it as one of the finest mass
other single person I know. Tom is missed – he distribution mediums imaginable.
always will be missed – but what a privilege it “His concern for our environment was
was to know him and work with him over the extremely important in fostering the growth of
many fruitful years we spent in association.” the litterbag and the continuing success of his

Ray Geiger, chairman of the board of Geiger


Bros., also recalled Tom as a man of many
dimensions.
“He was a dynamic man and dedicated to
God, his country, the lowly Indian, and the
donkey, which was a part of his life. I often
wondered how he could afford to make his trips
and find himself in such good company over
the years.
“Through all the things we did, Tom’s
personality came through. He was a loveable
guy and was certainly a fine leader.”
Les Horton, chairman of the board of Lesco
Corp. recalls the early days of the advertising
specialty industry.
“Our good friend Tom Constantino is one of Tom explaining the benefits inherent in the
Noteworthy Trick or Treat bag.
the leaders who helped bring along the
advertising specialty industry. A few of us can
remember when our entire international show
occupied part of the seventh floor at the
business year after year. Among his many
Palmer House in Chicago.
recognitions was the honor of being named
“Part of the reason for the success of
New York State Small Business Person of the
Noteworthy is due to the seeds planted by Tom
Year.”
Constantino, in which his company assisted
many distributors in many ways, particularly John wrote this poem when Tom died:
with creative ideas and extra fine service.”
A Tribute to Tom

John D. McNeer of Newton Manufacturing A man so rare you will seldom find,
Company knew Tom for 35 years. With a giant heart and the keenest mind.
“I sincerely admired his many great attributes So generous, thoughtful, kind and sincere,
and his genuine enthusiasm for our industry Tom lived a great life from year to year.
and its purpose. He tackled life’s challenges, problems and troubles
“Tom was a self-made man who started his With boundless energy – our friend “Mr. Bubbles.”
career selling calendars and specialty We will miss him for sure in the days ahead,
advertising on the street. He learned this But only his body rests with the dead.
business from the ground up. Tom was always Those who knew Tom will most certainly say
bubbling over with genuine enthusiasm for his His spirit and soul are in heaven today.
products or ideas. Years ago I gave him the
nickname, ‘Mr. Bubbles,’ which seemed to fit Elizabeth Toth, whose husband Al was Tom’s
perfectly. friend for 40 years, recalls that the two men
“When you consider that Tom’s main product roomed together at a business meeting in
was an inexpensive litterbag, you can readily see Chicago.
his challenges. Literally hundreds of graphic “Tom asked Al to go with him to Chicago
designs, distribution ideas and advertising and help him set up his first advertising show.
programs made his litterbags shimmer and They drove all night to get there, as neither
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sparkle in the limelight. His creative mind and one could afford to stop on the way.
Tom with his boys, Nicholas and Anthony.
Tom shown with some of his donkey collection.

Below: Tom shown with newborn donkey and Bud


Wilson, breeder of Jack Russell terriers and
donkeys.

“Tom asked Al to go into business with him, Company of today on Church Street. Tom
but since Al had a family, he wanted time to enjoyed his work immensely and never minded
spend with his growing children. Tom was not the long hours he devoted to his business. He
married at the time and had a million ideas always welcomed me with open arms whenever I
going around in his head (Editor’s note: that visited the company in Amsterdam. He
didn’t change when Tom got married). generously offered me his camp for an
“There is no question about it – Tom was a overnight stay any time.”
very creative man, a wonderful friend. While Amsterdam’s business community knew and
we were still living in Arizona, Tom called loved Tom Constantino. He was respected and
often.” admired for his drive and his creativity, as well
Stan Sufnarski, now a retired teacher living in as his love for the City of Amsterdam and his
Vermont, grew up with Tom, graduated from
desire to help people.
high school with him, served in the Navy at the
Carl Schmidt, manager of Longview Fibre
same time and served with him in the National
Company knew Tom for more than 20 years.
Guard. Tom was the godfather of Stan’s son,
“Through exceptionally hard work,
Michael.
perseverance, dedication and faith, Tom
“Tom would always call me here in Vermont
to chat with me and tell me how the company Constantino nurtured The Noteworthy Company
was doing. He loved his company, his from a gleam in his futuristic eye through some
employees, his lovely wife Carol and their two extremely difficult times and laid the
beautiful boys. He loved my father, who was an groundwork for the splendid company that it is
employee of Noteworthy back in the 50’s. today.
“Wherever Tom went, whether California, Italy, “When I arrived in Amsterdam in 1966 to
Portugal or Mexico, I always received a call oversee the construction, hire the employees
from him. He never forgot his pal Stan. and remain as manager of the Longview Fibre
“I watched the company grow from a plant, one of the first people in Amsterdam
miniscule one-room office in his mother’s house who welcomed me, my family and the company
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on Slater Street to the prosperous Noteworthy was Tom. He not only made the polite offer of
Right:
Tom in Caicos Islands.

assistance, but I could count on him to loan us entire Mohawk Valley. With his wellspring of
a piece of equipment if he had it, some space ideas, we met many times in either his office or
to store machinery or materials on a temporary mine to explore the implications and
basis until we could move it to our facility possibilities
under construction, or to give me some advice “Perhaps my fondest recollection was the trip
that was unique to the Amsterdam area. we made together to completely explore the old
“I sought and received advice, and used on Starin Estate outside of Fultonville, and then
many occasions Tom’s talent as a sounding visiting the site of another of his great interests,
board for thoughts and concerns. Over the the Indian village west of Fonda. He felt strongly
years we ‘broke bread’ on many occasions, and that the two places were so important in past
those fun times will be among my favorite history that they should be preserved for posterity.
memories of Amsterdam. Tom was a deeply It was a marvelous day, as his interest and
religious man, and I admired him especially for enthusiasm were so contagious and compelling.”
this. I know that his faith carried him over and
through some very rough times personally as
well as in his work.”

Joseph Isabel, a local entrepreneur, counts


Herbert L. Shuttleworth II, one of the driving himself fortunate to have known Tom while Joe
forces behind Amsterdam’s carpet industry in its was in high school and a college student.
heyday, remembers Tom as a friend on several “He was a man with a vision: he aimed high
levels. and was not afraid of hard work to accomplish
“I always considered Tom not only to be a his goals.
close personal friend, but also a dedicated, “He knew of my interest in radio and
enthusiastic and far-sighted community leader television as a young man. Many people looked
with a keen desire to advance the interest not at me as a dreamer, but not Tom. He
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only in our Amsterdam area, but also in the encouraged me to pursue my dreams as he
once did. He was always helpful and ready to fulfillment of life. . . the time we spent together
render assistance. with Lionel Fallows in the formation of the
“I will always remember Tom as an ambitious Mohawk Valley Heritage Association and the
worker, a man with strong principles and a development of the Elwood Museum. . . working
loving individual – a man who has touched to organize the Indian museums with Tom and
many lives and is dearly missed by the Joe Todak at the Auriesville Shrine, Tekakwitha
community. Shrine, and Noteworthy Company. . . the
numerous meetings with Tom and the Catholic
clergy and the bishop on special needs and
projects. . . Tom’s many hours of dedication to
Noteworthy. . . his contributions to the
community, non-profit groups and the many
groups who sought his help and donations.
“Once he said he liked to have someone with
a doctorate degree around him. . . perhaps it
helped, but Tom had a deeper, more thorough
education than many of the doctorates I have
known. Truly, Tom was a self-made man who
had more education and knowledge than most
Amsterdamians.”

Lionel Fallows also knew Tom for a number


of years, collaborating with him to help form an
organization that was vitally important to both
of them and still fills a critical role in the City
of Amsterdam.
“A strong expression of purpose and meaning
and heritage in our community is the Mohawk
Valley Heritage Association, nurtured under
Tom, Dr. Reigh Carpenter, Lionel Fallows, Mayor Mario Tom’s careful but – as always – positive and
Villa appear at Noteworthy Christmas party with Iron
Eyes Cody. demanding leadership. The association was
spawned, really, in the Noteworthy board room
on Church Street, which Tom encouraged us to
use for our meetings. His persuasive and
appealing call for recognition down through the
Reigh Carpenter, Ph.D., longtime friend, years has moved the association forward to its
confidant and scribe, listed a number of things present position. Indeed, without Tom’s tireless
he remembers about Tom: and dauntless involvement, the association
“The many times he called me in to spend would have died on the vine.
several hours at his home for one-on-one “My personal relationship with Tom was
sessions on issues of the day. . . drafting, writing always warm, friendly and loving. He had a
speeches and organizing comments for many of great talent to probe our inward thoughts and
Tom’s local presentations. . . the nice, friendly feelings in his search for what needed to be
folks at Noteworthy. . . the many times he would done for our community, and indeed for our
call me in to take notes on his new world.”
inspirations. . . notes on future community
projects which he asked me to develop, to write
and/or to generate a plan of attack. . . late
meals at his home at which time he would Tom was a trustee of the Amsterdam Free
create a new project, ask for my opinions, input Library for several years. John Brisbin was the
and personal reactions. . . Tom’s absolute library director during Tom’s time on board.
devotion to and concern for fostering his John’s memories of Tom go far beyond the fact
religious beliefs. . . for Auriesville and that Tom was a tireless worker and an
12
the Tekakwitha Shrine. . . all key factors in his important benefactor for the library.
“At the heart of this brusque dynamo who
would jet around the globe to trade shows and
storm through the Noteworthy complex
bellowing orders and changing his mind for the
dozenth time was in fact a very simple guy, a
good Italian son, a very loving husband and
father, a man who in spite of his fortune never
lost his working-class roots. The carpet mills
and much of the population left town during
the 1970’s, but Tom never left Amsterdam –
not physically and certainly not psychologically.
What he liked best was sipping coffee and
yakking with the everyday crowd in Brownie’s,
Fariello’s, or having a steaming plate of linguini
with friends up on the hill at Lorenzo’s.
“From Amsterdam, then, not only his
business but his altruistic and philanthropic
interest flowered. They ranged from ecology to
the arts to the Native American history of the
Mohawk Valley. Tom wanted to ‘uplift’
everything (that was one of his favorite words).
He wanted to rebuild and encourage all the
fragmented good he saw around him. To that
end, he was so incredibly generous that more
than a few members of his management team Tom Cummings, Mac Gray (National Crime
Prevention Council), Eleanor Hangley of the Ad Council,
grew pale wondering if he’d give away the whole John Calhoun (NCPC) take a break after discussions
store and go broke without thinking much involving McGruff, Noteworthy and the Ad Council.
about it. Of course, he never did. He just kept
on succeeding and he kept on giving.
“No one on earth, I’m sure, tried harder to
aid the cause of Kateri Tekakwitha’s official “He was a believer; he took risks, and he
sainthood than Tom Constantino did. He realized that in the long run, all of it did not
printed and circulated hundreds of thousands of have to do with making money, but with
holy cards and pamphlets about her, personally making the world a better place. I saw this
lobbied bishops, cardinals and popes on her when I had dinner at his home with his lovely
behalf and paid for the full renovation of her wife and children. There I saw the value of
shrine on the northern banks of the Mohawk dignity, hard work and caring being carried on.
River”. They will be carried on in his family and his
company.
“I feel extremely fortunate that our paths
Tom embraced other causes besides Kateri crossed.”
Tekakawitha’s possible canonization. John A.
Calhoun is executive director of the National
Crime Prevention Council, whose symbol, Tom loved his country with the same passion
McGruff the Crime Dog, has appeared on many with which he embraced other parts of his life.
Noteworthy products. George F. Cahill, president of the National Flag
“Tom was the first businessman to Foundation, remembers that he and Tom hit it
understand both the marketing potential of off immediately when they first met some 20 or
McGruff and McGruff’s potential for the 30 years ago, because each could sense the
American public. Tom had that rare ability to other’s patriotism. Tom became an important
combine his social passion with a business – and influential member of the Flag Foundation,
talents rarely, if ever, found together. and he and Carol went to Flag Plaza in
“Tom could wax eloquent about his Pittsburgh to attend a reception in honor of actor
attempted canonization of the first Native Jimmy Stewart and his wife. Jimmy
American saint as well as talk in depth about Stewart is an honorary director of the National
13
business practices. Flag Foundation.
“I called a very small handful of friends near the same cause – immigration. They also
at hand, and fewer still at a distance. Tom worked together for the Sicilian Earthquake
immediately indicated that he and Carol would Relief Fund. They didn’t see each other for a
be with us for the luncheon to honor Mr. and few years after that while they were involved in
Mrs. Stewart. We were thrilled and delighted to what Tony calls “building our empires,” but
have them. Their presence and participation their paths crossed again when Tom began
working with Keep America Beautiful and
wanted Schenectady to follow Amsterdam’s
example and get involved in this program. Tony
was named to head “Keep Schenectady
Beautiful,” and says it is still effective and
strong after 10 years.
“A few years ago, Tom was delighted to learn
that I had more time on my hands, so he
scheduled more travels together, always serving
some worthy cause. We served in promoting
Kateri, the Native Americans, Keep America
Beautiful, and the religious community wherever
needed. Tom was always in the middle of these
worthy causes, and yes, I was always at his side
doing what I could to help.
“Tom was a great man and a great influence
on my life. Just by following his daily actions,
my religious convictions were intensified. He
was always guided by his daily prayers, both
morning and night. He would fall to his knees
and give thanks for all the guidance he had
received each day. Tom was always grateful for
each member of his family. He was most proud
of his wife and two sons. He was grateful for his
family of employees and for the success he
National Flag Foundation Executive Director George F. enjoyed.
Cahill, and Tom agree on a joint promotional venture for
NFF.
“Tom Constantino was my very dear friend. I
am proud to have had the privilege to share his
world in depth. I learned from Tom, and I am
grateful for all his teachings. He was a profound
friend.”
contributed immensely to our ability to properly
host Mr. and Mrs. Stewart.
“I remember how absolutely honored and
delighted I was to receive an invitation to the
25th anniversary celebration of The Noteworthy
Company. It was a delight to see all who
worked with and admired Tom so much over
the years gather around Tom and Carol to help
them celebrate that great event.
“Tom Constantino was a patriot
extraordinaire who understood the fragility and
delicacy of liberty, and demonstrated by his
Always a flag waver,
every act a marvelous example of the fact that Tom was thrilled when
liberty must constantly be served, nourished asked to carry the
and treasured by those who would have it American flag during a
tomorrow.” Padre Pio celebration.
Shown at left is
good friend, Tony
Tony Renna of Schenenctady first met Tom 40 Renna, who made the
14
years ago when he and Tom were working for trip to Italy with Tom.
of the Year award. Tom won that honor and
came very close to being the national winner as
well.
“I know Tom was extremely proud of the
Small Business Person of the Year Award which
he received in 1988 from the United States
Small Business Administration. As the award
certificate notes, Tom exemplified the
“imagination, initiative, independence and
integrity” which small businesses bring to our
free enterprise system.
“Tom was a forerunner in the campaign to
keep America beautiful. Long before it was a
popular notion, and certainly long before others
realized its profitability, Tom promoted the
pride which comes with cleaning up our
roadsides and communities. It was Tom’s vision
which made Noteworthy the ‘First and Largest
Producer of Litterbags’.
Iron Eyes Cody, Dr. Louis Vaccaro, President of the
College of St. Rose with Tom.
“But most important, I know that Tom set his
highest sights on being a good father and a
good husband. His deep commitment to his
religion and family transcended everything else
Louis C. Vaccaro, president of the College of in his life, and in this commitment, Tom found
Saint Rose, recalls meeting Tom and Carol both peace and success.”
seven or eight years ago. He got to know Tom
somewhat later after visiting The Noteworthy
Company.
“I searched for the underlying reason for his
success as a business person, as a community
volunteer and as a devoted husband and father.
The more I looked and the more I pondered,
the clearer it became that Tom was successful
primarily because of his genuine goodness. He
was good to everyone he met. He was good
because he believed in the goodness of other
people, and he was generous. He sought out
opportunities to help the less fortunate. The
college and our students benefited from his
generosity when he established the Iron Eyes
Cody Native American Scholarship Program.
Keep America Beautiful President Roger W. Powers,
“I enjoyed visiting with Tom because in many shown with Tom and Jim Phoenix.
ways he retained the childlike qualities of
curiosity, adventure and creativity, all
interspersed with a deep and abiding faith in
people. It is not a surprise to me that The There would be a tremendous void if among
Noteworthy Company continues to thrive, these fine tributes and accolades we failed to
because Tom laid such a solid foundation and share a bit of the humorous and humanistic
was able to assemble a workforce which mirrors side of Tom Constantino. This final letter, from
many of his fine qualities. longtime friend Jim Phoenix of Marietta,
“I am happy to be considered a ‘Noteworthy’ Georgia, seems to capture the very normal side
friend.” of this magnanimous man.

State Senator Hugh T. Farley recognized A Ride to Remember


Tom’s many attributes when he nominated Tom “One Saturday afternoon Tom phoned to ask
15
for New York State Small Business Person if my wife Doris and I would go to a church
festival with him that evening at a small parish But the one thing I could do better than Tom
about 60 or 70 miles upstate. was to drive a car. In fact, I pride myself on
“We met at Tom’s house, and with Tom at the being a superior driver.
wheel of his big Lincoln, took off for our “Come the dreaded hour of our return
destination. As we travelled, Tom would bring journey, I asked Tom if I could drive, but he
up various ideas whirling about in his head. As refused my offer, and we were on the road once
we discussed them, Tom would gesture with again with Tom at the wheel. About 10 minutes
both hands and lean across to look at me to into the trip, Tom started to fall asleep. I would
see if I understood his logic.
nudge his elbow, Tom would snap to attention
“Every time he did the the car would go
and I would repeat my offer to drive. After
faster and faster and weave about on the road
several little naps, Tom finally agreed, climbed
until we’d say, ‘Careful, Tom,’ or ‘Watch your
into the back seat and was soon sleeping
speed.’
“By the time we got to the festival, Doris was peacefully.
a nervous wreck and my arm was aching from “When we arrived at his house I drove up the
where she was squeezing for the past hour. As driveway and started to make my swing around
we got out of the car, she whispered, ‘Why the house. Not being used to the big Lincoln, I
don’t you drive going home?’ had to stop, reverse, then complete the turn. At
“Now Tom is beyond the doubt the best that, Tom awoke and said ‘What kind of a
promotional man I’ve ever met, and his driver are you, Jim? I always make it on the
16
business accomplishments speak for themselves. first try!’ ”
ts, Blarney and Stromboli and
Tom shown with pe
donkey Herman.

Native Americans Joh


n & Burton Pretty-o
Father Larry Lorenzo n-Top flank
ni with Rev. Gilbert
Tom during 1986 Wo Hemauer and
rld Day Prayer for Pe
ace.

s
With Native American

Mrs. Matilda Cumo,


wife of the New York
Governor, shown in
front of the hand pa
donkey cart owned by inted
Tom. The cart is fro
Palermo, Italy. m

pe the Auriesville
Showing Mrs. Bob Ho .
Thomas F. Egan, S.J
Shrine with Father t tim e.
e during tha
Director of the Shrin

17
n Paul II and Tom.
His Holiness Pope Joh
Tom, Native American
Bishop Donald Pello
Larry Lorenzoni. te, and Father

Brother Gilbert fiddle


s away for Tom and
Father Egan.

Eddie Cherosky at a Padre


Harry Calandra, Tom,
Pio Celebration.

Tom presenting Archbishop Pio Laghi with a Kateri


18 statue in 1988.
k and Tom review a Donkey Mike visits
gm ast er. Dr. Konstantin Fran
Winemaste r an d Ba r Lakes region of Ne
w Amsterdam with his
Dr. Fr an k’s wi ne , made in the Finge
bottle of guitar.
York State.

Tom creating an
oil painting of
poppies. Paul Harvey &
Tom.

Rev. Alessio Parente,


Tom and Mrs. Vera
Calandra, Executive
Director of the Caus
Padre Pio. e of
Mary Lou Kieswetter.
America’s Flag Lady,
19
One of Noteworthy’s favorite ads “Judge Us By The Company We Keep”
featuring Woodsy Owl, Keep America Beautiful spokesman,
Iron Eyes Cody, Tom, Smokey Bear, & McGruff, the Crime Dog.

Tom and his mother.

The Winds of Fate


One ship sails east
Another sails west
On the selfsame winds that blow
Tis’ the set of the sail
and not the gale
That determines the way they go.

Like the winds of the sea


Are the winds of fate
As we journey along through life
Tis’ the set of the soul
That determines the goal
And not the calm or the strife.
-Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Tom during his Navy years.

20 One of Tom’s favorite poems.


AUTHOR’S NOTE
It has been a pleasure, a privilege and an honor to
compile this booklet about Tom Constantino. I knew Tom
for about 7 years, nowhere nearly as long as the
authors of these fine testimonials, but long enough to
know that he was an extraordinary man. In my personal
and professional dealings with him, he was always honest
and forthright, and that is something to be admired. But
he was more than that. He genuinely cared about people
and about ideals some might think of as old-fashioned –
devotion to his family, concern for his employees and
associates and friends, patriotism, environmental awareness
and a burning desire to succeed.
The longer I knew Tom, the more I became aware of
the depth of his religious faith. Everything he said and did
was influenced by his belief in God, and everyone he met
came away richer for that.
Including me.
John Becker