Former employees of the Ferranti-Dege camera shop, co-founded by Anthony C. Ferranti ’46 in 1955, would affectionately refer to themselves as “Ferranti-Dege University” alumni.
For many, the experience of working and shopping in a store often goes beyond a course at the college across the street.
For 51 years, Ferranti has watched Harvard students and Cambridge residents learn photography skills at his store, which he ran with his brother until 2006, impressing many passersby.
Ferranti died in July at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he retired with his wife, Nancy Ferranti. He is 97 years old.
Ferranti founded the store with his brother Charles F. Ferranti, who passed away in 2011. The camera shop, formerly the now-defunct Harvard Barbershop, was co-owned by Ferrantis’ father, Charles Ferranti, who immigrated to the United States from Italy.
The store, which used to be in the space now occupied by Zinnia Jewelry, closed in 2006, leaving regular customers to mourn its exit and celebrate the fond memories it has created over the past five years.
“He made really good friends at Harvard, he made friends all his life,” said Nancy Ferranti, his wife of 36 years. “He was part of Harvard Square, as a student and a businessman.”
A former employee, Thomas N. Bethell ’62, wrote in a letter to Ferranti that his work at the store was the most rewarding aspect of his time at Harvard.
“I can’t count how many times when someone asks me where I went to college, I say Ferranti-Dege,” Bethell wrote in a letter provided by Nancy Ferranti.
“Meeting you and Charlie and hanging out at F&D was so much more important to me, and more fun to remember, than any course I’ve ever taken at Harvard — a visit would have been better — at Harvard,” he wrote.
The camera shop grew out of Ferranti’s experiences as a Harvard undergraduate.
The store’s longtime manager, James J. Casey, recalled that Ferranti would print slides from Harvard football games and project them in store windows Saturday night and Sunday morning.
“He hired a lot of college students, especially from Harvard, who needed money to work because they got scholarships there,” Casey said. “Tony and Charlie grew up sharing what you had.”
Ferranti grew up working in his family’s business, Harvard Barbershop. He left Harvard after his freshman year to join the U.S. Air Force and served as a navigator in Washington State during World War II. After completing his service, Ferranti returned to complete his undergraduate degree, graduating in 1946.
Ferranti began his political graduate life working for Adlai E. Stevenson II, the Democratic governor of Illinois, who ran for president in 1952 and 1956.
In 1955, Ferranti and his brother opened Ferranti-Dege. While establishing his Harvard Square business, Ferranti continued his political advocacy, participating in civil rights and anti-Vietnam War protests, including the 1963 March on Washington.
Casey recalls an example of world-famous musicians John Lennon and Yoko Ono visiting Ferranti-Dege to find replacement parts for one of Lennon’s video cameras. While customers and passersby were fascinated by celebrities, Ferranti focused on making sales.
“Tony doesn’t really care about it. They’re just musicians,” Casey said. “It was a Saturday. It was a busy day, so let’s get other people directly involved in something like this.”
After more than 50 years of change in Harvard Square, Ferranti was forced to close the store in 2006, in part because of waning interest in cinematography.
“I’m going to miss it,” Ferranti told The Crimson at the time.
Anthony Ferranti’s son, Daniel Ferranti, said his father was moved when a team of Cambridge residents walked into the store to see it off on the day it closed.
“Just before closing time, they showed up with champagne and a chorus, and they sang to my dad,” Daniel Ferranti said. “He was super moved and super surprised at the same time, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so happy and so vulnerable.”
Anthony Ferranti is survived by his wife, four sons, three stepchildren and 12 grandchildren.
— Brandon L. Kingdollar, Staff Writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org him on twitter @newskingdollar.