OREFICE, Albert J. "Bert Orr"
Albert Joseph Orefice (Bert Orr) of Bristol, passed away on November 4, 2012 at the age of 90. Born September 12, 1922, he was the son of the late Joseph and Antoinetta Orefice and a lifelong resident of Bristol. He attended Bristol schools and the Hartford Conservatory of Music, where he majored in double bass. Bert's interest in music began early. At 13 he was playing the base violin and his brother, Nate, age 12, played the piano. At this time and through high school they played with bands in the area. Their father drove them to and from engagements. It was during this time that Bert chose the double bass over the violin. During World War II, he enlisted in the army, served with the Armored Division Band, and traveled extensively throughout Europe. One of his most memorable performances was playing for General Patton. Another was when he had the pleasure and honor of seeing Louis Armstrong perform. Bert said, "Just to see him come on stage, have him smile and play that first note was one of the greatest thrills musically speaking". Upon discharge, Bert made music his professional career and became a sought after bass player. He played with renowned groups such as the Bela Bisonni and Al Hillman Bands of New York City and the Herman Kenter Band of Philadelphia. He also played for Bob Halprin and Paul Landerman of Hartford. Bert eventually formed his own band, the Bert Orr Orchestra, with his brother Nate Orefice on piano, Douglas Malcolm on reeds, and Hank Bissonette on percussion. They performed throughout New England for 35 years and played at many theaters, colleges and country clubs. Locally, they played the 50th anniversary for New Departure at the Cameo Theater, the 150th anniversary of Lake Compounce, and shows for the Boys Club and for St. Matthew's and St. Anthony's churches. In 1986, Bert performed for the opening of Foxwoods Casino and was held over with a Dixieland Trio for six years. He had many followers in Connecticut who would not have anyone else but the Bert Orr Orchestra play for the significant musical moments in their lives. Classical music was also a favorite and Bert played for many years for the symphonies of Hartford, New Britain, Bristol, and West Hartford. After 76 years of playing music professionally, Bert retired from the music world at the age of 89, leaving a legacy and a multitude of memories that will be remembered forever. Besides his music career, Bert founded and ran the Orefice Agency Insurance Company for 45 years. He was a former member of Chippanee Golf Club, serving as entertainment chairman, and belonged to the Elks Club and the Exchange Club. Bert had other significant interests including the Detroit Tigers, golf, writing musical arrangements, exercising his keen sense of humor and inventive and delicious cooking (he made one delicious pizza pie!). However, the activity that made Bert most happy was spending time with his children and his grandchildren. Holidays and vacations allowed for extended family gatherings enjoyed by all. Bert was predeceased on August 8, 1977, by his daughter Jane. He is survived by his daughter, Amy Bekasi, her husband Tom and their children Sarah and Anne; his son, James, his wife Tammie and their children Jessica and James Jr. and his son Jonathan. He is also survived by his brother Nathan and his wife Sheila, his former wife Valerie Orefice and many nieces and nephews. Bert will be forever loved and always missed. Special thanks go to the staff at Ingraham Manor for their kind, compassionate care while Bert was a patient there. Special thanks also to West Hartford symphony music director Richard Chiarappa and the entire orchestra for their special surprise happy birthday tribute via telephone for Bert's 90th birthday. It made him ever so happy. The symphony will play a special tribute to Bert in their December 9, 2012 holiday concert performance.
The funeral will be held Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 9 a.m. from DuPont Funeral Home, 25 Bellevue Ave., Bristol, followed by a mass at 10 a.m. in St. Ann Church, 215 West St., Bristol. Burial with military honors will follow in West Cemetery, Bristol. Calling hours will be held Friday from 4-7 p.m. at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made in Bert's memory to the West Hartford Symphony Orchestra at W.H.S.O PO Box 370036 West Hartford Ct. 06137. The Orefice Family invites you to send a condolence message in Mr. Orefice's Guestbook at www.dupontfuneralhome.com.