For forty years, Reginald "Reggie" Pinto recorded the history of Manchester, Connecticut as chief
photographer for the former Manchester Evening Herald. His unassuming, pleasant manner gained him access while
his keen eye for telling a story with a camera produced photos that were informative and entertaining.
"He was charming," Sara Wolfgang, Pinto's granddaughter-in-law said during an interview at the Pinto exhibit held at the Manchester Historical Society February 19. She attended with her husband, David Wolfgang, Pinto's grandson.
Born in Portugal in 1925, Pinto passed away in Manchester at age 86 in 2011. He had lived in Manchester 60 years. David and Sara Wolfgang shared Pinto's story of an immigrant who lived the American Dream. His love of America was so strong that at age 17, he enlisted in the United States Navy, serving during World War II on the destroyer escort USS Schmitt. After the war, he married his wife Alice Ferreina Pinto. They raised their family in Manchester, where Pinto went on to document part of American history through photos of a small American city.
Pinto's father had sent to Portugal for his son. At age 12, speaking just Portuguese at the time, Pinto traveled aboard a ship alone to America arriving at Ellis Island.
"Only one of the workers on the ship spoke Portuguese," said David Wolfgang.
Pinto's photography for the Manchester Evening Herald, later renamed the Manchester Herald, was the subject of the exhibit. Fondly, David Wolfgang recalled the times he joined his grandfather in looking through Pinto's personal collection of photos he took for "The Herald" and listening to his grandfather recount the circumstances surrounding the pictures. Once a prominent local daily, the Manchester Herald closed in 1991.
The couple drove up from Meriden to view the exhibit which they noted took them by surprise. The exhibit at the MHS building ran from 9 a.m. to noon. Other family members planned to be there later in the morning, noted the Wolfgangs.
"I knew my grandfather had taken a lot of photos but I didn't realize there would be an exhibit," said David Wolfgang, "He always had his camera with him."
Pinto's favorite photos, noted Wolfgang, were ones he had snapped of the Kennedy brothers while they were campaigning in Hartford. Meanwhile, in addition to many photos taken by Pinto that are favorites of Wolfgang's, there is a special, elusive photo taken of Pinto that Wolfgang hoped to locate in the MHS archives. It shows his grandfather crouched down to get a photo of Richard Nixon visiting Hartford, when Nixon unexpectedly reached out to shake Pinto's hand and someone captured the moment on film.
Sara Wolfgang, who got to know Pinto later in his life, added she feels fortunate for those few years. Sara Wolfgang spoke of Pinto's warmth, and she and her husband agreed he had a way with people. The two even told of family conversations about Pinto having been approached to run for mayor of Manchester.
"People trusted him," they said.
That seemingly enabled Pinto to gain access to spots where other photojournalists might not have been welcome, they added.
Also in attendance at the Pinto exhibit was Mark F. Abraitis, a former business manager for the Manchester Herald. Abraitis and Pinto were colleagues and friends.
"Reggie was instrumental in getting me into photography," said Abraitis.
It is not too late to take a walk down Manchester's 'Memory Lane'. On March 12, the Manchester Historical Society will hold another Open House featuring the Pinto exhibit. (Donations from visitors are appreciated). As well as stopping by to enjoy the photos, the hope is that visitors might be able to shed some light on dates, locations and events depicted in stacks of Pinto's photos yet to be identified.
(Writer's note: I began my career in journalism as a correspondent for the Manchester Herald. Two years ago I came across this Manchester Herald box at the Manchester Museum.)