Former employees of the Ferranti-Dege camera shop, co-founded by Anthony C. Ferranti ’46 in 1955, affectionately referred to themselves as “Ferranti-Dege University” alumni.
For many, the experience of working and shopping in the store often went beyond the curriculum across from the university.
For 51 years, Ferranti watched Harvard students and Cambridge residents learn the craft of photography at his shop, which he ran with his brother until 2006, and left a lasting impression on many who passed by.
Ferranti died in July at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he was retiring with his wife, Nancy Ferranti. He was 97.
Ferranti co-founded the store with his brother Charles F. Ferranti, who died in 2011. The camera shop grew out of the now-defunct Harvard Barber Shop, co-owned by the Ferrantis’ father, Charles Ferranti, who had immigrated to the United States from Italy.
The store — which once occupied the space that now houses Zinnia Jewelry — closed its doors in 2006, leaving long-time customers mourning its passing and celebrating the fond memories it’s created over the past five decades .
“He made very good friends at Harvard who he kept throughout his life,” said Nancy Ferranti, his wife of 36 years. “He was part of Harvard Square, as a student and as a businessman.”
A former employee, Thomas N. Bethell ’62, wrote to Ferranti in a note that his work in the business was the most meaningful aspect of his time at Harvard.
“I can’t count the number of times someone has asked me where I went to college and I’ll say Ferranti-Dege,” Bethell wrote in the letter provided by Nancy Ferranti.
“Meeting you and Charlie and hanging out at F&D was a lot more important and a lot more fun to remember than just about any of the courses I’ve taken — took a better word — at Harvard,” he wrote .
The Camera Shop grew out of Ferranti’s experience as a student at Harvard.
James J. Casey, the store’s longtime manager, recalled that Ferranti printed slides of Harvard football games and projected them in the store window throughout Saturday night and Sunday morning.
“He hired a lot of college students, especially from Harvard, who needed the money to work because they had a scholarship there,” Casey said. “Tony and Charlie were raised to share what you have.”
Ferranti grew up in the Harvard Barber Shop, his family’s business. After his freshman year, he left Harvard to join the US Air Force, stationed in Washington state as a navigator during World War II. After completing his service, Ferranti returned to complete his undergraduate studies, which he completed in 1946.
Ferranti began his postgraduate life in politics, 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 Ferranti-Dege opened. While establishing his business in Harvard Square, Ferranti continued his political involvement, taking part in civil rights and anti-Vietnam War protests, including the March on Washington in 1963.
Casey recalled a case where world-famous musicians John Lennon and Yoko Ono visited Ferranti-Dege to look for a replacement part for one of Lennon’s video cameras. While customers and passers-by were mesmerized by the celebrities, Ferranti focused on sales.
“Tony really didn’t care. They’re just musicians,” Casey said. “It was a Saturday. It’s been a busy day so we just let everyone else jump into things like that.”
After enduring more than 50 years of change at Harvard Square, Ferranti was forced to close the store in 2006, in part due to a waning interest in film photography.
“I’m going to miss it,” Ferranti told The Crimson at the time.
Daniel Ferranti, Anthony Ferranti’s son, said his father was touched when a contingent of Cambridge residents entered the store to give him a proper farewell on the day it closed.
“Right after work they showed up with champagne and a choir and sang for my father,” said Daniel Ferranti. “He was super touched 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.