Day of Portugal "Man of the Century"
Manuel Pedroso was born on November 18, 1919 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. At the age of 3, he returned to Portugal with his parents and brother and was raised in Alvados, Porto de Mós. He studied and graduated from the “Escola Comercial e Industrial de Domingos Sequeira” in Leiria. With the inspiration of President Roosevelt, he decided to return to his birthplace in 1942. Upon arrival to the United States, Manuel settled in Providence, Rhode Island. As he arrived during wartime, he worked in the defense force, where he became a proficient welder at the Walsh-Kaiser shipyard producing liberty ships. After the war he, worked as a US Merchant Marine and traveled the world for two years. In 1949, Manuel married Maria Pedroso of Alcaria, Portugal and the two returned to Providence where he purchased Friends Market in Fox Point, which is recognized as the oldest Portuguese American market still in business today.
From 1955 to present Manuel Pedroso runs Friends Market, most known in the community as a hub where Portuguese gather to reminisce about the “old country” and exchange ideas and information. For sixty-four years, he has greeted thousands of people from every walk of life: customers, browsers, students, celebrities, famous athletes and tourists alike. He devoted his life not only to Friends Market but also to lending a hand to all who needed it by encouraging all Portuguese immigrants to embrace the opportunities of America while maintaining the cultural values of their homeland. For years he has served as a teacher and mentor, securing employment for immigrants, helping them complete applications and tutoring many to help them pass their naturalization test. Immigration policy required a financial sponsor for immigrants and Manuel Pedroso offered to guarantee many families financial viability. His sole motivation was to unite families, a goal he pursued within his own family. He continues to offer constant advice to those arriving in the United States: gain secure employment, become a reliable employee, save money, finish school and make yourself a valuable and moral citizen. It gives Manuel immense satisfaction to see the success of family, friends, and fellow members of the Portuguese community as they prosper and further the futures of successive generations. Mr. Pedroso encourages all to become American citizens, enabling them to vote, participate and be heard.
Manuel Pedroso has been recognized as the “Father of the Portuguese-American community,” featured in many newspapers, articles, television interviews and mentioned in the Nobel Prize book “Cadernos de Lanzarote,” written by José Saramago. He is a member of numerous organizations including: Pawtucket Social Club, Cranston Portuguese Club, Cranston Portuguese Rod and Gun Club, Cavaqueiros, Club Juventude Lusitania Cumberland, Holy Rosary Band, Our Lady of the Rosary Church and Honorary member of the Portuguese Heritage Choir of RI. His efforts to promote the Portuguese culture have not gone unnoticed. In 2007 he was the RI Day of Portugal Grand Marshal. He has received numerous awards including the “Gold” Merit Medal from the Secretary of State of Portuguese Communities, as well as Recognition in his achievement and “Excellence in the area of Business” from the Portuguese American Citizens Committee.
Today you can find Sr. Pedroso behind his store counter discussing history, culture, and childhood memories with his wife Maria. The couple will be happily married for 70 years in August. This November 18th, he will turn 100 years old. He is the patriarch of his family with: his son, Manuel Antonio Pedroso, and his daughter, Eileen Maria Pedroso Afonso, their respective spouses, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Manuel Pedroso has a passion for the Fox Point area in the city of Providence and the State of Rhode Island. He tells one and all that the Fox Point area is the finest place on earth to live, work and raise a family. He maintains an active social life, never missing an event and is the pride and joy of his family and community. What drives Manuel Pedroso: one word, LOVE—the love and joy of interacting with family, friends and strangers alike. He is undoubtedly an icon in the Portuguese-American community, capturing everyone’s heart and reminding them of the potential and success available to all who work hard and never give up. Manuel Pedroso is honored and humbled to be receiving the RI Day of Portugal, “Man of the Century” award.