Neighbors knew Anibal Francisco de Brito as “Nemo.”

Born in Cape Verde, off the coast of West Africa, Mr. de Brito traveled the world as a merchant marine, spending time in Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and Brazil.

But when he retired in 1968, he made North Philadelphia his home, specifically the 1800 block of Master Street, where his immigrant father and stepmother had settled years before.

Mr. de Brito, then 39, found work driving a truck delivering heavy kegs of beer for Schmidt Brewery Distribution Co.

In 1972, he wed Rennetta Rawls, who lived across the street. She died last year. The couple had two daughters, but Mr. de Brito had 10 other children around the globe.

Renita de Brito said neighbors called her father “Nemo" because they weren’t sure how to pronounce Anibal.

Mr. de Brito became a beloved community leader. “He loved people," his daughter said. “He liked to get out to see people. And he loved to tell jokes and make people laugh.”

He was also a no-nonsense man who spoke out if he saw young men getting into trouble.

“He would say, ‘Hey, man, what are you doing? You know you shouldn’t be out here doing this,’ " his daughter said.

He was healthy and strong and looked young for his age. And he loved taking long walks, even after turning 90 last September.

“He walked from North Philly to Center City, and he could walk faster than me,” his daughter said.

That’s why the family thought he would beat the coronavirus when he fell ill. But Mr. de Brito died from COVID-19 on Friday, April 24, at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

This sidewalk memorial for Mr. de Brito, was left by people who live on the 1800 block of Master Street in North Philadelphia. They called him "Nemo," which is the name written on the poster, saying: "RIP Nemo."
Courtesy of the de Brito family
This sidewalk memorial for Mr. de Brito, was left by people who live on the 1800 block of Master Street in North Philadelphia. They called him "Nemo," which is the name written on the poster, saying: "RIP Nemo."

Born in 1929, Mr. de Brito was the oldest child of Francisco Britto Sr. and Maria Silva. After high school, he joined the Merchant Marine.

His first language was Portuguese, but he also spoke Italian, French, Spanish, and Dutch.

“Anywhere we went, he would know everyone’s language and could speak to them. He made a lot of friends that way,” his daughter said.

He loved telling stories about the places he had seen. But his favorite trip was to Rome, when he and his brother, Msgr. Federico Britto, attended the canonization of St. Katharine Drexel of Philadelphia.

A devout Catholic and a member of St. Ciprian Roman Catholic Church, Mr. de Brito was thrilled to attend a Mass said by Pope John Paul II.

Mr. de Brito worked as a merchant marine and traveled the world.
Courtesy of the de Brito family
Mr. de Brito worked as a merchant marine and traveled the world.

In addition to his daughter and brother, Mr. de Brito is survived by daughter Anitra Maria Williamsand his children abroad: Diolanda and Antonio Britto of Portugal; Alcides and Federico Britto of the Netherlands; Juaquino Britto and Ana Maria Britt of Italy; Octavia Britto of Cape Verde; Cristiana Britto of France; and Francisca de Cruz of Brazil. He also is survived by three other brothers and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A daughter, Antonia Ana Varela, predeceased him.

A funeral was live-streamed on Wednesday, May 6.

Valerie Russ, vruss@inquirer.com