The King of New Jersey (My Grandfather)

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A proper tribute cannot be done to the memory of a man by sharing only a few minutes worth of words, especially if that man produced 91 years of memories. So, what I'd like to do is to tell my grandfather about three values that he exemplified through the way he lived…at least as I saw him. Perhaps, my words will speak for others, as well.

First, Pop-Pop, I will always cherish the value you placed on sense of humor. I'm a tough audience, but you could always make me laugh…even if the joke was awful…even if it was the 8th time you told me the joke. You made me laugh whenever I was with you.

Your gifts of language and theatrics and your lightning wit granted you the power to create smiles in other people. When you were in the mood to entertain or just to charm, you could dole out smiles as effortlessly as a flower girl doling out petals.

And it was with awe that I would watch you do this; and I was proud to be your grandson.

The second value that you illustrated to me was vitality.

You played golf into your late 80's…and you still beat my Dad. How, at your age, you were the only one of us who could heroically clear a 150-yard pond I'll never know…but it was truly extraordinary.

You played pool into your 90's…and you still beat me. How you could do this while you were having difficulty breathing and while you were wearing six sweaters, two hats and a pair of mittens I'll never know, but it was truly extraordinary.

I don't know how many different languages you spoke or how many different musical instruments you played, but your life-long desire to learn and experience new things made you a model for others of what it means to be an educated man.

Your 91 years of vitality will always inspire me…how you did it, how you lived with unabated charisma for nine decades I'll never know. But maybe I'll go for 92, and try to beat you. (I've got to beat you at something).

The third value that I experienced from you, but that I wouldn't have been able to put into words until recently, was passion.

Your emotions were always out in front for all to see. You were not afraid of them. In this way, I think you were a true Son of Italy…feeling life as you lived it. And whether you knew it or not, your feelings were tangible and sometimes contagious.

When you were sad, my heart got a little heavier. When you were angry, people fled your bark like they would an enraged dog (not knowing that it was much worse than your bite). When you were joyful, which, in my experience, was most of the time, it seemed that all was right with the world.

Much of your passion was rooted in family. Well, in 1935, you hit the jackpot when you married Sarina. Mom-Mom. She gave you three terrific sons-and from them, seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren (and if I have anything to say about it, there will be some more to come), and one great-great-grandchild. After Mom-Mom passed, you hit the jackpot again with Josie, who put up with your passions and who was devoted to you through the end of your life.

I felt your passion personally. For thirty-eight years, I felt honored by you, which always made me feel a bit guilty because as the grandchild I was supposed to honor you. What did I do to deserve your unconditional devotion? I don't know, but I felt very loved by you. I think we all did.

A sense of humor, vitality and passion. I don't know if you gave yourself the credit that you deserved for these. I would guess that you didn't, so I am giving it to you. I also don't know if you recognized the fact that these same values run--and run strongly--through the veins of each of your sons. Well, they do…and we should be thankful for that. I have a sense that they will run through the veins of others as well, like your grandchildren, and their children, and their children.

We thank you for that, Pop-Pop.