"How do you try to encapsulate the life of someone that has always been larger than life to you? I’m told that Pop’s father left his family when he was only 5 years old, so he never had that male role model of husband, father, and grandfather. Yet he still managed to emulate all of these roles perfectly in his life. To say that Pop was a kind, quiet, gentle soul would be an understatement. Granny keeps telling us how she’s not even sure how he worked up the courage to asked her to marry him being as shy as he was, but obviously he did, that night on her birthday after taking her to the movies, in his car, without asking either of her parents for permission, because he knew it was his decision to spend the rest of his life with her. For once she was speechless.
If anyone here has ugly cried while watching the movie “The Notebook”, please try imagining watching that story play out from beginning to end right in front of your eyes. Granny and Pop had quite a remarkable love and admiration for each other, and impressively have been married for 66 years. They did everything together which for a couple of their time is rare. They valued each other’s opinion, sitting around the kitchen table without ever fighting in order to make difficult and life changing decisions, especially the one which Granny encouraged Pop to leave his current job and started his own business at 40 years old. Pop would always tell us wasn’t the smartest move he ever made but with the agency still going strong almost 50 years later I can attest that it was a solid move on his part.The deep respect was evident, as was his need to provide and continually look out for her. Granny, your mother may have called you Helter Skelter, but all Pop saw was perfection.
Their love produced two of the most amazing children, of whom we’re lucky to call our Dad and Aunt. To say that Pop-Pop was proud of his children’s accomplishments would be an understatement. I can’t count the amount of times he would spout off what city our Aunt Sharon was traveling to, or what state assembly person our Dad, John Jr, was going to meet with for insurance industry changes on any given day. His pride in their accomplishments showed every time he beamed that smile talking about where they were that day.
As grandchildren the stories we could tell are endless. How he would always call me “porco” anytime as a young child I would burp...to which I would echo that sentiment at an inappropriately timed burp at the dinner table from the wife of a family friend. I’m told Pop turned the reddest of embarrassment, and I don’t think he taught us any more words in Italian after that. For any of you who walked by the photo boards, you could see how he would let us style his hair (aka torture his poor scalp) in the basement for hours, and was proud to have his own Barbie case to play with us.
We remember pop always loving his garden and grape arbour, spending hours planting his blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, and tomato plants, as well as sunflowers and purple flowers just for Stephanie. He’d sneak us down into the basement to for our Doritios and soda parties without Granny knowing. Down at the condo in Ocean City was his favorite place to be; waking up early to collect seashells by the shoreline in Shop Rite bags, then going for a slow drive to get donuts and fresh bread with John Michael. Followed without question by naps on his long chair on the patio well into the afternoons.
He insisted on going to the Philadelphia Italian Market every Christmas season, and had a coveted meatball, sauce, and crab cooking recipe. My Catholic guilt won’t let me tell a lie in Church, so although those recipes may not have been taken to his grave, none of us grandchildren are risking him haunting us if we speak a word about how they’re prepared.
With all that, I will leave you with this final story. Every Tuesday night for the better part of 35 years, he’d go out with his guys; Mr. Joe Cuppucio, Mr Joseph Olivo, Mr Joseph Arena, and Pop. They would meet at our agency office, never knowing what restaurant they’d be going to dinner since apparently it was a game time decision. This one Tuesday Pop was walking down the steps and Mr Olivo bursts out laughing at Pop, telling him “You have two different shoes on”.
And they weren’t just any shoes, these were BRAND new, straight out of the box, he’d never yet worn them. So they all had a good laugh, went out to dinner, and went on with their evenings. But Pop, being the shy individual he was, would not go and see if the shoe store could correct their obvious misstep. So that’s why Granny told him, if you’re only wearing them those one time and not taking them back to the store, when you go to the grave, I’m sending them with you.
I can attest we are sending him with those shoes. A friend of mine text me last night to offer condolences for Pop-pop’s passing, and then said to me that “grandparents give us all that extra special goodness our parents didn’t and franky couldn’t.” Which couldn’t be more true. Pop lived an exceptional life and has loved our entire family, as evidenced in his smile in all these photos, more than we could know. He will be loved and missed, by all of us, until we meet again."