We buried Pop today.
Thanks to Higgins Funeral Home, St. Augustine’s, St. Anthony’s, FDNY color guard, The Knights, The Legion and that soul-cracking bagpiper. Gonna sleep for a week.
There’s strong / and there’s Fireman Strong.
There are talkers / and there are people who go into fire.
When my kids are getting shots at the doctor, we tell them you need to be strong. Like PopPop. Fireman strong.
Pop was / he is / a unique breed. In our houses, we call him the Strongest Man Alive. And there’s really one like him.
Pop grew up in The City. Immigrant parents. Father died early. Mom never learned English. In a large family, he learned to take care of himself.
He was an athlete. His playing fields were rooftops and blacktop ball fields. He became strong.
The Army took Pop to Korea. Quartermaster. And he sent home his paycheck to his mother. He took care of her.
When Pop got back, he took the civil service test. Wanted to be a cop. The fire department called first. And then Kitty told Dad it was time they got married. Robert Moses took their apartment house and the family moved out here. To the country. Strong move.
Pop put family first and he started long commuting. Every. Day. Through the early morning fog of the Palisades and the urban jungle of the Bronx. Every. Day.
In civil service, cops and firemen make more money by working … More. Overtime. 24-hour shifts. Sleep at grandma’s between tours. Gotta be strong.
Back home, he worked second jobs. Vanderbilt Lumber. Kolor Korner. Because a strong, family man goes to work.
Working guys fix their own commuter cars, right Chiro? Figure it out. Strong.
Working guys do the heavy housework. Mopping the floors. Hauling furniture in the house he earned.
Ain’t that a man.
So here’s Pop: A Depression-era baby who’s become a self-made man. He’s earned everything he has. An American success story.
You’d think he was blessed. That he was lucky.
Mom died of cancer in ’79. He re-connected w/ Eleanor, they married. She died in ’89. Of cancer.
58 years old and Pop’s a two-time widower. Pop’s always been bitter about losing two wives. Life isn’t fair. Hard to be strong.
Pop’s first lymphoma came in the late 90s. And over the next 20 years, he had many more cancers.
The throat cancer hurt Pop the most.
The strong storyteller now had a soft voice and he could. Not. Eat. No More.
During ALL this time, the kids got married. He was there. We started having kids of our own — 10 grandchildren in all. He was there for each of them. He started their college funds. Strong move, Pop. Thanks. Thanks so much.
We had a stupid flood in my house in Virginia and he gave me his car to replace the one I lost.
And here we are today.
Celebrating the life of a self-made man, who’s lived a full, full life. #firemanStrong. Our American hero.
Don’t be sad that it’s over. Smile because it happened.
Let’s honor him. Please rise. C’mon. Everybody. On your feet.
I’ve been talking about how strong Pop was and what he taught us. Strength, resilience, fortitude.
And we have all that here, right now.
I want to thank Lisa, our Aunt CC. She has been Pop’s caregiver — forever. Doctor appointments, treatments, custodian and guardian. So many long nights and early-morning drives. She is the living legacy to Pop.
The reason we are here TODAY — and not five years ago — is Lisa.
I’d like to lead a loud, standing ovation for Lisa. Thank you, Lisa.
OK. One more time, let’s hear it for dad. For the strongest man you’ll ever know.
Love you, Pop.
Thank you, Pop.