My Uncle Junior passed away this past week. He was such a good man and one that suffered life's trials with dignity.
Uncle Junior, called junior because he was named Adolph which was shortened from Gandolfo my grandfathers name, and my Aunt Tessie, a 5'4" ball of fire, were always at the top of my list for uncles and aunts. Junior was one of 11 children, which included my mother, who grew up in Brooklyn and made the most out of the life they were given.
Junior and Tessie had 3 children; Little John, Marie and Jerome. It seems strange to call my cousin Little John but he never had the chance to be anything else. He passed away at, I believe, 12 years old of complications relating to cancer. My fondest memories of John was him sitting behind a massive set of drums and beating away happy as anyone could possibly be. His loss was devastating to me but to Uncle Junior and Aunt Tessie it was indescribable. But through it all I remember them being like rocks.
Their second child, Marie a sweetheart, was born special needs. Throughout her life, and to this day, they were there for her giving her the best life they could at a time when special needs children were closeted and not main streamed. In our family Marie was just Marie and we all loved her no matter what. Believe me in a family as big as ours Marie never saw the closet, lol. She was at every family event.
Jerome was born last and he always showed love and affection for Marie even though it probably took some away from him. He has grown up very well.
Most of my family still lives in the New York/New Jersey area and I do not get to see them very often. Like most Italian American families our grand parents were the focal point of all family activity. With their passing we drifted apart and no one drifted away more than I.
At the time I decided to leave New Jersey my Uncle Junior was one of the few who understood my need to go. He always encouraged me. The last time I saw him, at my mothers funeral some years ago, he was still encouraging me and even told my children that my moving away was a good idea.
He was a man who cared about his family and about all of us.
My Uncles John, Michael and Junior always had this glint in their eyes. In the case of John and Michael it probably meant that mischief was afoot. But with Uncle Junior there was more and I always knew that if I was in trouble I could go to him for advice and help. He was that kind of man.
God Bless you Uncle Junior. I know there is a place waiting for you in heaven.