A month ago, on September 20th, I had the honor of giving a eulogy for Uncle Gus.
I hope it helped in some way to share it then, and I hope by sharing it here, with my friends who don’t know Gus, you can get to know a little about him and why he inspired me. My continuing prayers to all who knew him.
Thank you to all who came out today. Some of you have traveled for many miles, even across many states, to celebrate Uncle Gus’s life. I know he feels your presence here.
When I was preparing this memorial, there was a theme that kept calling out. A thread that runs thru Gus’s life, and thru all of us here today. It’s a thread that, for me, runs way back to when I met him.
I met Uncle Gus in 1989, years before Richelle, his niece, and I were to marry. I’m 45 now, and while my memory of the details are fuzzy, please forgive me, the deep impression he left on me was one of welcoming.
Much like his departed mother Hilda, both welcomed me with open arms into their presence, and in Hilda’s case, into her home, in a way that both me, and my little brother Dante, were just not accustomed to. Dante would go on to be foster parented by my eventual wife’s family, Gus’s brother, Gin and Rose’s family.
Without saying too much, Dante and I came from a broken, dysfunctional family, where generations of children suffered neglect under trying circumstances. The kind of neglect that leaves noticeable marks in how you carry yourself. Especially in how trusting you feel towards others.
I didn’t feel that way with Gus. Hi kindness, his openness, stayed with me.
When I spoke to mom and dad, Gin and Rose, about Uncle Gus, Dad shared stories of their youth. As kids they’d wrestle like Bruno San Martino and Gorilla Monsoon or George the Animal Steele. They’d play ball down 5th and Luzerne. They loved listening to Motown and Doo-wop. And shared a love of cars that featured them replacing a motor, in an old Plymouth, with their dad’s help.
All thru these stories Mom and Dad kept emphasizing how kind he was. How even tempered. How soft spoken. How much he cared for children and his family. Mom told me specifically how she couldn’t remember a single time Gus had said no to help anyone.
When I spoke to Aunt Pat, his life long love, his partner and soulmate, she mentioned how she knew he was the one when he mentioned he wanted to go to, on their first date of all places, Sesame Place! With his nieces and nephew! Rose, Richelle and Michael. His joy of children was so great.
Aunt Pat and Uncle Gus would go on to build a wonderful family of children and grandchildren. And they fostered over 100 children, who, just like my little brother once did, needed a place safe from harm, a family who would care for them thru the difficulties they were facing.
Gus was always helping someone. Whether it be someone who needed mechanical help with a car on the side of the road, or doing donation runs for food and furniture at St. Andrews.
Now I’m painting a picture of a saint, and all who knew Gus knew he wasn’t. People who talk and walk thru life like Mr. Rogers are ..well.. rare.
There’s that 72 orange Scamp that he never got the chance to refurb! And his mischievousness, especially around Halloween, where he’d buy decorations, and spring them on the kids to give them a fright. And, reflecting this perhaps, he was a huge fan of the Practical Jokers TV Series, his favorite was when Marv was strung up as a Pineatta!
Certainly the home they had built wasn’t boring – it must have been intense and very difficult sometimes – and maybe that’s why him and Chris would regularly take coffee to Mom in the morning in bed.
Similarly, he knew to wait, when kids were hyperactive and bouncing off the walls, for them to calm down to talk with them thru their troubles.
I can go on, but do you see the thread yet? The connective tissue I mentioned at the start of this? Let me make it explicit.
There is a bible verse commonly recited during weddings that came to my mind:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It protects, it trusts, it hopes, it
Gus wasn’t the most communicative with his words, but his actions spoke for him.
Gus acted patient.
Gus practiced kindness.
Gus didn’t boast.
Gus didn’t let anger get the best of him.
He tried to live that verse. His life is an example of that verse. His family, your family, is built on the rock of that verse.
Know that his love of you, especially his children, must be brighter than the stars in night sky, because really, how many of us try and exemplify those words?
It’s the truest expression of love. That love is with you today and always.