I’ve written many things over the years, but perhaps the hardest piece I had to write was my own father’s obituary. Dad passed away on Friday after a remarkable run of 91 years. I was fortunate enough to see him just a few weeks before he died.
What was supposed to be a fun weekend to celebrate my birthday – and his – turned out to be one filled with mixed emotions. My fiance and I planned a trip up to Pennsylvania to hit some amusement parks and take Dad and the family out for dinner to celebrate. Instead, just days before our arrival Dad landed in the hospital, his body unable to fight the cancer that he beat the first time more than 20 years ago.
The man who just a year ago joyfully celebrated his 90th birthday was laying in a hospital bed, almost unrecognizable. His firm handshake was reduced to just a mere touch. His strong, booming voice, was nothing more than a whisper. The stories he remembered so well and told us time after time… well, he still remembered those!
Dad was never one to show emotion and was someone who even if he was sick as a dog would say, “I’m doing great!” When I would talk to him on the phone while he was in the hospital and later in hospice, he was always “hanging in there,” even though he knew that wasn’t the case.
The last time I saw my father was on July 22nd, the day before his birthday. We stopped at the hospital to see him before we headed out of town. We chatted for a while. I listened as he told those stories he told so many times before. And we laughed. When it was time to leave, I walked over to him, gave him a hug and said, “Dad, I love you.”
As tears began to flow, he yelled, “stop, Scott! None of that, you hear me?”
That strong, booming voice came back to reprimand me one more time.
Over the course of the next few weeks, his condition worsened and he was moved to hospice. I called to check in and see how he liked his “new apartment.” He said, “Scott, this place is beautiful! And they are taking really good care of me here.”
That was one of the last conversations we had where he could speak.
My father was humble. He spent his entire life as a salesman for the former Standard Brands which went on to become Nabisco. Day in and day out he would be in his car calling on prisons, hospitals, schools and restaurants. He knew every restaurant, every cook, every owner. He knew which kitchens were dirty and which were clean.
He would only eat at a few.
He taught me never to eat frozen yogurt from the machines.
On this #FathersDay, I’ll share some facts about dad, who in just a few short weeks will celebrate a birthday that will put him ten years away from the triple-digit age group: * Not on Facebook. Looking through my posts alone, I’m pretty thankful for that. * Never been on an airplane. Which means he has never had the thrill to be stuck in a middle seat or drooled on by the drunk sitting in 14C. * Still has a landline. Because giving up things like that is too difficult. Bonus: the landline is hooked up to an answering machine with a cassette tape recording mechanism. * Can be found at McDonalds every morning except Sunday – cause even Allah needed a day of rest. * Likes President Obama as much as a root canal performed anally. * Taught me my greatest life lesson, “don’t eat ice cream from those damn machines, they don’t clean them.” But most importantly… has always been supportive in everything I’ve done, has accepted me for who I am, has lived longer than I ever hope to, and for as proud as he is of me, I’m even prouder to call him my pop.
A photo posted by scottsanfilippo (@scottsanfilippo) on
He and my mother raised four children. Me being the youngest – separated by 13 years. I pretty much grew up as the “only child” and, beyond a doubt, was spoiled. Mom and dad worked every day to support their family and we never did without.
I remember during the summer when I would be off of school, Dad would sometimes take me to work with him. Like the proud father he was, he would take me into the various businesses he called on, sometimes having to answer the question with “no, that’s my boy,” when he would be asked if I was his grandson!
He saved up from the day I was born to send me to college – debt free. I was going to be the one who they were going to put through school and get a degree. When the time finally came, I didn’t want to go. I was never a good student and I remember coming home every day during that first semester begging my parents to let me drop out.
There would be none of that.
My mother and father got to see me graduate in 1993 and neither one could have been prouder. I could have been a better student, but they were still proud.
Things changed in 1995 when my mother died of cancer. My father never truly recovered from losing the love of his life. After her death, his house filled with pictures of her and memories of the times they spent together.
“If your mother were only here to see this,” would be something we heard a lot after her death.
As I started my own businesses, there was nobody prouder of my accomplishments than my father. Being a guy who never let his emotions show, he never said, “Scott I’m proud of you.” Instead I heard it from his friends who would always tell me how much my father would talk about me and how proud he was of everything I did.
That was good enough for me.
Dad would come around to the various businesses I had and would walk around, talk to the employees and “keep and eye on things” as he would say. He got to know many of them personally and would often ask about them after they went on to a different career path.
Seeing my dad in the hospital was tough. Getting the call from my brother to write that obit was even tougher. I didn’t know what to say, or how to say it. But during the last conversation I had with my father he said something to me that stuck. We talked about how he was feeling, he told me I needed to accept that fact that he wasn’t going to get any better, and in his own way of offering some bit of consolation to me he said, “Scott, I lived a great life.”
Those words were the ones that I would remember my father by, and were the words used to describe his time here on Earth in his obituary.
He truly did live a great life.
At his grave, once the Navy finished their memorial service and the flag that draped his casket was presented to my oldest brother, it was time to say that final goodbye.
I walked over. Laid my hand on the casket. Cried and said, “Dad, I love you.”
Only this time he didn’t reprimand me for crying.
KINGSTON — Frank J. Sanfilippo, 91, a resident of Kingston, died Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, at Celtic Hospice Inpatient Unit at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre. He died after living what he called “a great life.”
Mr. Sanfilippo was born in Atlantic City, N.J., son of the late Ignazio and Margherita (Calore) Sanfilippo, and was a graduate of Elmer L. Meyers High School, Wilkes-Barre. He served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater during World War II, and was discharged as a coxswain in 1946. He received the Pacific Theater Ribbon, the American Theater Ribbon, the Victory Medal and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon. Returning to civilian life, he was a salesman with Standard Brands Corporation, Wilkes-Barre, later Nabisco for many years and retired in 2004.
Frank was a member and a longtime usher at St. Ignatius Church, Kingston, and was also a member and past president of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Restaurant Association for many years and was a board member and served several terms as secretary and one as president. He was a member of Post No. 283, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Kingston. He was also the honorary “mayor” of the River Street McDonald’s coffee group that met five days a week and will miss Frank terribly. The group would talk politics, world affairs and sports over their coffee.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Dorothy (Proudlove) Sanfilippo, who died in 1995; also by a brother, Carl Sanfilippo; and sister, Helen Calore.
Surviving are son, Frank Sanfilippo, of Kingston; daughter, Karen Zierowicz, of Dallas; son, Mark Sanfilippo and his wife, Janice, of Kingston, and Scott Sanfilippo and his fiance, Kirby Norberto, of Delray Beach, Fla.; sister, Louise Harbay, of Kingston; grandchildren, Michael Baltruchitis and his wife, Kimberly, of Courtdale, John Zierowicz, of Dallas, and Joshua Sanfilippo, of Kingston; great-granddaughter, Brianna Baltruchitis, of Courtdale; nieces, Deborah Harbay and Lee Ann Kashnicki; and nephew, Tony Calore.
A military funeral will be held Monday, Aug. 15. Funeral Mass at 9 a.m. in St. Ignatius Church, Kingston. Private interment will be in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Carverton. Also, those going to the funeral Mass are asked to go directly to the church on Monday.
The family requests that flowers be omitted and that memorial donations in Frank’s name be made to St. Ignatius Church, 339 N. Maple Ave., Kingston, PA 18704; or to a charity of the donor’s choice.
The family would also like to extend their thanks to Dr. Citi, Dr. Pernikoff and the nurses on the fifth floor of the General Hospital and at the fifth floor of Celtic Hospice for their kindness in caring for our Father in his last days.
Funeral services were provided by the H. Merritt Hughes Funeral Home Inc., a Golden Rule Funeral Home, 451 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre.