Well, the sky was crying all last night and some this morning. But it’s a beautiful day in heaven and it’s a beautiful day now here. And
it was a beautiful day when…the little bell on the door rang, telling the young marine that another customer had come into the store. Always the customer-pleaser, he looked up brightly to greet the pretty lady walking into his pizza shop.
“Whatcha makin’?” the seventeen year old girl asked innocently.
“Pizza,” he answered.
“What. Is. That?” the southern belle, Betty Jean, asked confused.
But Bob Carrelli probably didn’t really hear her question. All he could do was stare into the beautiful face of the rest of his life. From that moment on my grandfather, Pa, and his wife, my Grammy, were life partners, for better for worse, through sickness and health for over 55 years. The perfect example of what a marriage should be. Unrequited love, dedication, devotion, kindness, arguments coupled with compromise. He would take care of her, no matter what. Family was always first, now and forever.
The love of Pa knew no bounds, including his nieces Carolyn and Donna, living on the west coast, gathering with their families in thought and prayer to celebrate his life today and they wanted me to share these words: “Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet princes…and flights of angels, sing thee to thy rest.”
He loved his family unconditionally and though Betty, Jody, Rosalyn, and Jacqueline would follow years later, the first lady loves of his life were his mother, and his two sisters Lee and Terry. He was the best of brothers you could imagine – supportive, wise, and loving.
He was the patriarch of all our family, and although he thought he ran the house, if you asked Grammy, that was the illusion – she was really in charge….sorry to tell you that now,
Maybe in the forerunner for a tie with importance of family was the importance of God in his life. When I was a little girl, I was indignant that it was Jesus’ birthday at Christmas, but he never got a birthday cake. I guess you could say I’m spoiled too, because one Christmas Eve, a shared favorite holiday of ours, Pa showed up at our house with a perfect signature chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and the words “Happy Birthday Jesus” and a cross on it. That is easily one of my most favorite memories of
Pa was a stern man, no question about it, strict to the hilt. But he would always do what he thought was right for his family. And sure enough, he was usually correct. There was a sign at his liquor store that I distinctly remember saying “Rules of Customer Service. Rule number one: The customer is always right. Rule Number Two: If the customer wrong, refer to rule number one.” Guess what? Pa was that customer. He would always get his way. He wanted to go to Heaven on a beautiful day – guess what? Best day of the summer was last Wednesday. He was always right, sometimes to our dismay. I promise you that trait has been passed along to his three daughters, much to the dismay of their husbands. There is no doubt in my mind that Pa was one of the most, if not the most, intelligent non-formally-educated man to ever live. He loved his morning newspaper with a glass of OJ, the afternoon stock market, and the nightly broadcast. Oh, and of course, the evening weather as he sat and asked Dick Albert on television “What’s the weather like today, Dickie?”
But he only had times for those indulgences like TV news in his quote unquote retirement. Because we all know asking Pa not to work would be like telling Grammy “no, thank you, we really don’t want another heaping helping of mashed potatoes” – impossible. He went to work when he was fourteen years old in a factory, went on to own Carrelli Bakery in Tatnuck Square for over 25 years, and his dream, the Oxford Package store for another 27. “Hooolllyy Mackerel!” as he would say. He quit working for all of a few months before he started working for funeral homes, including Mercadante where many of you were last night. Hard work, dedication, responsibility – three of the many values Pa instilled in his family. “Nothing good in life is easy” he said. “Anything good is worth fighting for.” And he would fight for us, just as he fought for his life these past few months. When we told him it was ok to go, he pushed us off, almost literally, telling us he was gonna go when he was ready. He fought until the very end because he knew that it was going to be hard for us when he was gone.
And that’s the way it always was, Pa’s way or the highway. That included as a drill sergeant in the Marines during the Korean War. “The forgotten war” he would always lament, and warn us that “War is Hell.” But he managed to find a way to be compassionate and loving even in this hell. He was the odd, fantastic combination of chef, officer, and friend. He stayed behind instead of going on a mission one day to make a wedding cake for a fellow comrade.
Pa would have gone out of his way for even complete strangers – not only would he give you the shirt off his back in an instant, he wouldn’t even ask you why. Tragically, the ship his fellow soldiers and friends all went out on was ambushed and everyone was lost, including the groom-to-be. It was a horrible loss, but he continued to strive for excellence. He was proud of his time in the service and it taught him to value dignity, pride, and bravery. I wonder if being a drill sergeant is what made him love making noise – or maybe it was just being Italian. That man could clap louder, tap harder, and clank his glass more than anyone I ever knew.
He used to go around loudly singing “Ooooh SOOOLLLE MIO!” and he used to sing to me “Do you love me?” to which I had to respond in song “Yes, I love you.” That incident in the marines was the first of Pa’s nine, or more, lives. Later came his heart attack in the mid-nineties, the bypass surgery, dozens of hospital visits, and the many defibrillator attacks. Through it all he came out strong and more determined than ever to experience life to the fullest.
Betty was always his partner in life, whether on vacation or at work. He was a good business partner and a great boss too. Those are the roles he played to Grammy and my mom, Rosalyn, respectively, for many years. He and Grammy made a fantastic team. She said he would get up every morning at 4am and declare “Time to make the donuts!” Why 4am? Because he was dedicated to his business and his customers. If he said he was going to do something, you could be certain that he was going to do it. Just another trait he taught his family. And if 4am wasn’t early enough, on days it snowed he would get up early to plow. And little Razalee would go with him. She would ask the night before if she could go in with him and he would answer simply, if not a little skeptically, “if you get up.” But of course she would get up. She loved her Daddy more than anything in the world. “I loved going out with him during those times because it was just him and I. We just talked and I got him to myself. I was the son he never had,” she says.
Pa always had individual time to spend with his girls. Whenever Jackie did a great job on her report card, she would be promised a bowling event out with her Daddy. Just the two of them and a lane full of pins. Ironically it was that image that he painted for her as lightening struck late at night as she crawled up in bed with him, scared. The lightening was God rolling the ball and the crack of thunder was a huge strike. Compassionate, loving, comforting and strong are words that don’t even do him justice.
You could say that Jody was the luckiest of all because she got him all to herself not only during times in her childhood, but when she grew up and lived with them for many years. She was his first born and his little princess. When she and he turned around and around on the dancfloor at here wedding they could have been king and queen of the ball. “Did I ever tell you you’re my hero – you’re everything I wish I could be,” – truer words were never sung.
It’s funny – it’s kind of like Pa knew how to do everything. He was invincible to those of us who knew him. He was omniscient, knowing everything, failing never. Let me tell you, he must’ve been world champion at checkers because I could never win a game against him. And that’s the way he was, he didn’t let me win. He proved to us that we needed to keep pursuing what we wanted, even if we got caught up at road blocks. And that’s the most amazing story of how he quit smoking. He got up every morning, looked at himself in the mirror and said “Today, I’m not going to smoke. And if I give in and have a cigarette, I will get up tomorrow and try again.” And he did that, every day, until he never smoked again. No nicotine patches, no therapy, but sheer willpower and strength. That’s how Pa was. Keep pushing through, work hard, never give up. All these lessons he taught us now give us the strength to keep going.
Did I mention that tools he gave us included amazing food? He made the best breakfasts in the whole world.
And these grandchildren and son-in-laws did, and still do, love him to no end, myself included.
I know he’s having a blast up there already. We usually say “May God have Mercy on your soul” but quite frankly I hope Pa has mercy on God’s soul when he gets up there. Everybody start praying now because Pa’s going to start changing a few rules up there for our family and telling God how things should be in this world. God had no idea what he was getting himself into when he invited strong-willed, wise, determined Bob Carrelli up to the stars.
Pa made a lasting impression on each and every one of us. His influence spanned time and space. Jody was on her honeymoon across the
That’s why all of you are sitting here right now, aren’t you? Because he was one of the most amazing men to ever be given to us by God. You were proud to know him and call him: husband, father, Pa, uncle, cousin, godfather, friend, or even storeowner. He has left his legacy and passed it on through all of us. “Don’t mourn my death, celebrate my life” Pa told us. So we’re gonna have a big ‘ol party after this Pa, don’t you worry. But we love you forever Pa, we promise to take care of Grammy, and we’ll miss you every day. See you in a few years. To Be Sure.