BACK TO THE FUTURE AND INTO TOMORROW: JOHN DE PIRO
When I was growing up, my concerned and loving mother would ask me, “Joseph, what’s wrong? You’re so quiet.”
“Nothing, Mom,” I would reply. “I just like listening.”
Eventually, my father picked up on my mother’s concern and he started asking me, “Joseph, what’s wrong? You’re so quiet.”
“Nothing, Dad. I just like listening.”
After my mother passed away at a young age, my lovely Aunt Carmela who became, for all practical purposes, our “second mother” started asking the same question and I would reply, “Nothing, Aunt Carmela. I just like listening.”
Years later, my beautiful wife would continue in the tradition of my parents and aunt and ask the same question and my reply, till this very day, is still the same. “Nothing. I just like listening.”
Truth be told, I just liked listening because what was being discussed by my grandmother, Uncle Tony, Uncle Al, Uncle Nick, Uncle Sonny, my parents, Aunt Carmela and the many Caggiano family members was much more interesting than anything I had to say.
Whether it be sitting on the front porch of my mother-in-law’s home in Kentucky and listening to her and her friends talking about their small town, their relatives in Alabama or how they survived the depression and World War II…
…or listening to the fascinating stories my wife tells me about her father flying combat missions over Japan and his life as the editor of the local newspaper…
…or whether it was the thousands of stories told to me by the amazing array of customers who frequented The Palm Restaurant during my two decades of employment in that wonderful eatery…
…I always found it more interesting to listen because what I learned about the people telling the stories and the subjects that they covered painted a rich and meaningful tapestry of life for me that no amount of money and learning has even come close to replicating.
I bring this subject up because a member who contributed handsomely to this tapestry passed away yesterday, John De Piro.
Johnny, as we all called him, married my cousin Margaret over a half century ago and was privy to some amazing stories about the Caggiano family.
Johnny, a Bronx native, was by all measures a major success story. He started off as a broker on Wall Street and eventually owned a seat on the exchange and became a partner in a brokerage firm.
He lived in an upscale part of New York State with his wife and two children. He loved to travel, especially to Italy.
Johnny and Margaret, despite their success, never missed a family funeral (and believe me, there were plenty), a baptism, anniversary, wedding, or birthday celebration. They were always there in times of extreme sadness and in times of joyful celebration and were always very generous.
To say that they were gregarious might be an understatement.
They simply loved to mingle and tell stories.
It would be Johnny that would provide me with bits of the family history that proved pivotal, were funny and entertaining, and above all else, gave me a fuller understanding of my immigrant grandparents, my Uncle Tony, Uncle Sonny, and my mother.
Johnny had heart problems that limited him to one Scotch on the rocks at most family gatherings over the last twenty years…two if his wife weren’t looking.
The last time I talked to Johnny was at a family wedding four years ago, and he told me that my mother, Ann, would always tell him how worried she was about me… about me being so quiet… and he would reassure her that there was nothing to worry about and I would turn out to be “wonderful.”
He patted my shoulder to reassure me that everything did work out.
At the time I was wearing an Armani suit bought for me by my wife. He felt the material and smiled and remarked, “And you see, I was right, and you did turn out to be “wonderful.”
Johnny will be missed by his wife, two children, and an ever-diminishing Caggiano family. Hopefully, you have a wonderful view of Italy from Heaven.
Rest in Peace, Johnny. You will be missed.