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Monday, March 21st 2011 Marks what would be my grandfathers 87th birthday. He passed away on April 10th, 2010 surrounded by his family but theres not a day that goes by when I don’t think about him. I’ve sat here for hours staring at the screen trying to find the perfect way to start this post but no matter what I think of, no matter what I write, it wont do him justice.

” La Famiglia ” was his favorite saying. It was always said in love although it was occasionally used in moments of sheer exasperation with his family. As a typical Italian family hailing from New York we can be quite the handful at times (those who know my family would probably say calling us a “handful” is an understatement).

I have many fond memories of my grandfather through the years but the one that always stays with me is how he served his local community. He was a member of the Gardiner,NY rescue squad from its inception as well as a member of the Gardiner Fire Department (and also served as fire commissioner for several years). I used to love going to local parades when I was younger so I could wave to grandpa in the fire truck. Through his service he taught my siblings, my cousins and myself how important it is to serve your neighbors and to volunteer in your community. This is something that I will do for the rest of my life.

He loved the weather channel….oh how he loved watching it. I’m pretty sure every time I went to visit him it was on. I remember driving down to see him in Florida one time and there was a storm coming. He refused to let me leave until after the storm had passed. He was afraid that I would get caught up in the storm and have an accident. It wasnt until this past November when I went home to New York and was looking through some old photos and mementos we had taken from his house that I realized just how many years he had been fascinated by weather. His senior yearbook has his ambition as being a Meteorologist. It is also noted that he enjoyed stamp collecting (We found HUNDREDS of stamps!) and was in the Glee Club (He loved singing!) Below is his Senior photo from high school.

In January 2010 Grandpa flew down to Florida for what was sure to be a blissful three months in paradise. He absolutely LOVED sitting in the sun and going to the beach and just enjoying the beautiful weather which is a big change from New York in the winter. In late January i received a phone call from my mother. Grandpa had taken a turn for the worse and as the closest relative (in physical distance to him) I needed to drive down to St.Augustine, FL. and take care of him.

I was completely unprepared for what I walked in to. The last time I had seen him he was smiling and laughing and walking. Surely this was not my grandfather. My shock quickly wore off when I realized that I had to act immediately. The next few days consisted of me taking care of my grandfather. You name it, I did it and i’d do it all over again if I had to. It was one of the most trying times in my life but I feel blessed to have been able to spend that time (and the next few months) with my grandfather as well as my mother, my aunts and uncle.  I think one of my favorite (and last memories) I have of him is dancing with him from room to room. While I was taking care of him, he wasnt able to walk very well and instead of using a walker, we danced from room to room. He loved that.

So here I am….a little over a year later…..getting ready to celebrate my grandfathers life. I think i’ll make this a yearly occurrence. He was a very, very, very special man in my life and I never want to forget him, the good times i’ve had with him and the lessons he has taught me and the character he has instilled in me. I’m going to leave you with a few photos of him and some music from The 3 Tenors.

Happy 87th Birthday Grandpa. I raise my wine glass to you.  I hope you are having one heck of a party up there in Heaven.

85th Birthday with the family

3 Generations of Coffarelli men

Family reunion 2009

85th Birthday

 

Read about John Coffarelli’s life Here

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