LIVE TO BE 95…AND EVERYTHING ELSE I LEARNED FROM MY UNCLE TONYHelen Cavallo
On Jan 18, 2013 my family lost our dear Uncle Tony. He lived to be 95. In his life he’d seen a lot, served in World war II as a navy serviceman, was a retired Police Luietenent, Fireman and NYC bus driver. He and my Aunt Gom were professional ballroom dancers to top it all off. They loved to dance, it was their passion and the thing that brought them the most joy together. Tony was a great example of what it takes to live a long and FULL life. I hope that these life lessons that I witnessed from their lifestyle and bond will allow me to achieve the same amount of joy and longevity in my life. There have been studies and books written about this, they’ve even called it the Blue Zone, where they studied groups of people who were living far longer than most other people their age in other zones. Uncle Tony and Goms House was yellow and green…I call their secret to a long and full life the yellow and green zone. I lived with them for many years and I know 1st hand what it takes.
Here is just an excerpt of the eulogy I gave during Uncle Tony’s service.
…Here are the secrets to a long and full life…
I always heard my uncle described as a good guy, a true gentleman, and your attendance here today confirms that. He was a kind man. Who always spoke kind words to EVERYONE.
He smiled a lot. Always an easy smile for anyone. In the end when words failed him, his smile was ever present. His eyes would crinkle, and his smile was wide. That’s the image I will always have of him. He would smile, and grab your hand and kiss it. His hands were the softest I’ve ever felt I would kid telling him it seemed like he never worked a hard day in his life.
BEING OF SERVICE
Tony is a navy veteran of World War II, he was a fireman, a retired police luitenent , a city bus driver, a red bus driver, a driving instructor, a dance instructor. He lived to be in service of others.
Im so grateful that tony and anne live on Roosevelt island. The sense of community here is unlike anywhere else. I remember the countless dinner parties, the way they were so very social. A simple thing like walking from our building to go to the diner would take a half an hour even though it was right next door to our apartment… He had to stop and say hello to everyone. And it wasn’t just a hello, but a story, a compliment, a joke. All I wanted was breakfast. I would beg them to make it quick, just a hello and keep moving. Uncle tony no jokes, ok? I could never appreciate at the time that xxxxxx
“Man-oh-man that Tony is 1 of a kind”, I’ve heard this my whole life, followed by cackling, I mean real hearty laughing. He loved to make people laugh. I remember he was well into his 70s and we’d run into someone he knew and he would ask them if he should start taking social security at 62 or 65! Tony always had a full head of hair too and as he got older it somehow got darker. He would say, “Oh its darker cuz I just bought this new comb from Italy and you pull it through and it gets darker… what do you think? Do I look good? always with a twinkle in his eye.
DANCE W ALL YOUR HEART
LOVE W ALL YOUR HEART
His said this often… his proudest accomplishments are his sons jerry, jimmy,& jack otherwise known#1 son, #2 and #3 most times he collapsed all their names into one… jerryjimmyjack. He truly loved his sons. He loved his grandchildren erick Anthony and kerry and daughter in law suzie. They were mentioned every night when he said grace at dinner.
The person that light up his life was his wife Annie (Gom), or “Sweatheart” as he called her. His #1 joke of all time was “what’s the secret to a happy marriage? YES DEAR. When they celebrated birthdays or anniversaries he would ask annie what she wanted. Asking even though he knew what her answer would be. Uncle Tony offered to take her anywhere and buy her anything she wanted. grace and i would always shout out — take her to tiffanys, go to tavern on the green! And my aunt wld always says no I don’t want any of that. All I want is to have a cup of coffee w my husband and to hold his hand. You guys are cheap dates we’d say, totally disappointed. It is only now that I can appreciate what it means to share with someone. By simply being in each others company, someone that you not only truly love but also truly like… that’s the thing to strive for and cherish. Im sure a lot of you witnessed their bond. By being in their company you understood what it means to be happy together. I can only hope to someday find this true happiness.
When you leave today I want you to take a little part of Tony with you…
Smile at someone for no reason.
Tell someone you love them.
Be of service.
Whatever you do, give it your all.
Be part of the community.
Have people over.
Share a meal.
Have a laugh.
And most importantly…
Do this every single day.