I had the honor of delivering the eulogy for 96 year old Ann Riccardi, blessed mom of our friend Joy Murray and her husband Jim. It appears below. Indeed, we said goodbye to another of the Greatest Generation. If you know one of Ann's fellow greats who still blesses us with their presence, give them a hug and a big thank you for all their generation did to set and preserve values that still make America great. And tell them you'll share those values with those who are following after us. ... and now, the tribute to Ann Costantino Riccard:
ANN (COSTANTINO) RICCARDI
Greetings to everyone. Thank you for your attention.
Joy and Jim Murray asked if I could say a few words about Ann, the mother of Joy and Bobbie. How could I resist? Because if we were to entitle this eulogy, perhaps it would be… ANN (COSTANTINO) RICCARDI, A MOTHER FOR ALL OF US, A FRIEND FOR ALL SEASONS.
In the way of full disclosure, don’t believe that what I will share are all my thoughts. Rather they’re a compilation of so many that came from her children, grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews, and friends of all ages.
Ann, “a mother for all of us”—Joy and Bob, she was the one chosen to bring you guys into the world, with a little help from your beloved dad, Ricky Riccardi. Of course, I don’t have to remind anyone that this was Mothers’ Day weekend in our great country; indeed, God has a sense of humor and a sense of timing, doesn’t He. And so does Ann!
You know, one of the most celebrated of all mothers in recorded history was Ann, the mother of Mary who gave birth to Jesus. Now, let me make this perfectly clear, … we are not making any comparisons of Joy to the Virgin Mary. None whatsoever. But her mother Ann, on the other hand, epitomized the greatest of mothers, … loving, honest, practical, wise, moral, caring for all, expecting nothing in return. Yes, Ann was the perfect name for her, with her example being Ann of the time of Mary and the Lord.
Ann, “a mother for all of us”—to all of the friends of Joy and Bobbie, did she not become a mother figure for each of us? After all, most of us are now orphans. So, we yearned to get over to Jimmy and Joy’s house to see them and their kids, and the many who would be their guests. But so vital was it always to be with Ann—to sneak away from the crowd, to sit with her, to answer her loving concerns about our families, to hear her discerning take and advice on all that was happening around us, to tap into her timeless touch with days gone by that would teach us a lesson, to observe her marveling over the crowd in the Murray house, just like the ones back in Jersey City at her humble home with Ricky. And after a short time with her, did we not feel better about ourselves, … and in an emotional moment, were we not closer to our own moms, now long gone?
What were the lessons that this mother of all mothers shared with us, … in fact, suggested to us with the intent of a tough coach, but the gentleness of an angel on assignment from on High? She’d say, “Forgive, … please forgive all; … forget, remember only the good; live in the moment, don’t regret the past, and forget worrying about the future; be kind by doing for others; and don’t sympathize, but empathize, … get into their shoes to find the power to give to the less fortunate, expecting nothing in return.” By her totally lucid and articulate ninety-six years, … that was the life-giving medicine she suggested to us for long life.
But in addition to being a mother to all of us, she was a friend. Yes, she was older than all, a member of the Greatest Generation. However, she made you feel her equal, … like she understood all you were contemplating, talking about, or going through, … because that Greatest Generation had gone through it all, and tougher times. While Ricky preceded her to their eternal reward in Heaven, how could she not think of him every day as she’d watch and listen to the multitudes of friends visiting at the Murray house? Isn’t that just how she and her husband fashioned their home? … for friends, relatives, strangers… the door was always opened, coffee perking on the stove, cake ready for unknown visitors, … perhaps a little different from today, but not wherever she was living. And in her watching the 21st Century crowd come to visit her, she had to feel Ricky’s presence next to her. She and he were… “friends for all seasons.”
Many of us know of her passion to brighten our days with greeting cards for all occasions. Well, I, too, was a recipient of those sincere thoughts. With her deep Catholic culture always with her, the name day of Saint Joseph was not an ordinary day to her. And it would be in mid-March, since I came to know her that she would order her daughter Joy all over creation to find me a St. Joseph Day card in honor of that great Christian and in remembrance of me, … just a friend of her daughter and son-in-law Jimmy. From her hospital bed this year she scolded Joy for not getting me that card on time. And her card to me was the only one I had been receiving these last years with my wonderful family having passed long ago. This I can guarantee you: for as many St. Joseph’s Day as I have left, I will always be thinking of Ann Riccardi, and I have a funny hunch that my mother will find her on the other side to thank her for her motherly interest in me.
Oh yes, she was tough. They just named a hurricane after her the other day! But her toughness was full of love. After all, the best of friends tell you the truth, even when it hurts. She was also saavy and hip, … who can brag about sleeping with Derek Jeter every night since the kids delivered the Captain’s blanket to her bedside.
In the end, Miss Ann, we have shed a few tears for you in the past couple of weeks. But the good Lord is prompting us with good advice: not to cry for your having left us, but to smile for your having been with us for so many years.
And so, we do not say goodbye, but rather “… until we meet again.” But before that, I have the blessed suspicion that right about now, the Good Lord is sitting with a smile on His face, saying “Job well done, thou good and faithful mother, thou good and faithful friend, thou good and faithful servant.” And his smile is broadening as he watches you and Ricky dance together, again. Indeed, that is our wish for you, Ann: “We Hope You Dance.”
Well, apologies. With my having not posted anything on this blog in so long, FACEBOOK has been the dominant exchange medium.
However, below is an essay I submitted recently to the Essex County Legacy Contest for 2015. Like the three before it, the story is the true one I fictionalized in the chapter by the same name in my novel, Bad News on the Doorstep.
"... a Quarter to Five" is also posted on FACEBOOK, on April 28, JOSEPHROCCOCERVASIO.
I hope you enjoy this journey back to 1959, ... and hope it will be ... a magic time for you. If so, share it with others.
“… A QUARTER TO FIVE”
Friday, May 15, 1959 was as clear and sunny as I could ever remember. The spring was in full bloom in Belleville, New Jersey, nestled in the folds of Essex County. A gentle wind chauffeured the scent of my mother’s dainty lilacs struggling amongst some weeds that signaled summer was not far behind. The warm early morning sun kissed and caressed my face as I walked up Belleville Avenue. PS Number Ten awaited the arrival of an eleven year old, who later that day would begin to learn about the beauty of each moment and the value of respect, tradition, and family.
Classes passed by quickly. When I shuffled slowly down the crumbled, worn asphalt driveway that afternoon into the backyard of my home, it was 4 PM. The sweet, yet pungent aroma of yeast was lapping at my nostrils like a calm wave from a faraway ocean. I was grateful we lived near that factory in Bloomfield.
After stacking my books on the dented aluminum milk box by our back door, I jumped onto the patio to stretch out on the rusty beach chair. Along with the tattered, torn, tasseled hammock, it represented our family’s total outdoor furniture package.
While resting in the chair, I was contemplating the start of junior league baseball and the addicting sound of a leather hard ball cracking against a brand new Adirondack bat, with Mickey Mantle’s name on it. I was alone in this precious moment.
The whistle from a Lackawanna commuter train ushered me back from my baseball sojourn. Then I rose up to call into the kitchen just above me. My mother’s home-made tomato sauce was simmering on her temperamental stove, and that mid-spring breeze had wafted it over my reclining body to tease my juvenile taste buds.
“Anybody home?” I yelled. “Hey, Ma, what’s for dinner?”
I was holding my breath as my mother’s blessed voice made the announcement I feared:
“Eggs in the gravy with peas. Uncle Pete dropped off some Giordano’s bread. If it’s not enough, we’ll order tomato pies with allege before I go to work.”
I hated sunny side up eggs in tomato sauce. But I detested even more that my mother, born Marietta Rose Frasso, from Fifth Street and Bloomfield Avenue in Newark, had to work the graveyard shift from midnight to 7 AM. This masterpiece of a “Depression Meal” served two purposes: cheap… and easy to make for my weary mom.
“What time is it, Ma?”
“Almost a quarter to five.”
It seemed school had just ended, but when you’re so immersed in your bliss, there is no dimension of time. While I could not explain this thought, at that moment, I knew it was true. What I did know, though, was that it was… “ almost a quarter to five”.
I leaned back again to close my eyes, enjoying the last morsels of my youthful reprieve, when I was startled by someone appearing at the foot of the chair. It was our garage tenant, ex-Navy fighter pilot, Aldo Mackie.
“Joseph, your dad home?”
“Not yet, Al.”
“No problem. Just tell him he’ll get the last rent check next Friday. I’m getting married next week, and it’s time to get rid of the cycle. My fiancé doesn’t want any part of it.”
“OK, Al,” was my tentative reaction.
I exhaled in relief. My grateful thought was, Thank God he wasn’t about to scold me for sitting on his motorcycle a thousand times over the last year, making goofy engine sounds and screeches as I fantasized riding on that chromed machine, sporting the imaginary leather jacket and motor cycle boots my father would never buy for me.
Al turned away to the garage to retrieve his motorcycle for the last time. But, he stopped suddenly. His back still to me, as if thinking what to do next, he quickly turned. “Hey, Joey, how ‘bout takin’ the last ride with me? Get some wind in your face. Nothing like it, kid. Maybe you’ll want to become a pilot like me some day… or own a Harley.”
My spirit soared. Other than my fantasy rides, naturally I’d never been on a motorcycle. I did always love speeding my Roadmaster bicycle around the neighborhood.
Wow, this one last ride with Al would be my first!
I was speechless.
“Well, I think I have your interest,” observed a smiling Al.
Is Al reading my mind? A euphoric feeling came over me. Oh, God, I really want togo, just this one time.But, I can’tsurrender to this urge. My dad would never approve. Hey, wait, I thought, riding on amotorcycle isn’t a sin. I wouldn’t even have to confess it toFather Francis at St. Peter’s Church.
The silence was deafening. My heart was pounding, ready to explode in pure enthusiasm. The images in my mind were delectable—gliding up Belleville Avenue into Bloomfield on the back of that huge leather seat. Maybe even some of the eighth grade girls would see me… and even some high school guys!
I jumped up and out of the beach chair like I was going to race Al to the garage.
All at once I froze, taking that breath I needed to avoid fainting. My heart slowed down. Al wasn’t quite sure what juvenile emotion I was dealing with at that point. We were both perplexed.
The tempting urge that was about to choke me moments before seemed to dissipate, gently flowing away, out of my heart, to my chest, and past my throat like a cool stream on a hot day. As that daring spirit vacated my bosom, I felt empty, but at peace. My mother’s lilacs dominated my senses once more.
Without thinking, I calmly recited a sentence as if it were part of a symphony I had no control conducting: “It’s almost a quarter to five.”
“A quarter to five? What’s that mean, Joseph?” Al had been so swept up in my trance-like transition; he really was searching for an answer … from an eleven year old kid!
“Yea, I can’t go now. I can’t ride with you, Al.”
“OK?” The muscular and athletic veteran was in respectful anticipation of a punch line.
And then, still not looking at him, but rather the open garage and the lonely motorcycle, I uttered these fateful words: “It’s almost a quarter to five. I have to be ready to eat when my father gets home… at a quarter to five.”
“I understand,” he responded, as if I were his peer.
While Al was a Korean War pilot, my dad’s name was Rocky, and he was a Marine, having fought hand-to-hand with the enemy; he stormed the beaches in the South Pacific in World War II. Yea, he loved me more than anything and was my biggest fan, but “a quarter to five…” was his number one rule.
I glanced back at Al. Speechless and a bit embarrassed, I was almost hoping he would try to convince me otherwise. Thank God he did not.
“Alright, kid,” he responded, seemingly still processing my abrupt emotional boomerang. “Give my regards to your dad. And tell him, ‘Semper Fi’… just one more time.”
Al strutted to the garage, retrieved the motorcycle, and walked it out the backyard, giving me a final nod as he passed. He started it on Belleville Avenue, and it quickly rumbled to Frank Davis’ Shell Station on the corner, only fifty yards away.
I picked up my books and entered the house, shortly before my father arrived home. I was emotionally drained, but I was now safe in my mother’s kitchen. It was as if my conversation with Aldo Mackie never happened.
As my younger sister Donna and I wiggled into our chairs at the table, my father appeared at the kitchen door. My year old brother Alan was quiet in his baby high chair, pushing some cheese and Cheerios around. My father kissed us all, washed at the sink, and settled into his location at the head. My mother was cutting the hard-crusted Giordano bread. She already had on her blue work uniform. It was a quarter to five on Friday, May 15, 1959.
Everyone’s plate was empty by the time I requested to be excused. Dinner had taken more than an hour. Only my mother and father really cherished the meatless Friday dinner, with Giordano’s bread making for some delectable dish cleaning of the yoke and tomato sauce. My sister and I would have preferred some alternative menu, but we had at least honored our hard-working parents by leaving no trace of food.
The peace and quiet at the table was the same that had engulfed me when that thought of riding on Al’s cycle had evaporated on the patio. It was familiar and breath-taking. Reminded by that transcendent moment, I instinctively conveyed to my dad of Al’s plans of getting married and vacating the garage. He just nodded. We all slowly pushed away from the cluttered kitchen table. Mom went to the sink, Donna to her newest doll, and my father and I to the TV. He wanted to make sure it was working for the Friday night fights from St. Nick’s Arena. My little brother was still playing with the cheese and Cheerios.
Just after 6 PM the sound of sirens rang out. Unknown vehicles sped up Belleville Avenue toward Bloomfield.
“Multiple alarm fire,” suggested Rocky.
“Ambulance and Belleville cops!” I yelled from the front porch.
Curiosity pulled my father to the front of the house. He hurried out the door as I followed. We could see people running at the junction of Willet Street and Belleville Avenue.
“Dad, can we go take a look?” I asked.
Walking past Frank’s Shell Station to the top of the hill that divided Bloomfield from Belleville, we could see ambulance and police personnel two hundred yards up blanketing two bodies.
Faceless spectators walking away from the scene were uttering, “Two guys on a motorcycle!”
My dad froze. My whole body went numb. I reached for my dad’s muscular right arm.
“What’s what?” my father asked a stranger.
“Motorcycle must have hit a rock or somethin’. The two guys are gone. Frank Davis from the Shell Station and his buddy, Aldo Mackie.”
While he’d lost friends in the South Pacific, my father choked up. Frank Davis was also a Marine. What we all remembered most was his constant ridicule of motorcycle riding. He feared nothing … except that! Now it had killed him. His good friend, Al, had somehow convinced him to take the last ride.
My father and I returned home and broke the news to my mother. She was inspired to speak of how … “God is already talking to both men, welcoming them through his heavenly gates as they entered with thanksgiving and praise. He’s giving them his final and merciful judgment, but reminding them both how fond he is of them.”
My mom’s quoting of Holy Scripture didn’t surprise me or my dad. Her closest friends at work were Nora and Queenie, two black Christian girls from Alabama.
I never told my parents about that backyard conversation in May of 1959. I was too embarrassed to imply how close I had come to saying yes. After all, “I had to be home … at a quarter to five ... for dad.”
Forty-four years later, I finally shared this story with my childhood dentist, Doctor Michael DelTufo, who had befriended my dad after the sudden passing of my mom at forty-seven years old. He smiled, recalling both of them, and then, spun another quarter to five tale; this one about his twin uncles in World War II.
“Yea, I got a good one,” he related. “It says a lot about the way we all lived in this area, … ya know, Newark, Belleville, Bloomfield, Nutley, the Oranges.”
Doctor Mike began a long story about how one of his twin uncles saved the other on the battle fields of Normandy with a “quarter to five” whistle they had always used to announce when their father would be home for dinner. The Newark Star Ledger published it back during the War.
“Doc, better story than mine,” I admitted.
“Nah, they’re the same. Love, respect for family, values, tradition. That’s what saves lives, Joey. Things are different today though. We gotta tell these stories to the kids, so they get it.”
Frank’s Shell Station is no longer there. It’s been replaced by a car wash that I frequent every couple of weeks. When I step out of my automobile, I can’t avoid glancing into the backyard of my beloved childhood home. Regardless of the season, I smell my mother’s lilacs colliding with the yeast from a far-a-way factory; I hear the clickity-click and the whistle of a train; the heavenly scent of my mother’s sauce, waiting to join a couple of eggs, makes its way to my spirit; and … it always seems to be “a quarter to five”.
For those of you who may recall, over the years I would end all of my motivational talks and lectures with the "Nicky Melito Story." With so many of you encouraging that I put it into a short story/essay form, I finally created, "Forty-Four DeCamp Bus to New York City." Well, it was just named "Honorable Mention" in the 2014 Essex County Legacy Writing Contest. THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER NICKY MELITO.
BTW, Nick is fictionalized in both the novel and screenplay adaptation of "Bad News On The Doorstep."
Forty-Four DeCamp Bus to New York City
It was the fall of 1961, the heart of rock ‘n’ roll and doo wop. Our parents were heroes of World War II and Korea. We had yet to hear of Vietnam. It seemed the sun was always shining, … and did we not enjoy an Indian summer every autumn?
That year at BellevilleHigh School in Essex County, New Jersey, each day was more exciting than the next, as we sped through the hallways between classes, hoping to get a glimpse of a pretty girl, or the school’s best athlete. Life could not have been better. But, there was a distraction to this idyllic, pastoral chapter in our formative pulsating teenage years, … and his name was Nicholas Melito.
Let out of classes early so he could lug his oversized brief case of books, Nicky would limp down the vacant corridors until the bells would ring, surrounding him with his classmates as he’d enter his next class. On many occasions their arrival would be God-sent, because he had slipped on the polished floor, books sometimes strewn about. The stronger guys would help him up, … but he preferred the young ladies as his flailing arms would reach for their support. His smiling response to the rescue was always the same as he’d stand to make the motion signaling: “Safe!”
Nicholas Melito was a victim of extreme cerebral palsy, the result of a birth delivery mishap. His gallant and faithful parents, Frank and Grace Melito, learned later that Nicky’s motor skills and coordination would be a problem. With his care and elementary education at the Belleville Cerebral Palsy Center having been nothing less than extraordinary, we “healthy” kids wondered, What’s he doing at Belleville High with all of us? He should be getting special attention somewhere else.
The years sped by as our high school careers unfolded. While the stresses of puberty and peer pressures mounted, our fulfillment seemed euphoric. Our new coaches were leading us to winning seasons; our singing idols included Belleville graduate Connie Francis and an Essex County-dominated group known as The Four Seasons. Each afternoon the girls skipped off to cheerleading or twirling practice; the band rehearsed in the music room; and the guys trudged to the gymnasium or athletic fields. But not Nicky Melito. Rather, our ever-smiling, yet challenged classmate with the long neck dipped to his left would drag that brief case out the Holmes Street exit door at dismissal and labor down across busy Washington Avenue, … to catch the number Forty-Four DeCamp Bus to New York City… every single day!
There were times when I would stare at him, as he waited patiently at that corner. But then I would smile, as a bevy of coeds helped him onto that exhaust-spewing transit machine. Then he’d vanish into its protective domain. Before leaving for my destination, the thought would haunt me—Where’s he going in the City? Who’s to help him there? He barely made it on to the bus. How’s he to get off? Then the query would vanish. I had my own life to lead, and athletics and academics were paramount for me. But, when I glanced back at the departing bus, … Is that Nicky waving to me?
The first day of Advanced Physics my junior year changed my life forever. Sitting in the first seat in the fourth row of the Chemistry room that reeked with the pungent smell of sulfur and recently extinguished burners, my anxiety for day one was interrupted by a tap on my right shoulder. Much to my dismay and irritation, it was… Nicky Melito! He said something to me, but with my encounters with him over the years having been few and many times reluctant, I wasn’t sure what his jovial greeting was. Perhaps, “Ciao, Giuseppe Chervasio (Cervasio)”, just the way my name should be recited by the best Italian-speaking students in the school … or in Rome.
Oh, no, I thought. I have to hear Nicky Melito for the rest of the year? God, what a distraction this is going to be.
It was my mother who expected straight A’s from me, so I had to give her the perfect excuse for my imminent Physics grade challenge: “Ma,” I lamented. “Nicky Melito’s always talking to me, and I can’t understand what he’s saying.
Her advice was transformative: “His parents are dedicated to him. He has a healthy little sister. Don’t hear what he has to say. Listen to him.”
What advice! His unique voice is still alive: “Hey, Joe, you had a pretty good game Saturday.” Then he’d slur, “… but, ya know what? If you stayed to the outside, you would have scored that touchdown”; perhaps … “Yea, the twirling captains drove me to the East Orange game”; and … “You sure you should be playing basketball being so short, Joe babe?”
What? I asked myself. He’s got to be kidding. What’s he know? With friends like Nicky, who needs enemies? … But, maybe he’s right.
We became friends that year as I learned my fellow student was so intelligent, so worldly … and so funny—sometimes even R-rated. He knows more than I do about everything … and hanging out with the twirling captains? Certainly there was no self-pity to be found in Nick.
Graduation in June of 1965 arrived too quickly, signaling we had to leave this cocoon nestled in the folds of Jersey. The early evening of our procession was unforgettable—sun-drenched, soft warm breezes, flags flapping gently, a packed stadium, … and the honor group of top students with gold cords being led by class leaders, … including one Nicholas Melito. He, too, had been tapped for National Honor Society. Yes, I was the President of the Senior Class on my way to Cornell, but who enjoyed the loudest response upon receiving his diploma? … You guessed it—Nicky Melito. As he crossed the platform dragging his legs and bobbing his neck, once he got his hands on that certificate, he stood erect, paused, and then waved it to heaven, as if signaling to his Creator—Mission accomplished! A standing ovation erupted.
Man, how did he pull it off, … and what was he doing on that Forty-Four DeCamp Bus toNew York City… everyday?
The Belleville Class of 1965 left for college, work, or Vietnam. Nicky was on his way to prestigious TrinityCollege.
First semester at Cornell was a challenge for me academically and on the football field. With my being home-sick, I welcomed my mother’s letter-writing. However, a week before Thanksgiving she declared: “Bad news from Belleville: Nicky Melito has left college.”
Well, I thought, I was struggling at school, so who’d be crazy enough to think Nicky would be able to survive Trinity? I hope he doesn’t become homeless.
My college years passed quickly as did my Masters Program. The military didn’t want me for Vietnam, so I married my high school sweetheart, entered business, and found success quickly. On a few occasions on long-distant jogs through my old Belleville neighborhood along the Holmes Street-Washington Avenue crossing, I would reflect, Gee, this is where Nicky Melito would catch that Forty Four DeCamp Bus to New York City. God, I hope he’s OK.
In 1982 my wife and I were nestled in our home in Nutley, New Jersey. With our two young daughters asleep, we watched the Peoples’ Choice Awards, awaiting the Favorite New Comedy Program of the Year presentation. The winner was “Private Benjamin”. The handsome and beautiful writers slowly made it to the stage, but the Master of Ceremonies waited patiently at the podium for the lead writer to arrive. And to my infinite shock and amazement, there he was, climbing up the stage steps. It was the head of this creative comedic group—Nicky Arnold, the same Nicholas Arnold Melito from Belleville, New Jersey.
“Maria, can it be?”
“Yep,” my wife responded, “That’s Nicky Melito. There’s no other like him. Nicky Arnold must be his professional name.”
You see, every day when Nicky Melito was boarding that broken-down old Forty-Four DeCamp Bus to New York City, he was on a mission—a quest to escape his physical prison of cerebral palsy to fully express his profound talent to make people laugh and think. Like my mother, there were others who understood that if you would listen to him, you would learn something, and you would probably be tickled by his God-given sense of humor as well.
The special listeners called the comic improvisation clubs and acting schools in the New York area their homes. Aspiring actors, comics, directors, and producers—one of them was Ron Carey from Newark who would go on to star on “Barney Miller”. He’d meet Nick in New York City during those high school days, as would Emmy Award-winning writer, comic, and producer, Chuck McCann. Richard Pryor, Robert Klein, David Letterman, and Dick Cavett could not resist Nick’s comic brilliance and his labor to express it. Joan Rivers gave him a job writing jokes for her while Nick was in college; and with that, he became the youngest writer ever hired by Johnny Carson for his iconic Tonight Show. It was because of his income from those jobs that he finally convinced his parents to allow him to leave prestigious Trinity College, … and the rest is history.
In the seventies he wrote for the Dean Martin and Sonny and Cher Shows. His writing and producing of “Welcome Back Kotter” established stardom roles for the likes of John Travolta and Gabe Kaplan, earning Nick Emmy nominations. He traveled the world as an Ambassador, having been named “Man of the Year” by United Cerebral Palsy of Philadelphia in 1978. In 1979 he married a beautiful woman, Andrea Bergman, their marriage ceremony held at the world famous Plaza in New York City. In the eighties he wrote and produced the aforementioned award-winning “Private Benjamin”, as well as HBO’s first full length comedy, “First and Ten”, starring OJ Simpson.
Nick and his wife birthed three healthy children. Joshua, who graduated UCLA and the Harvard Business School, became the youngest principal ever in Los Angeles; Andrew attended Columbia University, earning his PhD in artificial intelligence from Carnegie Mellon, successful today in finance in New York; and Diana is following in her father’s footsteps as an aspiring writer and actress. Nick’s devoted younger sister, Lucia Melito, became Dr. Melito, a psychologist dedicated to people with disabled family members.
Oh, he had such energy and a zest for life, but was it his suffering with his genius trapped in that challenged body that drove him to create and achieve? His storms must have been relentless, but he laughed and made us all laugh.
“In living his life,” his sister claims, “he showed us all how to live ours. In that he created a legacy and an example. His service on earth was difficult, … but perhaps he was on assignment to inspire us all.”
Nicholas Arnold Melito passed away after a short illness in 1999 at the age of 52. Working on a script, his laptop computer was still with him at the last moment.
I still walk through my beloved Belleville neighborhood of my youth. Once in a while I’ll catch a glimpse of the new, polished, and sleek number Forty-Four DeCamp Bus toNew York City. But for me, my vision always seems to blur as I glance at it, trying hard not to stare my way into a melancholy refrain, yearning to speak with my old classmate, Nicky Melito. But, each time my spirit is quickened as the vision takes on a new life—ah, the bus is Fifties vintage now, soiled, tilted slightly to the left, struggling, spewing exhaust clouds all about, roaring like the old transit machine that once caressed my friend and gently escorted him into the bowels of New York City. And sometimes, if my glance has weakened and hardened deeper into that stare, I wonder, …. Is that Nicky waiving to me from the back seat… of that Forty FourDeCamp Bus to New York City?
The Belmont Tavern is The Belmont Bar in my novel, Bad News on the Doorstep. If you're in the Newark, Belleville, Bloomfield area, ... and on Bloomfield Avenue and Belmont Avenue, ... you have to pay a visit. Official location: BELLEVILLE, NJ.
Who cares if Johnny Football plays in the NFL? In the game of College Football, have we ever seen anything more exciting? Not me. And for all of his detractors, we can learn much from this fearless kid who plays like he's in his backyard, o...n the sandy field by the rail road tracks, ... having fun with his childhood friends. Maybe the way we should live life. Here was the big takeaway for me after the Duke game: Johnny ordered his teammates to not look at the scoreboard, ... to forget it and to just go out and get it done. Indeed, so many of us through envy, greed, fear, ignorance, and lack of focus look at the scoreboard too often. Condolences to my good friend Jimmy Knowles, former Cornell stalwart, Head Coach for the Big Red, and now proud Defensive Coordinator at Duke. (Jimmy and the Blue Devils should be proud of their accomplishments this year.) And finally, imagine if A+M had a defense???? Johnny Football wins a second Heisman and his team beats those to whom they lost. Who cares if the kid goes to the NFL? We know that's a different game. In the annals of College Football, Johnny stands alone for excitement, performance, talent, strengths, skills, .... and leading by performance, ... not leading by some of his immature comments and actions in the off season. Give the kid a pass, ... Leadership is situational, and vs. Duke, he LED his team to a comeback victory. Want another opinion??? Talk to the Duke kids. They played against the most exciting one to ever step on the college gridiron.
My cousin Carl Corino and his son Jimmy are huge fans of the Fifties and all that period represented in the way of family values, traditions, music, and moods. My "Bad News on the Doorstep" was a hit at their house, ... and while the doowop of the times permeates each chapter of the novel (and each scene in the screenplay), the Corino boys recommended the great Van Morrison's "Magic Time" as a masterpiece that sends you back to those times, ... by a performer and his band of another time. Enjoy by scrolling down and click on the song..
As we watch athletics in America today, we cannot ignore that while talent and strengths of the participating players is essential for winning, ... it is the Leadership of their team/organization which seems to be the essential ingredient.
Good to see Mgrs. John Farrell and Terry Francona leading their respective Red Sox and Indians into the playoffs. Change the Leader, ... change the result, .... QUICKLY. Yes, New Yorkers are disappointed, but Joe Girardi brought them as close as is humanly possible.
USC becomes an also ran in college football (yea, there are sanctions, ... but??), ... not so easy to pick a winning leader. They did not. Lots of other stories like this, ... not just in sports, but business, non-profits, faith-based.
Not too many leadership development courses in schools at any level. Some corporate entities make the investment, while others see this as soft part of business.
A final thought about this important subject:
"Leadership is like beauty, ... very difficult to define, but you know it when you see it." (Myles Monroe)
Go to my Facebook at "josephroccocervasio" to revisit the ESPN homage paid to my late teammate's NCAA and SEC record TD return of a blocked field goal. He was a great teammate, and the finest football player I was ever around. His Belleville (NJ) HS and Clemson careers make his family and friends proud to this day.
The July issue of "ComUNICO", the national voice of the largest Italian American service organization in the USA, has published a review of my novel Bad News on the Doorstep.
Go to their website at www.UNICO.org and search for "ComUNICO", then hit their July 2013 issue. You will find the review on page 39.
The Unico reviewer was most generous in his accolades on the story, but mistakenly noted Bloomfield, NJ as the location of the novel. No big deal, but my Belleville friends just may be a little upset. My fellow Nutley Unico members just may be smiling--the rivalry between Nutley and Belleville still runs deep!
fyi, the marketing of the Screenplay by the same name and coauthored by me and Ralph Greco continues to be shared with interested production companies, agents, directors, actors, investors.