To All the Ships at Sea,
There was a great man by the name of Pat Napolitano. Patty was one of my oldest and
dearest friends and a person that was very important in my life. On many
occasions, I’ve mentioned that I’m the luckiest man in the world. I have a
great family, great friends, and a great life partner I call Sunshine. Most
of these people have been with me, most of my life. They’ve supported me and
helped me to be a better person.
When God made Pat he literally threw away the mold. He was one of the
strongest, bravest, and true friends God put on this earth. At the ripe old
age of 15, five people tried to kill me. They had me on the ground kicking
me in the face and chest and delicate parts of my body. A total stranger
came along and literally pulled them off, one at a time and saved my life.
The bottom line is, if he did not help me, I wouldn’t be around today. It’s
been many, many years ago and we’ve been friends ever since. This was the
foundation for a very long friendship.
We’d all gather at Pat’s home 10-15 of us and we’d work on our cars, have a
party and play poker. It was a beautiful time. The Napolitano family had a
curse. They all seemed to have genetic heart disease. Pat’s dad passed away
at 55 of a heart attack, then his mom, then his older brother Ralph.
You should not be surprised that Pat was the Captain of the Football Team as
well as Captain of the Wrestling Team. In those days we played both offense
and defense. He was an amazing physical specimen and extremely intelligent.
Patty had an interesting way of motivating people especially someone like me
who was considerably weaker, smaller, and not nearly as brave. One day
somebody for no particular reason, called me a “Diego Wop”, and called me
out for a street fight. One of our teachers broke it up. and as truth be
known, I did everything I could to avoid it, because I was frightened. I
managed to avoid this gentleman and I use the term lightly, for two to three
days. One night after a movie Pat brought me to the back alley of the movie
house in the parking lot. He had arranged for this person to be there so
the fight could happen. I still had my doubts and fears but Pat made it
simple. He grabbed my shoulder and pulled me nose to nose, looked into my
eyes and simply said you have a choice Joe D, you can fight him or me the
choice is yours. The fight lasted maybe 40 seconds, I beat him because Pat
taught me you may be afraid but failure is never an option. On the football
field and on the wrestling mat he was an animal but once he left he was a
mild mannered sweet person. He had a slight birth defect which made him
deaf in one ear. He talked low, slow and cautiously. They called us the
“Shy Ones” Andy Boy Saccone, Richie Walsh, Lew Staudenbauer, Teddie Milito,
Jerry Riggerio, Ronnie Valerio, Frank Alagna, Pete Picciano, Bobby Wein, Ray Williamson, Al
Bukowski, Tommy Halinar, Bob Hoffman, Ralph Brandofino, Bob Piracci, and Joe
DiMaggio. I hope I did not forget anyone of the guys.
Something happened in March of this year, exactly what it was, I don’t know
but it was very serious. It was the beginning of my friend Pat’s highly
specialized dementia. As soon as I found out how serious this was, I got
into my automobile and drove to see my friend at Stony Brook University
Hospital. I spent about 3 1/2 hours with him and helped feed him. He did
not recognize me. I prayed for a miracle and prayed that God would come
down from the heavens and save him and his life would go on and it would be
good and complete. My friend Patty had a great wife and two great children.
Pat had another close friend who was the third Musketeer by the name of
Ralph, flew in from Fort Lauderdale. I picked him up and we went to the
hospital together and visited Pat for 4.5 hours. It was obvious then that
things were not getting better. Pat wasn’t shaved in weeks so we asked the
nurse for a shaving kit and she brought us an electric razor. We shaved our
friend and took turns holding his hand. While I was holding Pat’s hand I
could feel the strength oozing out of his body. It was a strange feeling.
I had a funny feeling he was not going to be with us much longer.
At the end of our visit with Pat, I changed my prayer. Before we left,
Ralph kissed him on the right of his forehead I kissed the left. At the end
of my last visit I change my prayer that God will take him quickly so he
wouldn’t suffer anymore. God answered my prayer but it didn’t make me feel
happy. I don’t believe in the word closure. I loved him the day I met him, I
love him every day of all the years I’ve known him. I will always love Pat.
At the wake which was one day and only four hours, there were at least 400
people possibly more that came to pay their respect. They came from all
over the United States. In all the years I knew Pat, I never heard one bad
word. One of the things I almost forgot to mention was his great sense of
humor. One day coming back from Manhattan, he asked me for a light for his
cigarette. He was driving his 1957 Chevrolet and I was sitting shotgun. I
passed him my zippo lighter. He lit the cigarette and threw the lighter out
the window. About 30 minutes later he asked me for another light. I pressed
the cigarette lighter in the car, he lit the cigarette and threw that out
the window. At the time I did not think it was funny but looking back at it
I find it hysterical.
I could write a book on what a great friend and helluva person he
was. Pat I will always love you. To All The Ships At Sea – I pray you have
a great friend like Pat Napolitano