Pat, We’ll Always Love You!

©JoeDiMaggio

©JoeDiMaggio

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.

©JoeDiMaggio

Ralph and Pat ©Joe DiMaggioWe’d all gather at Pat’s home 10-15 of us and we’d work on our cars, have a

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.

©JoeDiMaggio

Pocono Raceway ©Joe DiMaggio

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.Commack Titans 1386

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

 

©JoeDiMaggio

Pat, Joe, and Ralph

 


Napolitano Collage 6621larger

Old Friends, New Year, Life Itself

©Joe DiMaggio

©Joe DiMaggio

Hi to all the ships at sea,

I would like to wish everybody a healthy happy, new year (hey idiot, it’s the 15th-where have you been?!) Sorry guys, the last 45 days have been brutal, and I’m not going to go there today. I decided to take Saturday off, and I went to visit my former English professor/football coach, who has just been admitted to the Stoney Brook VA Nursing Home. It was the best 60 seconds and the worst 19.5 minutes I’ve ever spent in my life. I’ve loved this man for 50 plus years, and I’ve resolved myself to the fact that will be the last time I get to see him. I drove 7 miles to see one of my former assistants, he showed my three photographs that blew my head off. They were just gorgeous. He explained how he did them,why he did them, not that he had to; the photographs did not require any information, they moved me from a very negative place to a very good place. 15 miles west and an hour later, I went to see my oldest friend Pat Nap and he looked great! In the day he was a great football player and a world-class amateur wrestler, and ya know what, he still looks great today. OK-this moves us another hour and a half down the road and I stopped by to see my spiritual advisor, Jess Weiss. We had three or four emails in the last week, and three or four phone calls. His lovely bride of 38 years passed away four weeks ago. I went to see him because he’s my hero. The first time I walked into his office, above his desk was the silver star and ten other medals. I told him he was a true hero. He explained to me that he was a coward. He felt guilty that he left Omaha Beach alive during the D-day invasion and thousands of his brothers did not. Jess has written five books, I strongly recommend reading one of them or more…he’s not only a true hero, but he’s a visionary. He is one of the most spiritual people I have ever met. His 97th birthday is in two weeks and looking into his eyes, I saw a 20 year old man. Thank God for Jess. My life partner JoAnne Kalish reminds me that I’m a photographer and filmmaker and that my blogs should be about photography and filmmaking. This blog IS about communication and respect and history. That’s what photography is. I remember someone telling me, life is hills and valleys. In twelve hours I went from the highest mountain to the lowest peak and back to the highest mountain, so I guess that person was right. LIFE IS PRECIOUS. Please spend every second you can enjoying what you have.

Healthy, happy new year
Joe D

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