Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Most Difficult Deadline I've Ever Met

Two seasons have passed since I last posted here, and June 21 was truly the longest day of the year for me as I spent it with my family at a wake for my father who died after a long illness on June 18. And that, my friends, is one of the things that has kept me from posting and updating this blog on a regular basis. I have a host of half written, and some entirely written posts on subjects like the Japanese earthquake, local and national politics, bad boy behavior from the likes of Dominque Strauss-Khan and Anthony Weiner and the attack on reproductive rights.

But alas, there are only so many hours in a day I needed to allocate to being with my Dad in his last days, taking care of my kids, supporting my mom and my sisters, and working with "my kids" in the high school health center in the Bronx. Which is the direction I want to take this post because we all experience the death of loved ones and the best way to commemorate them is to honor what they accomplished and the legacy they left behind.

Many excerpts of Someday I'm Going to Write a Book pay tribute to my great-grandmother Jennie Bruno, a lay midwife in the same neighborhoods in which I now practice. And to my grandfather, her son, Alexander "Al" Bruno, who knew the Bronx like the lifelines on his palm. Coincidentally, or synchronously, whichever you choose to believe, he worked for Montefiore Hospital in the engineering department and somehow, ahem, I wound up there as well.

I inherited a lot from my Dad, and absorbed his love for the Bronx, for nature, for animals (his first name was Francis after all), the outdoors, particularly the beach and ocean, and for activism and community service. While he always told me to stay out of the bad neighborhoods, and harm's way, I know he was proud of the fact I paid no attention to him and waded waist deep through the South Bronx, Harlem and Washington Heights during the worst of times: the 1970s and 1980s when a bankrupt NYC had just about given up on those areas, and on the entire boro of the Bronx it seemed. Okay, that's all in Someday but this is about Frank Moleti.

Here is an short piece I wrote for a local newspaper about my father. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do: distill all his accomplishments, his personality, his passions into a few paragraphs. A feeble attempt but if the lines of mourners who came to pay their respects on Tuesday is any indication, I am not alone in my awe and admiration.

Councilman James Vacca kindly paid a visit and spoke about working with my father on Community Board #10 during those dark days in the Bronx. His tribute was a great comfort to my mother, an inspiration to everyone in the room, and I envisioned my Dad was looking down on the scene, nodding his head, with his typical closed lipped smile of self effacing satisfaction at a life well lived, a battle well fought, and legacy engraved on the hearts of almost everyone he met.

Francis A. Moleti, a longtime Bronx resident and community leader, died on June 18, 2011 from complications of lymphoma. He was 78.

Frank’s proudest accomplishments included his 1952-56 tour of duty with the United States Navy, serving as a machinist on the Battleship New Jersey during the Korean War. After returning stateside, he joined the Sheet Metal Workers International Association and was a foreman for Brook Sheet Metal, which handled many major New York City construction projects including the building of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center .

He grew up in Castle Hill, lived for a while in Parkchester, then moved to Throggs Neck. He served several terms as president of the Locust Point Civic Association until retiring to Southampton in 1995. An entire generation of local kids will remember Frank for his tireless efforts to bring PAL activities to Throggs Neck, as well as the weekend marathon of Labor Day events sponsored by the LPCA including the costume parade, foot and swimming races, as well as popular adult activities such as dancing under stars, the married vs. single men’s softball game, and the pie eating/throwing contest.

An avid fisherman and sailor, Frank worked tirelessly to improve the water quality of Long Island Sound, as well as the quality of life for Northeast Bronx residents, by serving on Community Planning Board #10 under then District Manager James Vacca. His efforts were instrumental in the closing and remediation of toxic waste leaching from the Pelham Bay Landfill as well as dealing with traffic congestion, noise, and environmental pollution near the Throggs Neck Bridge .

          He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Carole, three daughters, Carole Ann, Christine and Allison, and seven grandchildren. Donations in his memory can be made to The Connecticut Fund for the Environment-Save the Sound Project.

The Moleti, Virzi, Gentile, and Maiello families visit the Battleship New Jersey, Camden, 2002.

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