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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ciao, Popi

Had I written earlier, I would've been thanking all of you for your prayers for Popi, my great-grandfather, and reporting the success of his treatment. He weathered a week of procedures and tests and was released from the hospital with almost flying colors. But, sadly, Popi died just three days later.

In keeping with all my "firsts" that I have been encountering as a baby new to this world and just over 1 year old, this is my first big loss. I had the opportunity to meet Popi during three big trips to the US from another continent. The first time, I - in the flesh - was Popi's surprise birthday present for his 89th birthday on Nov. 1, 2010. I was just shy of 3 months old and I flew under the cover of darkness from Israel, shrouded in secrecy, to surprise Popi on his birthday. Boy, am I glad I had the foresight to do that. My only regret is that I couldn't do that as well in 2011.

But we did, thankfully, go to New York to spend quality family time in August and September when I was privy to lots of Popi time and even a glimpse into his astounding life. There was a huge soiree in his honor and I even got to sit on his lap during parts of this party (see previous post). Talk about a seat of honor! Not even at his right hand, but on his very lap.

Visiting with Popi in New York

I got a lot of lap time

I learned this hand gesture from Popi. Loosely translated
it means "mamma mia." Or "oy vey" depending on
which language and country.

Mommy didn't post my blog regarding this sad news for a few days. She was hoping distance (us being in Israel and the events taking place in NY) would diminish the reality of this, or perhaps bring word that this wasn't true. But today is the funeral. We have sent a letter to be read during the service, and I am posting it here. (And here is a link the the obituary that was published in the Gazzetta di Parma, all the way in Italy!)

Peter Spagnoli
Born: Nov. 1, 1921 in Borgo Taro, Italy
Died: Nov. 7, 2011 in Long Island, NY

Dear Popi,

I am sorry that we can't be here today with you and with all of our wonderful family, friends and paisans. I would love to see all the people who are here, many that I probably don't even know since your life extended so vastly into different areas. I am sure many hundreds of people have come the last few days to pay their respects. You have touched so many during your abundant life, and the cross section of people who have come today and yesterday is a testimony to the legend that you are.

We caught a glimpse of that on September 10th when people lined up to honor you for your contribution as an accomplished accordionist. It was astounding and eye-opening to us, your grandchildren, to see your life outside of the family sphere, the one in which you were a magnetic entertainer and band leader and easily the most popular person in any room you entered. 

But for now, I will focus on the role in which I best knew you, as Popi - father of two, grandfather of four and great grandfather to one with one on the way. I am eternally grateful that you played the accordion at our wedding and that you met your first great grandchild, Daniel. These are treasures I will carry forever.

As the family's patriarch, you set the tone for a strong and amazing family life. You taught us much and have left us an incredible legacy. 

Your generosity was marked by an extravagance and humility that is a rare combination. With a marriage that has lasted more than 60 years, you have shown us the meaning of commitment at a time where the word has lost its value. 

You showed us by your example how hard work is the main ingredient to success and fulfilling our dreams. You came from a small town in Italy and lived through the Great Depression, yet you picked up an obscure instrument and musical style and fashioned a career with them, bringing joy to so many while you were at it.

You gave us music. Some of the family has inherited your ear and ability, but all of us have inherited the joy and dancing that comes from a music-filled life. It has added a happy flavor to our lives and our family.

You passed on to us a heritage of which we can be proud. When you took us to Italy -- twice -- we connected with family and places that have made us all who we are today. 

Just like the moon directs the ocean tide quietly in the background, you taught us all this with your actions, not your words. 

It is difficult, if not impossible, to sum up your legacy if not in a book, so I will have to stop here. 

But, if I may say, your response to "Popi, how are you?" will be one of the things I miss most, simply for its factualness: "Still here," you would always say. That was my favorite answer - because as long as you were saying it, it meant you were still with us.

I wish I could hear those words right now. 

But I always will treasure the memories, moments and examples you have given us and pass them on to your future generations.

With love,
Nicole, Tony and Daniel - and one on the way - in Jerusalem

I love you, Popi.

Ciao, and shalom.


  1. What a beautiful tribute, thanks for sharing. Sending hugs and love to your family.

  2. Our deepest sympathies.

    Margaret & Elliot