Unsung Heroes - My Grandfather

Posted by Rob on June 18th, 2012 at 3:36pm

When my grandfather passed away in December 2010, I had a strong regret. I wrote a eulogy for my grandfather which I delivered at his funeral, but as I wrote about all of the things he meant to me and others, I regretted not telling him these things directly before he passed away. I promised myself I didn't want that to happen again.

My blog is about almost anything, but I also want to periodically take the time to write about people to which I need to say "thank you." Sure, I've personally thanked many people for the countless things they have done for me, but there are some things that deserve to be publicly highlighted in black and white. That's what these posts are about - the unsung heroes in my life, like my grandfather, who have made me the man I am today.

Here is the eulogy I wrote for my grandfather, Anthony Monaco:

As I was growing up and still to this day, many of my family members have called me by both my first and middle names, Robert Anthony. My Aunt Mary has always referred to me as "Little Robert Anthony." My Aunt Dora and Aunt Chenz would address birthday cards to me as "Robert Anthony." And my Aunt Jan would sometimes just send me notes that said, "Dear Anthony." I didn't quite understand this when I was younger. No one else called me by both my first and/or middle names - only those that were close to my grandfather, or as I call him, “Grandpop.” But as I matured and grew into a young man, it soon became obvious why so many people utilized my middle name in addressing me - it was out of extraordinary respect and admiration for my grandfather. He was a man of magnetic charisma, unending generosity, and he had a love and commitment for family that showed no bounds.

As I grew older, I too came to develop this same great respect for my grandfather and the life that he lived. As many of you know, my grandfather served in the United States Army and was a veteran of the Korean War. I asked him quite frequently about his time in the Army as I tried to solicit “war stories” from his memory, and he often spoke of his work as a mechanic on the Army’s tanks, transport vehicles, and trucks. But one of my greatest memories as a child was when took me down to his basement and showed me some remaining decorations and medals from his time in uniform. One of the medals was the National Defense Medal which was originally commissioned by President Eisenhower following the Korean War to honor any service member who served honorably in a period of designated conflict. Today, almost 60 years later, this medal is the oldest service medal in circulation by the United States Armed Forces. As a naval officer, I too wear this same decoration, and I am both humbled and honored that my grandfather and I share this medal as a display of dutiful service. His service to country, commitment to duty, and courage to stand and defend our flag in the toughest of times are representative of his great character and loyalty to our nation. I could not be more proud to serve our great country knowing that my grandfather served so honorably before me.

Another area of great respect that I have for my grandfather is his keen sense of business and entrepreneurship. Following his service in the Army, my grandfather was newly married and my mother and Aunt Cindy were born shortly thereafter. With only a high school education and recognizing the need to provide for his family, Grandpop, along with his father, operated Monaco’s Tap Room in downtown Wilmington, DE, a profitable business that he ran successfully through the 1970’s. At this time, my grandfather, along with my grandmother, his parents and siblings, recognized a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on the soon-to-be booming beach town of Wildwood, NJ. The Caprice Motel opened in the 1960’s, and for over 30 years, the motel was more than a place to sleep at night. Vacationers returned repeatedly to the Caprice year after year because my grandparents understood the importance of hospitality, how to make vacationers feel welcome, and how to create a personable feel to a crowded beach town. My grandparents were masters of these principles in every respect.

My grandparents sold the Caprice Motel in 1988, but following my grandmother’s passing in 2003, Grandpop returned to Wildwood to assist his siblings with the Nomad Parking Lot. He rarely missed a weekend in Wildwood from May to October each year, and it was truly a passion of his to work the parking lot for the past seven years. I can recall calling him after large weekends such as the Fourth of July or Memorial Day, and he would boast to me about how many cars were parked that weekend and the unbelievable sums of money that were made. Not a dime of this money was to his name, but his love for business as well the success of his family were his driving motivators. I cannot express enough thanks to you Uncle Jack, Uncle Al and Aunt Mary, and Aunt Jan, for allowing Grandpop to fulfill his passion for business and to really give him a purpose to life following my grandmother’s passing. Thank you so much.

A key lesson that I have learned from my grandfather’s keen business sense is that just because you might have financial wealth, doesn’t mean you have to spend it. Let me explain. Anyone that knew Grandpop knows that he loved a good deal. He cut coupons from every Sunday’s newspaper, he drove completely across town or even to New Jersey to get gas that was just two cents cheaper, and he would even go see a movie only to walk into an adjacent theater immediately after to see another as “two for the price of one.” In fact, the day before Thanksgiving when Grandpop had his stroke, he was actually at Delaware Park to receive a free apple pie that they were giving away. Yes, he indeed loved a good deal, and while at times it was very amusing, it aligned with his keen business sense that made him financially successful and for which I have enormous respect.

But perhaps the greatest respect that I have for my grandfather is his unending love and commitment to family. When I was about 10 years old, my mother and Aunt Cindy took me to New York City for a day of sightseeing. One of our stops was Ellis Island where we looked up the name of my great grandfather, Antonio Monaco, who came to the United States from Italy in 1901 with his uncle only to be accidentally separated from him just after their arrival. At the age of 14, he found work and eventually returned to Italy where he married and then returned again to the United States. Although I never met my great grandfather, I think often about the extraordinary sacrifice he made for the love and commitment to his family. Grandpop embodied these same ideals, and I believe that he did so as a direct result of seeing his father do the same.

In the eyes of my grandmother and grandfather, there was no greater priority than family. Any family event, near or far, they would attend. They looked forward to phone calls, letters, birthdays, holidays, and weddings; any event that would bring family together. I remember in 2001 when we held a surprise party for their 50th wedding anniversary. They were both more excited that our family was together than they were to celebrate their anniversary. They also took great pride and joy in our family achievements and successes as if they were their own. I can recall numerous times hearing the excitement in their voices as they told me about joys such as Uncle Dave becoming an Appellate Judge for the Florida Court of Appeals, about Robbie singing in the Philadelphia Boys Choir, when my mother was ordained as a Deacon in the United Methodist Church, and when their beloved nieces and nephews began their own families. There are many more examples, but the point is, they loved family.

But woven into their commitment to family was a commitment to each other. An unending love that was pure, compassionate, trusting, forgiving, and committed. They were married in 1951, and for 51 years my grandfather was the model husband for any marriage. He honored, respected, and loved my grandmother more than anything. And even to the time of his own passing, he honored her by small gestures such as putting her initials on the passenger side door of his vehicles just under the pinstripe. She was the light of his world, and his model of a husband in marriage has been a guiding example for me in my own marriage.

Today, we celebrate the life of a man that has touched all of us through his love, friendship, generosity, charisma, and character. Whether you called him Anthony, Daddy, Uncle Anthony, Mr. Monaco, or as I did, Grandpop, the respect we have developed for him will remain our hearts. May the Lord bless his soul this day and always, Amen.

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