Writing a eulogy commemorating a family member or close friend can be a daunting task. I have written my fair share of them over the years and they are never easy. You have to look into your heart and try to put into words how you feel about the deceased in a way others can easily comprehend. Your choice of words must be very precise as you want to invoke the proper responses from your audience who is normally in mourning. Consequently, you write it more for the purposes of oratory as opposed to just text narrative. As for me, I do not like to dwell on doom and gloom, but to remember the brighter side of people. Such was the case recently when I wrote a eulogy for a good friend, Frank Verderame, who I met years ago through the Masons. He was an Italian from Brooklyn who retired to Clearwater back in the 90′s. Frank may have been older than me, but we found a kinship that flourished over the years. Here is what I wrote:
“I want to take a few moments and talk about my paisan, Frank Verderame.
I’ve been fortunate to have known Frank for the last ten years. We met when we were both wardens in our respective Masonic Lodges; then as Masters of our Lodges, we worked together on a variety of projects. After our tour of duty, we remained fast friends, and I think this is because Frank was a very down-to-earth type of guy; he was fun loving, very practical, a hard worker, loved his family, was very compassionate, and you could take Frank’s word to the bank. He also made some excellent tomato sauce.
Coming from Brooklyn and the hustle of New York, Frank suffered from an acute case of common sense. He didn’t go to college, but he was a voracious reader with an inquisitive mind, and a student of life. Yes, I knew Frank would frequently say, “Don’t worry about it”, but Frank would. He would worry about his family and friends, his church, and what was going on in this nutty world.
I will miss sitting at his kitchen table with him just talking, about everything it seemed, be it national politics, religion, and the changing world around us. And I guess that is the true litmus test of a friendship: when two people can talk about anything without fear of blushing. I very much valued Frank’s opinion and he would often review my editorials before I published them, and I respected his advice.
Frank loved baseball. He enjoyed spring training down here, not to mention his Tampa Bay Rays. Being from Brooklyn, he made it very clear he was more of a Dodgers fan as opposed to the Yankees. Back in 2003, our Lodges played a softball game for charity. Frank was about 65 at the time, but he dusted off his old mitt and played the infield. And you know what? He wasn’t too bad. He just loved being out on the diamond again with the boys. You see, I don’t think anyone told Frank he was getting old, and he thought of himself as a young kid.
I’m not much of a golfer, but I have to tell you about the last time I played, which was with Frank several years ago at a tournament for charity. We played with my son and his friend who are good golfers, but giving guys like Frank and myself a set of clubs, well, that’s just wrong, and rather dangerous I might add. We killed a lot of snakes that day and made a lot of divots. Getting the ball into the cup, well, that was optional. As Frank would say in his Brooklyn accent, “Forget about it.” We laughed through 18 holes, making it the best round of golf I ever played, and a good way to leave the sport.
Frank’s hobbies included woodworking and he built an amazing shop in his garage. He possessed great attention to detail and found the work very gratifying. I well remember the doll house he built for his grand-daughter. Unbelievable detail and craftsmanship.
He also had an impressive library of books, videos, and records. Boy, did he love those records which he learned to digitize on the computer.
Frank was no stranger to the Internet and he would do a lot of research and correspondence on it. He particularly enjoyed it when I showed him his old house in Brooklyn using Google Earth. I think he has travelled the world since then using Google.
You had to love Frank’s infectious sense of humor. The stories he would tell about working with his father as a longshoreman, in the army, or working in Manhattan were priceless. I still cannot think of pineapple concentrate or elevators without chuckling. He loved to tell a good tale. And that’s how I think he enjoyed life; by building one relationship at a time. In 2003, my Lodge held a roast for me as the outgoing Master. Frank, of course, had to put in his two cents,… several times. So much so, he had me in tears of laughter, as well as everyone else.
I’m going to miss this man. It was a privilege to have known him, not too many like him come along, and it was a sincere honor to call him my friend.”
The eulogy was relatively short and to the point, and I hope I communicated Frank’s spirit adequately. In delivering the speech, I was doing fine until I got to the last line where I unexpectedly choked up. No matter how I tried to clear my head, I just couldn’t form the words. In desperation, I asked a friend to finish it for me. I was somewhat embarrassed I couldn’t complete it, but afterwards I had several people thank me, including Frank’s family, who said they could tell it came from the heart. Actually, I blame Frank who had touched mine. Alas, my Brother, my Paisan.
Keep the Faith!