My Pop would be 77 in two days on July 7. He passed from this life into the next on June 21, 2008. He left a lasting legacy and impression on me that lives in me forever.
He, along with my mother and God, gave me life. He nurtured, protected, provided for and lead me and his family in many ways and I am forever grateful for his presence in my life and thankful to God for him.
He shaped me to become the man I am today. He was a real man, not just because he was tough, although he was, but because he sacrificed and gave of himself and shared and passed on his faith with and to me.
For as long as I can remember he brought my brother and I to church every Sunday. We never missed Sunday Mass. He made sure we went, and he always went with us. We would get there on time and not leave before the Mass ended. He would take us to The Sacrament of Confession at least a couple of times a year when we were young. He would go to Confession and not just make sure we went, but he would go as well. He would take us out for dinner afterwards and we would talk.
When I went away to college, we would talk by phone every Sunday. There were no cell phones at this time, only land lines, so no texting either. He would always ask if I went to church. I never wanted to lie to him so I usually went. He is the number 1 reason I never fell away from the church. I did miss Sunday Mass occasionally, but I never stayed away for any kind of long period. I have never let an entire year go by in my lifetime without attending Confession; I go regularly to confession now, once a month and have gone weekly if I feel it was necessary. It’s our faith, let’s live it! I live it because of my father. He still influences me even though I no longer have his physical presence in my life.
My father and mother would lead the tailgate parties after my football games when I played in college. many of their friends would come to my games not because of me, but because of my parents and they would always have the biggest group of tailgaters around them. My pop loved that.
He also ran many trips to college football games including Penn State and Notre Dame. He was an excitable guy and fun to be around. He liked excitement, sports and competition, it really energized him, and boy could he energize others.
He was a coach as well. Football coach mostly. It still warms my heart today when I run into his former players, or just anyone who knew him and they tell me a story about him, or how much he meant to them, or how he taught them the game, or more importantly what he taught them about life. Many will say kind words about him and how he touched their lives in a positive way.
He had passion for God and compassion for man. He had passion for life period. He loved my mother with passion and zeal and he loved life with passion and zeal. He had ups and downs throughout life, like most have and his life was struck with much tragedy, losing his sister, niece and god child, and both parents within a period of 7 years, all while he was only in his 20’s.
Later on he would lose his son, my older brother, his brother and his mother-in-law and father-in-law. He was the last member of his original family before he passed.
Through it all he acted with dignity, grace and courage and a strength I have rarely witnessed up close and personal. Not only did his faith in God and practice of his Catholic faith and heritage never waver, it got stronger. He loved Jesus! He loved talking about Jesus’ love for us and he would often say “The Cross before me, The World behind me” and “Jesus in me loves you”!
My father was a great speaker, even though he never finished college. He went to Temple for one year and played football there, but left after a year and went out into the working world. He was blue-collar, hard worker, but very street smart and wise. He would drill words to live by in my head, like “it’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice”, “take care of your money when you are young and it will take care of you when you are old”, “the building is put up for education, not for sports” (it was so important to him that my brother and I completed our college degrees even though he did not), “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but forfeit his soul”, “it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven”, “the cross before me, the world behind me” and recite many other sayings.
Our family name, DeFeo, was very important to him. He wanted my brother and I to respect who we were, where we came from and the importance of our family heritage, and I know we both always did.
He was always writing notes to himself so he would not forget anything , yet his mind was like a computer, he could remember numbers, phone numbers, stats off the top of his head like no one else I knew.
He hated to tell jokes and he hated to be told jokes, yet no one could make me laugh as hard as he.
I loved being around him always but especially as I became an adult; he became my best friend. He liked to walk, for miles, and I walked with him often for many years. We would talk. He needed to vent and blow off steam when we walked and I let him.
When he moved away to Florida, every time I would call or go visit him and my mom, or when they would come back to visit with and stay with me, he was always so excited to see me and hear my voice and he would always scream out “CHASAROO” excitedly with so much love. We would always hug and kiss each other and he always told me he loved me and he was proud of me, and I would say I love you and I was proud of you too, Pop. I still am proud of him, and he lives on in me.
He loved being a grandpop and great grandpop. I know because I heard him proudly tell others often.
I would like to share the poem below written by my uncle and god father, and my Pop’s brother, Alex. I think it best captures the kind of man my father was. The poem was written about a little local tap-room bar establishment where my father was the day manager –
It’s three miles from 69th street, but a hundred miles away
It’s a family bar with men, who meet there every day.
Joe O’Donnell is the owner, a man who’s fair and kind
And the Manager is Bob DeFeo, the best you’ll ever find.
It’s a sports bar featuring football, mainly O’Hara and Bonner High.
These O’Donnell men are loyal, and will be until they die.
The fans of these two high schools, meet each Friday night at seven
And to drink and root at the outpost is a ticket up to Heaven!
Written by my uncle, Alexander J. DeFeo, October 12, 1987
I love you Pop and miss you but still feel you very near, I know you told me to be strong when you had to leave me and I am heeding your advice to show up and be there every day!
Thanks for being you!
your son, Charles “Chasaroo” DeFeo