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EULOGY FOR ANTHONY R CIPRIANI (1922-2004)
There are about 65 people here today. I will come back to that number “65” at the very end of my eulogy in 12 ½ short minutes.
There are two misconceptions about Anthony’s death. First, death only happens to someone else. A tombstone somewhere has this epitaph:
Remember as you walk by,
As you are now, so once was I;
As I am now, so shall you be…
The second misconception is that old people don’t really mind dying. Make no mistake: no one wants to die just because they are elderly. When my 90 year old mother was dying of leukemia, she said, “you don’t know how precious life is until it’s taken from you.” And Anthony at the age of 81,when he first fell ill,didn’t look for a cure. He said maybe I can get another 2 or 3 years. In the book of Job “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the Lord.” When the Lord taketh, it’s a loss at any age.
Anthony Ronald Cipriani was the second born---and oldest son---of six children born in Brockton in 1922 and raised in Milford. After proudly serving in the United States Army during WWII, his love of baseball landed him a career as an umpire. His brother Bobby recalls the thrill when big brother came home with baseball equipment---gloves,catcher’s mask,and so forth, and still remembers Anthony had a great knuckleball.
And baseball brought him to Nova Scotia where he met Miss Dosco Steel, Catherine Marie, whom he married in 1951. They were fortunate enough to be married 53 years. And for 53 years he would go shopping with Marie. He loved the sales at Market Basket where you buy one, get one free. Marie would tell him, Anthony we don’t need another box of cherry tomatoes. But Marie, they’re free!
The church was a very big part of Anthony’s life. My 9th grade prep school roommate George showed uncharacteristic wisdom when he argued that if you followed all the rules strictly, you were pious, or devout. But how “religious” you are is only between you and God. Anthony was truly religious. Anthony went to all the local churches regularly and accumulated in his travels a lot of friends---most of whom, Marie tells me, were women!
Anthony had one child---a daughter Karen Ann who meant everything. No words I can say better articulate the depth, essence, and eloquence of that reciprocal love than these two minutes Karen requested of “0 Mio Babbino Caro”---Oh My Dear Papa. [Music wells up.]
Anthony’s two grandsons were major planets in his universe. The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken. After the Lord took their father at age 40, his grandsons became a constant presence in Anthony’s thoughts. Any oldtimers here remember the movie “Death Takes a Holiday”? If the grim reaper came for his grandson, I sincerely believe Anthony would have pleaded, like the father “in Death Takes A Holiday”, please, take me instead.
The oldest Grandson, Marc, thinks of him not as a paternal or grandpaternal figure, but as a friend you could commiserate with, confide in, and go to the track with. And when it came to sports minutiae (or more accurately, sports apocrypha), if there were any heated differences of opinion---extremely rare of course---in an hour all was forgotten. We used to joke about how Anthony would put gas in Marc’s car. Father Rod, this is not a new liturgical vessel. This is a digital tire gauge that we presented to Anthony at his 50th wedding anniversary, so he could more accurately check the air pressure in Marc’s tires.
Like Marc, the younger grandson Paul also recalls him as a friend, but one impossible to offend. Paul recalls how energized Anthony would become over the tiniest little issues, such as not mowing the lawn, but was unfazed when faced with a major issue. One day several years ago Anthony let Paul use his car. For reasons inexplicable to this day, Paul decided to visit a nice little 90 year old lady on Dennett Street. Paul was literally halfway in her house when he realized that he forgot to step out of his car. And while lying on a stretcher in the Emergency Room, Paul was amazed---pleasantly so---at both Anthony’s equanimity and total lack of ire.
Anthony’s doctors all knew his son-in-law was a neurosurgeon, so he had plenty of intracranial CAT scans. Finally I told him Anthony, you don’t have to worry. The only three areas of your brain you use are so hypertrophied that if you ever damage other areas it won’t matter---as long as those three critical areas are intact. What three areas? Anthony, those are what we call the DRC areas. “DRC?” Yes---D for democrats, R for Red Sox, and C for Certificates of Deposit.
[Begin Last Rose of Summer]
Anthony, you have crossed that dark river to the far shore where all voyages end and all paths meet.* You left a kind, gentle wife with 53 years of irreplaceable memories. You left a daughter who is the happiest she has ever been in her life. And you left two grandsons now standing sturdily on their own two feet. Anthony, you got the job done. You worked with your hands all your life, and you worked hard. Your back is bent with arthritis and your lungs are full of asbestos. But, you got the job done.
Your 4 month struggle with the ravages of vascular disease was dauntless, indeed heroic. Anthony, Anthony, there IS rest for the weary. Requiescat in pace---rest in peace---you deserve it!
My eulogy ends as we listen to the final moments of the Last Rose of Summer. The hour of death has passed; it’s too late for words. But if we bow our heads and bid farewell with the silent thunder in our hearts, Anthony will be honored that his funeral had not one, but 65 eulogies!
[Music wells up]
*From Goodbye Darkness by William Manchester
Sacred Heart Church, Milford, Massachusetts
Monday, September 13th, 2004
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