Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Tree for Tony - We hold a service for him at Pennypack Trust - Poem: Our Tony

Today was a perfect day to get together with the family and friends of the late Tony Garofalo to consecrate a tree we planted in his memory at Pennypack Trust.

We got there at 10 am since Tony's young nephews Garrett and Stefano had a busy day of sports ahead of them.

"Fanelli!" I said when I walked up to the Barn. There was Jack Finelli, on the left, who I haven't seen in five years, since his dad's funeral. Michael and Elizabeth Garofalo, Tony's bro and sister/law are on the right.

Jack's dad would bake delicious pizzelles with powdered sugar on top, which I'd happily savor. Jack's mom died two years ago and his sister, who was in the Lynch Home, died last year.

Ada and Scott. Scott was exhausted since he just came home from work at 8 am but said he wouldn't miss the ceremony for anything. We all loved Tony.

Here's David Robertson, director of Pennypack, who plans to go bike riding this afternoon with wife Mary in Horsham. 
 Michael and Elizabeth Garofalo. They were Tony's best friends, always there for him.

The Latin name of the tree is Ostraya virginiana. Its nicknames are many:  Hop Hornbeam and Ironwood, b/c the bark is so strong, said David Robertson. He said the bark is so heavy it won't float. David was happy we'd ordered an Ironwood - Chris Dartley, one of the stewards actually did - since he wanted it to be part of the forestration.

When Chris asked me where we'd like it located, I said "with a great view of a meadow."

The view from Tony's Tree.

Also at Chris's suggestion, we bought a plaque from DeChristopher Brothers:

It's planted inside the deer-discouraging fencing. Tony's nephews took turns pushing it into the ground.

We also shared stories about Tony.

Rich Fleisher on the extreme right told about one of our Wednesday Outings when we went to the Woodmere Museum in Chestnut Hill. Rich, who jogs every day, asked if anyone wanted to walk from Woodmere to the restaurant we would eat at, and Tony took up the challenge.

He loved using his body and getting exercise. He was a member of LA Fitness where he took kickboxing. His bro said he was a martial artist. He played tennis and would send me an occasional email about a woman he met at tennis - did she sound like a good match? - sometimes the women worked out for a while.

He said he never had to approach a woman b/c they all came up to him.
Jack, in the center, shared a story about painting decks with Tony, as organized by Joe Moore of our group.While they did make extra money, one time they unwittingly painted a deck, after which there was a thundershower that wiped everything away.

Joe got sued.

Tony had a good mind for numbers. Hey, let's find a photo of him and include it, too. After all, he's the main character! This is from my funeral blog about Tony.

Hello again, Tony! So nice to see you even though you can't talk.

Tony had a job in Portland, ME, as an actuary for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. He and I used to talk on the phone about stocks. I have a portfolio of stocks that, when I retire, will cover me for at least one whole week, providing I don't use any water or electricity.

He thought he could get rich as a day trader. His brother Mike mentioned that he turned $17,000 into over a million dollars - I rememember this as well - but the problem is: You've gotta quit while you're ahead.

We all remember when Tony bot his dream car: a BMW convertible. How he loved that car. I remember asking him to come over so I could take a spin in it. Leather seats and all. And a shiny brown wheel. 

On our New Directions website in 2010, I listed under Job Opportunities "Census Worker." I called Tony and told him about it. Since he wasn't able to find a job as an actuary, he applied for the census job and got it.

He did really well.

New Directions had an office on Davisville Road for a few years. It was exciting at first - we held Movie Night there - and Tony often attended - but then I realized it was a waste of money - so Tony and Scott helped me move out.

Scott said he realized how strong Tony was carrying out the heavy furniture and desks.

One of the comfy chairs is in the far corner of my living room. Gee, that box of Compasses should be moved away.

I told Tony he could have anything he wanted so he took a swiveling purple desk chair.

David took photos as did Mike, Elizabeth and the kids.

Scott took a photo of me. I lathered on Nutrogena Sunscreen, which I learned about from Ada. People with transplants are sposed to cover themselves in the sun.

Jack and I lingered in the parking lot, where just about every spot was taken. He works the night shift at a Horsham outfit. Say hi to your wife, Dottie, I told him.

His late father was a foreman at the now defunct Budd Company, Hunting Park plant, former maker of SEPTA trains, until the city decided to buy the cheapest trains possible. Ask Scott, who fixes the elevated trains, how unreliable they are.

I worked on this poem a long time, trying to get it right. I read it to my friend Carolyn Constable, former naturalist at Peace Valley Nature Center, who said to make copies for Tony's family. I printed up 6 copies and gave them to Elizabeth.


1965 - 2011

Walk with me Tony
down these familiar paths
you knew so well
Shed your eternal light
upon the bark-eating deer
and spotted fawns
the fecund turkeys
with translucent eggs
See the sashaying hens
in their black high heels?
And the cocky toms
in tie and tails?
Watch out for the coyotes!
their highly prized teeth
can dismember a cricket or a fox
faster than a bluebird
darting across Raytharn Farm

We were privileged to know you, Anthony,
in the short time you were here
a friend to all
eyes bright with life
yet you could not stay
roamed the sands of Maine
the tennis courts and fitness centers
your brother's kitchen with pizelles and manicotti
searching for the missing puzzle pieces
they forgot to put in the box

Peace came in the fields, the grasses,
the vast blue sky
the tree we planted in your name
the American hornbeam
will call aloud every spring
Tony! Tony!
come all who knew him
and be with him once again.
- Ruth Z Deming


  1. A wonderful day of tribute and a lovely poem!
    While I never knew him, I get a bit of "knowing" through what you write. Thank you.

  2. thanks, iris! funny, cuz when i was writing all about him it felt like he was still with us.