Saturday, October 06, 2007

Heartsick

My Brother-in-Law Tony (April's dad, above with his future wife, my Sister Carole, back during 'nam), probably the nicest, most dedicated, and most affable person I ever met, was planning on retiring in December, after 31 years as the adult remedial education teacher for the maximum security state prison in Marquette, Michigan. We were busy planning goofy retirement parties for him, one of which was gonna be here in Vegas.

He died this morning. Probably a heart attack, or something related.

I am numb, crushed.

Needless to say, I will not be at the gig Monday night.

MONDAY UPDATE FROM MARQUETTE, MICHIGAN

April and I flew out to Milwaukee on the first plane we could book on Saturday, then drove up to Marquette, getting in about 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

My Brother-in-Law's obituary:

MARQUETTE - Tony Poggi, Jr., 59, of Marquette, died unexpectedly Saturday October 6, 2007, at Marquette General Hospital.

Tony was born February 24, 1948 in Hoboken, New Jersey, a son of Anthony and Marie (Grumbach) Poggi. He was raised in the Bridgewater and Hoboken, New Jersey areas and was a 1967 graduate of Bridgewater-Raritan West High School. After graduation from high school, Tony enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving during the Vietnam War, and was stationed in the Mekong Delta area. Following his discharge from the U.S. Army, Tony married the former Carole Gladd in 1971 and the couple moved to Marquette where they set about establishing their home. Tony enrolled at Northern Michigan University, receiving his bachelor's degree in Biology Education and later receiving master's degrees in both Learning Disabilities and in Reading Specialties. Tony worked for thirty-one years with the State of Michigan as a teacher for the Marquette Branch Prison. In his spare time Tony enjoyed gardening, cooking, walking, biking, and loved sitting on his porch looking at Lake Superior. Tony's family was the center of his life, he truly cherished the time spent with his wonderful children and loving wife.

He is survived by his loving wife, Carole Poggi of Marquette; two daughters, April and Sarah Poggi both of Marquette; three sons, Dave Poggi of Minneapolis, MN, Mark (Meredith) Poggi of Atlanta, GA and Nathan Poggi of Marquette; three sisters, Marie Poggi of Florida, Sandra (Wayne) Lewis of Shelby, MI and Lilyan Poggi of Wilmington, DE; one brother, Danny Poggi of Wilmington, DE; brother and sister-in-law, Robert Gladd and Cheryl Prince of Las Vegas, NV; four nieces, Robin (Andy) Sitko, Tracy (Robert) Bush, Shannon (Aaron) Berlin and Danielle Gladd; nephew, Nicholas Gladd, and his faithful canine companion, Chewey. Tony was preceded in death by his parents and his niece, Cheryl Gladd.

Friends may call at the Swanson-Lundquist Funeral Home on Tuesday, October 9, beginning at 4:00 pm until 6:00 pm. Funeral services will be held in the funeral home at 6:00 pm with Msgr. Jed Patrick officiating. Burial will be made in Park Cemetery. In Lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the City of Marquette Bike Path Fund, 850 W. Baraga Avenue, Marquette, MI 49855. The Swanson-Lundquist Funeral Home is serving the family. Condolences may be expressed online at www.swanson-lundquist.com


There are no words to describe our sadness.

SUNDAY OCT 14TH UPDATE

Above, Tony with baby Sarah (I think; it mighta been Nathan, though). This would have been about 23 years ago (were it Sarah). Below, all of us last Thanksgiving, atop Sugarloaf Mountain overlooking Lake Superior. First time Cheryl and I had ever been to Marquette (we loved it). Left to right as you view the pic: BobbyG, David (1st Poggi child), Meredith (wife of Mark, Poggi son #2 just above to her left), Cheryl, April (#3), her sis Sarah (#4), my sis Carole, Nathan, Poggi #5, and Tony.

Got home late last night. Drove down from Marquette to Milwaukee, where I flew home via Atlanta. My head is still spinning from the surreality of it all. Below, a shot April had taken of her Dad for a photography class:

Cheryl and I will now have to do without our sweet April. She's gonna stay back home to be there for her Mom. We will miss her terribly. I don't know how I'd have accomplished moving Grandma to Vegas without April's loving, endlessly patient help. She's been a total joy to have here. All five of the Poggi kids are a blessing. If you ever need an exemplar of what a positive, constructive, and unshakable family should be like, you need look no further than the Poggis. Their mutual support and love, and stainless steel gracefulness through this past week has been humbling to behold. The recurrently wrenching tears were attenuated by repeated and sustained howls of loving laughter. I was sad to leave.

It seemed as though the entire town turned out for the funeral. The place was jammed shoulder-to-shoulder for hours, making it difficult to start the funeral service on time.

Couple of stories about Tony, to give you an idea of what a magnificent cat he was. First, after he got his Master's degree in Special Ed (he got two), he informed his class at the prison -- baddest perps in the state, 3/4 of them black -- that they would henceforth have to address him as "Massah Poggi." OMG! Yikes!

Amazing. Only Tony could get away with that. His students loved him. And, he always simply called them his "students," never "inmates" or "prisoners" or "cons." In fact, he uniformly insisted on not reading their jackets, he didn't want to know about their crimes, why they were incarcerated. To Tony, they were simply his students, and his job was to educate them.

Which leads to a second story, one recounted at the funeral by Tony's Sister Sandra. Tony had one student who was completely illiterate, an inmate who had suffered severe brain damage, and barely functioned intellectually. The other prisoners routinely harassed and mocked this cat. Tony first taught him the alphabet.

That took 18 months to accomplish. When the inmate could finally read his own name, he said "Mr. Poggi, this is the first time I've ever seen what my name looks like. It looks really nice."

This man is now fully literate, reads books, and can write.

Mr. Poggi did his job, without fail, for decades -- as a husband, father, friend, and teacher. Were that I could be half the man he was.

We have all suffered a great, great loss with Tony's passing.

The other day we took a walk around the neighborhood. April showed me the house they lived in when she was born 26 years ago (below, behind her).

Above and below: On Wednesday we had a relatively idle day between the Tuesday funeral and the Thursday burial, so a bunch of us went for a walk -- in 40'ish temperatures, gale force winds, and pelting rain. Below, the Marquette harbor seawall (after walking out several hundred yards, we thought the better of going out any further). Below the still photo is a YouTube upload of a short clip of the surf I shot in video mode from atop a big rock just down from the Marquette lighthouse.

Below, sunrise on Lake Michigan just south of Escanaba, as I drove back down U.S. 41 and State 35 to Milwaukee to return my rental car and fly home. Temperature was 33 degrees.

I have a indescribably heavy heart right now. I'll be glad to see y'all tomorrow night. Forgive me if I'm not hitting on all cylinders.

7 comments:

selise said...

condolences and wam concern to you and your family, bobby g. our hearts are with you today.

Dan Falcone said...

So sorry to hear of this Bobby, my wife and I will be praying for you and the family.
Danny

Zoey said...

So sorry to hear about your loss.

Anonymous said...

Tony was not an ORPHAN! He had a loving father. He was placed in an orphanage as a child because the catholic charities took him away from his father. His father remarried and Tony was taken out of the orphanage. He came from a very loving family of 5 children.
Lil Poggi

BobbyG said...

Thanks for the correction, Lil.

Anonymous said...

I was just plunking around online and thought about my cousin Carole and her husband Tony and googled their name and was shocked to see not only that Tony had died but a picture of them.I always loved my cousin Carole,she was so much fun when she'd visit and so beautiful inside and out.I was much younger then she but she would take me and my brother for rides in her new car down to sagg main beach and she had if I remember correctly a daring side to her.I also remember Tony as such a nice and cute guy as he visited also.I also loved my Aunt Marion and Uncle Bob.I'll always miss that side of my family.I so loved my grandmother Caroline and my Uncle Charlie and my Aunt Edna who had a disbute with my Dad over Uncle Charlie's will and poof you were all gone.I still love you all.Sorry for your loss.Love Karen (Dittus) LeClerc

BobbyG said...

Karen -

I have always lamented that family dust-up over Uncle Charlie. You can contact me anytime. 702-283-1355. Email bobbyg "at" bgladd "dot" com. I moved my parents here to Vegas in 2007. Dad finally died last May, and Marion is here in a nursing home, where I go and look after her all the time.

Yeah, losing Tony was terrible beyond words.