From 1935 To 1988
From 1942 To 1945
4185 IRVING ST, 4185 IRVING ST, DENVER, COLORADO 80211, DENVER, COLORADO
DENVER, COLORADO 80211
Eulogy for Papa Frank Domenico
Given by Dan Domenico
The story is told in our little branch of the Domenico family that when my parents were about to get married, the mother of the groom told the bride-to-be that if Ben turned out to be half the man his father was, she would have nothing to worry about.
Well, Dad, I think you are right on target. And of course the good news for me is that if my math is right, I only need to aim for one quarter.
Grandma Edith has always sought perfection – you may have noticed. And I realize it was Papa’s fault. In him she had found the perfect husband, father, grandfather, always kind and caring and patient and honest and gracious and grateful and giving.
And that makes this eulogy a daunting task. Most of us need a eulogy to help people recall our handful of bright spots and to hide our mistakes, faults, and transgressions. But there is no need for that here. In fact, a few of us have been trying to get someone to come up with something negative that was said about Papa, and, to my chagrin, the only thing anyone can remember is something I said to him 30 or 35 years ago, when I caught him spitting on the sidewalk and informed him that it was against the law. If that is your low point, you’re in good shape and not in much need of a eulogy.
But that leaves me with a quandary. Anything I say will leave out important and telling facts and traits and stories about Papa that I don’t want to us to ignore. I could, for example, talk about how while everyone else was enjoying his first daughter’s wedding festivities, he spent most of his Hawaiian vacation carrying around a very noisy and needy 10-month old grandson. I could talk about how he drove his cousin every day from Welby to Loretto Heights college so she could get an education, or I could talk about how he served this church hundreds or thousands of times as what I guess is called an Alter Gentleman, or how he taught his kids and grandkids and even great-grandkids how to stomp grapes to make something some people might recognize as wine. But if I do, everyone here will surely have their own stories that are more powerful, and that deserve to be remembered and recounted. So I hope that we will tell each other those stories in the coming hours, and weeks, and years. Here, instead, I will take these few minutes to remind us – to remind myself – of what I hope and believe is the bigger picture of Papa’s life.
In 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed the first official Day of Thanksgiving, to remind a country in the midst of a horrifying civil war that while it had lost so much, it also had much to be hopeful and thankful for. This Thanksgiving, we too have our own pain and loss to confront, but we too have much to be thankful for, and so much to carry on.
As some of you in Colorado at least may have noticed, there was a campaign going on the last few months. And as it coincided with Papa’s declining health, I couldn’t help but shake my head that a country that could produce a Frank Domenico would put itself in the hands of these guys – is this character running for Congress really the best we can do? Are we really going to be led by this guy or that lady? How can it be that we rely on these people to take care of our communities and our country? I am pretty sure I wasn’t alone in having these thoughts, but I had it backwards.
The last century was the American Century not because of Teddy Roosevelt, or Franklin Roosevelt, or even John F. Kennedy (sorry Mom) or Ronald Reagan (sorry Janel). It was the American Century because of Frank Domenico and people like him.
His family left everything they had and everything they knew and came to America with little more than their faith, their labor, and their character. They came and they put those things to work every day, starting out in tiny coal mining towns like Krebs, Oklahoma, where Papa’s family buried a tiny sibling. They moved on from there and came to a small town called Welby, Colorado, where they started their own small truck farm, feeding themselves and their community. They worked hard enough and saved diligently enough that Papa not only could go to school, but go to college and get a chemistry degree. Finding no demand in those Depression years for chemists, he worked cheerfully, for all anyone knows, at any job that he could get, including one the nuns helped him get, working in the basement of a slaughterhouse catching the hides of cattle that were thrown down from above.
He and his family worked hard enough that he could afford to drive first a family car and eventually his own, up the bumpy roads from Welby to Frederick to court a young lady named Edith. He married her and they started a family, and almost immediately, his country asked him to help end a World War. Even with an infant at home, he went off, back to Europe, to help take care of his fellow soldiers and even many of their vanquished enemies.
Then, having helped save America and save Europe, he came home, and went right back to his budding career selling insurance. And I’m told he did well enough to earn the free trip every year – and it surely wasn’t because of smooth talking that he succeeded. It could only have been honest dealing and hard work.
All the while he continued quietly building and taking care of his family, and his community. He had three more daughters, and managed to put all four kids through college. He built a home – and a house – right here in North Denver, attended this church, served this church, and eventually retired to watch, I hope proudly, what he had built flourish.
Through his own century of life here, he quietly showed why it is no coincidence that his century was also the American Century: Both were marked by devotion to faith, family, and country, selflessness, honesty, hard work, perseverance, patience, kindness, magnanimity, generosity, graciousness, and gratitude. These are the things that made Papa Frank, Papa Frank, and these are the things that made him great.
Those of us fortunate to have had this example in our lives have an obligation to him, and to each other, to do our best – even if it’s only about ¼ as well – to keep this spirit, this character, alive. If we do, then it doesn’t matter who wins or loses an election. Our families, our churches, our communities, our country, will always be great.
In 1826, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died within hours of one another, on the same day: July 4th. Some convince themselves that is merely a coincidence that those two men would pass away exactly 50 years after they had each signed the Declaration of Independence, pledging their lives and their sacred honor to the principles of American Independence. But I have no doubt that there is profound meaning in the fact that they passed away on Independence Day: the day dedicated to remembering and celebrating the principles they themselves were dedicated to.
Papa Frank, of course, passed away early on Thanksgiving. That he was so dedicated to – and a shining example of - the principles enshrined in that day is no coincidence either. And so while this Thanksgiving we mourn, I hope that in the future when we think of Thanksgiving and we think of Frank Domenico, we will celebrate them both, and that we will be, simply, thankful.
Frank, the eighth of nine children of Nicola Di Domenico and Lucia Di Francia, was born February 5, 1914 in Welby, Colorado. He was baptized at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church and attended Assumption Elementary and High School. He graduated from Assumption in 1930.
After high school, at the young age of 16, Frank had the rare opportunity as the son of a truck farmer, to attend Regis College in Denver. As the story goes, he was the first male resident of Welby to attend college. He majored in chemistry and played on the Regis Ranger baseball team where he was known as "the little man with the noisy bat." Another nickname bestowed upon Frank from classmate Steve McNichols (yet to be governor of Colorado) was "Cheech." The meaning of that nickname is unknown. In 1934, Frank graduated from Regis with a degree in chemistry.
After graduation, due to the Depression, there were no jobs for chemists. So, for the first few months, Frank worked stocking shelves at Montgomery Wards and then, for a short time, took a job at the Armour Meat Packing Company, trimming meat. Luckily, on April 1, 1935, Mr. Earl O'Neill, a New York Life Insurance agent who sold insurance to many Welby farmers, encouraged Frank to try selling life insurance for New York Life. This was the beginning of Frank's successful career. Because of his honesty and integrity as an insurance agent, he did so well he was awarded yearly trips to many conventions in places such as Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan and the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Even on his honeymoon in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the vice president of New York Life gave his accommodations in the Presidential Suite to Frank and his new bride in celebration of their marriage.
Although his mother and sister Ernestine thought he would become a priest, on the Fourth of July in 1940, Frank proposed marriage to Edith Proietti, a coal miner's daughter, from Frederick, Colorado. They were married a little over a month later on August 25, 1940. For a short time, they lived with Benedetto and Maria Proietti, Edith's parents, in Frederick. Then they rented a house in Welby where their first child, Ben, was born in January of 1943. A short nine weeks after Ben's birth, Frank was drafted into the army to serve in World War II. He served at Fitzsimons Army Base and in the state of Washington before being sent to Europe. There, he served as a medical technician and tended to many wounded soldiers in Nancy, France. He served in the army for three years.
After he was discharged, he returned to his family to yet another rented house in Welby. Soon thereafter, their second child, Jeanne was born in December of 1947. After living in Welby for three years, they bought their first house on Elm Court in north Denver. With the arrival of their third child, Jan, in June of 1953, they outgrew that house. So, in 1956, Frank and Edith built the house they still live in on Irving Street also located in north Denver. Several years later, in November of 1961, Frank and Edith completed their family with their 'surprise' fourth child, Joanne.
After 53 years with New York Life, Frank retired in 1988. Since then, he and Edith have traveled to Italy and France, to the wine country in California, to the east coast to see the fall colors and to South Bend, Indiana to watch a Notre Dame football game being played on their home field. In between trips, Frank used his Welby farming skills to maintain gardens for his in-laws and neighbors. Now Frank and Edith spend their free time in Black Hawk, "gambling away their children's inheritance."Presently at the age of 91, between gambling trips, Frank still reads a lot, walks 3+ miles a day, serves as an altar boy at daily Mass, and provides support for a needy neighbor. Weekly, he brings communion to those unable to attend church in the St. Catherine's community.
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