Monday, October 2, 2017

Erika Stockfleth Blas Eulogy, Jun 2015, written by her daughter Susan Blas Milani

As I was going to sleep last night I was trying to think of what to say about my Mom. The one thing that came to mind immediately was the word selfless…and that is how she lived her entire life. She was the most selfless person I know always caring about the needs of others first, always taking care of others first, always offering to help others first.

The life she lived was not an easy one. Losing her Mom and Dad at a very early age, she was given the responsibility to care for a younger brother and sister. That continued throughout her entire life and never once did she complain. Even though she was fortunate enough to escape the brutality of the era under the Nazi control, she experienced the repercussions it caused through my Dad and his survival.  Their story is one of survival but it was centered around love. Love for each other and love for their family and friends.
As many of you may know, my parents are truly the definition of the American dream. After surviving the atrocities of war, they travelled to the U.S. in 1951 and began their new life. It was not an easy road, especially for my Mom who once again was put into a situation where she had to take care of things. My father was very stubborn…hard working…but very stubborn and refused to learn English so my Mom had to work her job and then go to class at night so they could communicate with others. This went on for many years. All the while, they were trying desperately to start a family. After ten years of hoping and trying all kinds of home remedies, like eating watermelon seeds, my parents had a daughter and once again their lives changed. From the very first day I was born, I can tell you my parents lived their lives for me. Now my Dad was part of the “selfless” theme. They both worked tirelessly to make a good life for the three of us. At that time we lived in the Bronx and the environment was becoming a bit sketchy so the decision was made to move to the Charleston, SC where my Dad had a first cousin. And again, a new chapter begins.

They could not have imagined what life would hold for them in the Holy City. After many years of hard work AGAIN, they became the successful business owner of Patrick's Sandwich Shop in a little trailer on Liberty Street. You would have thought they won the lottery! This gave them the chance to provide a life for me that was incredible. I was always surrounded by friends growing up in South Windemere, active in Jewish youth groups and sent to a wonderful private high school. Nothing was too much for their daughter. And once again, Mom was selfless. She continued to do alterations while working at the restaurant just to make sure I had the best of everything. She never cared that she didn’t have the best clothes or jewelry as long as food was on the table and her husband and daughter were cared for. That was my Mom.  

I could go on forever citing examples of how she lived her life but most of you have known her for quite a long time and you know she was a kind, loving and generous person. I hope that one day, when people talk about me, they will say “She was just like her mom!”

The last few years have been tough for my Mom. For a person that always served as caretaker, it was finally her turn to be taken care of…and that was difficult for her. Her health issues were becoming too much for her to handle. Many hospital stays and multitudes of medications are what I believe led to her sudden demise.  It was just too much and she was tired.
But even through all of her health issues, there was never a time when we spoke when her first question was “how is everyone?”…again, always putting others first.

For the first time in many years, Mom wanted to celebrate Passover this past year. Since my Father’s death, it was difficult to get her to celebrate the holidays because she said it wasn’t the same without Daddy there. But this year, something was different. She came over for Sedar and cooked. It was fantastic. The kids helped and she got to spend time just doing what she did…taking care of others. It was a glorious time to spend together and one that will supercede the sadness we feel today with her loss. We will always be able to look back and remember the time we spent together with her that day and reflect back on all the times we spent loving her for always taking care of us
We found something in her apartment that obviously was special to her and I think it’s something my Mom would have said if she were here today. I’d like to share it with you.


Togetherness

I have only slipped away into the next room. 
Whatever we were to each other,  that we are still. 
Call me by my old familiar name, speak with me in the easy way which you always used to. 
Laugh as we always laughed together. 
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. 
Let my name be the household word it always was. 
Let it be spoken without effort. 
Life means all that we ever meant. 
It is the same as it ever was; there is absolutely unbroken continuity. 
Why should I be out of your mind because I am out of your sight?  
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. 
All is well. Nothing is past; nothing is lost. 
One brief moment and all will be as it was before – only better, infinitely happier and forever – we will all be one together with God. 

Heavenly e-mail from Nancy

Just received this  “HEM” (Heavenly E Mail) from Nancy


As I sit in heaven and watch you everyday,

I try and let you know with signs that I never really went away.

I hear you when you are laughing and I watch you when you sleep.

I even place my arms around to calm you when you weep.

I see you wishing the days away begging to have me home.

So I try to send you signs so you know that you are not alone.

Don’t feel guilty that you have life that was denied to me.

Heaven is truly beautiful as you will see what I see when you finally arrive.

So live your life, laugh again, enjoy yourself, be free then I know with every breath you take,

you’ll be taking one for me.

Until the twelfth of never, your loving wife Nancy


Monday, June 5, 2017


Maplewood, N.J. - On Thursday night at Maplewood Country Club, Seton Hall Athletics enshrined four individuals and a team into its Hall of Fame Class of 2017, honoring Doug Cinnella '86 of the baseball team; Debbie Hartnett '89 of the women's basketball team; John Kelly '63/MBA '68, a former chairman of the Seton Hall Board of Regents; Bryan Spoonire '95 of the men's track & field team; and the entire 1952-53 men's basketball team that finished ranked No. 2 in the nation and won the National Invitation Tournament.

Click here for: Sights and Sounds from the Seton Hall - Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony  (Grandpa Jack is interviewed in this clip (FF to 1.50) and talks about Richie Reagan.)

The Seton Hall Athletics Hall of Fame now includes 232 individuals and two teams.






Click the video below to play the induction ceremony speech by Jack Milani: 




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News 12 New Jersey, Interview of Jack Milani by reporter Nick Meidanis






The 1952-53 men's basketball team was the first inductee of the evening, and three members of the squad were in attendance - Henry Cooper, Jack Milani and Arnie Ring. Ring is also in the Hall of Fame as an individual, inducted in 1980.

Led by coach John "Honey" Russell, the Pirates won 27 consecutive games to start the season, qualified for the National Invitation Tournament and defeated St. John's in the championship game at Madison Square Garden to win what was then considered the premier postseason tournament in college basketball. Seton Hall was ranked No. 1 in the country for six consecutive weeks and ultimately finished the year ranked No. 2 with a 31-2 record. The 31 wins match the 1988-89 team for most victories in school history, though the 1952-53 team still holds the school record for best winning percentage (.939).

"1953 was a great year for Seton Hall basketball," said Henry Cooper, who was a junior on the team that season. "We all gave up certain things in order to make that team work, and a team like the one that we had was very finely tuned. We had two All-Americans, a premier shooter in Harry Brooks, a racehorse that could cover the court in nothing flat in Ron Nathanic and Arnie and I did our work trying to keep Walter from fouling out. I had a very good record for percentage as a foul shooter, so I think I could have shot the ball, but everybody has to give up something, and I think that most of us that have some time under our belts now realize every day in life."



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SETON HALL, 1952-53
What they accomplished: Won the NIT, which was more prestigious than the NCAA Tournament at the time. Spent six weeks ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 and ended up with a 31-2 record.

Key players: Big man Walter Dukes (26.0 ppg, 22.2 rpg) was an All-American who set rebounding records that will last forever. Richie “The Cat” Regan (14.2 ppg) ran the show at point guard and later ushered the Hall into the Big East. Arnie Ring (8.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg) and Harry Brooks (12.2 ppg) played key roles.

Why they were great: Honey Russell’s boys possessed tons of experience; Regan and Dukes led them to marks of 25-3 and 27-7 in the previous two seasons. And Dukes was simply unmatched in the middle — dominant in ways that are unimaginable today.

Legacy: It’s hard to compare eras, but there’s only one New Jersey team that can claim a true national championship, and this is it. Beating St. John’s in the NIT final made it that much sweeter.


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Jerry Carino@njhoopshaven

Published 5:00 a.m. ET May 31, 2017 | Updated 12:44 p.m. ET June 1, 2017

The NIT championship squad is being inducted into the Pirates' Hall of Fame. Two former players recall the wild and sometimes scary journey.

The March 16, 1953 issue of Life Magazine contains what has to be one of the most startling photos in college basketball history.

There, on page 118, is Seton Hall University basketball player Mickey Hannon lying unconscious on the court after the Pirates were attacked by Louisville fans at the Louisville Armory.

The Hall wore a target that on that road trip two reasons: A No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 and the presence of a black superstar, Walter Dukes. The 7-foot All-America center was barred from hotels in the segregated southern city; the team opted instead to sleep on a train during the visit.

Louisville won the game and the bad blood didn’t end there — keep reading — but the Pirates got the last laugh. Later that month they captured the NIT title, besting St. John’s in the final before a Madison Square Garden throng of 18,500.

“It was the biggest crowd ever to see a basketball game east of Chicago,” said Arnie Ring, who started at forward for Seton Hall. “The NCAA Tournament had 7,000 out in Kansas City for their final game (Indiana’s one-point win over Kansas).”

(Photo: Seton Hall University)

The March 16, 1953 issue of Life Magazine contains what has to be one of the most startling photos in college basketball history.

There, on page 118, is Seton Hall University basketball player Mickey Hannon lying unconscious on the court after the Pirates were attacked by Louisville fans at the Louisville Armory.

The Hall wore a target that on that road trip two reasons: A No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 and the presence of a black superstar, Walter Dukes. The 7-foot All-America center was barred from hotels in the segregated southern city; the team opted instead to sleep on a train during the visit.

Louisville won the game and the bad blood didn’t end there — keep reading — but the Pirates got the last laugh. Later that month they captured the NIT title, besting St. John’s in the final before a Madison Square Garden throng of 18,500.

“It was the biggest crowd ever to see a basketball game east of Chicago,” said Arnie Ring, who started at forward for Seton Hall. “The NCAA Tournament had 7,000 out in Kansas City for their final game (Indiana’s one-point win over Kansas).”

All true. The Big Apple was the sport’s epicenter and those Pirates were the toast of the town. They’ll be toasted again Thursday night as Seton Hall inducts the squad into its Hall of Fame.

Ring will be there and so will his old frontcourt mate, Henry Cooper. They’ve got fascinating stories to tell about that epic winter.

Seton Hall's 1952-53 NIT championship squad. (Photo: Seton Hall University)

'A lot of Jim Crow stuff'
First, a quick primer on the leading characters:
Head coach John “Honey” Russell is a Naismith Hall of Famer who did two tours as the Pirates’ skipper. In between, he was the inaugural head coach of the Boston Celtics.

Point guard Richie Regan would become a singular force in Seton Hall history, ushering the school into the Big East and hiring P.J. Carlesimo. In 1953, he was nicknamed “The Cat” for his quickness and guile as playmaker.

Then there was Dukes, who averaged 26 points and 22 rebounds per game amid racist taunts (Cooper remembered players on two different teams calling him the N-word), extra-sharp elbows and unkind refs’ whistles (he once was called for a foul on the pening tip).

“Aside from being a brilliant player, he was just as outstanding as a person,” Ring said. “He put up with a lot of Jim Crow stuff, but he handled it by getting 35 points and 35 rebounds and winning the game. That’s how he got back at them.”

Russell was so concerned about refs ringing up Dukes out of spite that he routinely tasked Cooper with defending the opponent’s best big man. On the other end, “Walter could have scored many more points,” Cooper said. “He was the second guy on our team in assists, after Richie.”

Dukes’ selflessness enabled Regan (14.2 pg), Harry Brooks (12.2 ppg), Ring (8.6 ppg) and Ronnie Nathanic (8.2 ppg) to help light up the likes of Villanova, Xavier, Boston College, Memphis State, Louisville (at home) and seventh-ranked Fordham as the Pirates opened the season with 27 straight wins and held the No. 1 ranking for six weeks.

They were the toast of New York, in more ways than one.

“We had a manager, Dick Scott, whose dad was deputy fire commissioner in New York, so anytime we wanted to get into pubs, nightclubs, what have you, if we had Dick with us they knew his father could shut them down on a moment’s notice,” Cooper recalled. “We got good treatment in addition to being a spectacle for the people in those places — all these tall guys coming in.”

'Dazed and prostrate'
The joyride took a detour on that early March road swing, first with a loss at Dayton and then the debacle at Louisville. Life Magazine reported that the players “went after each other with elbows, body blocks and half nelsons” and things escalated after “a head-on collision left Dukes dazed and prostrate on the floor.”

Said Cooper, “Walter got the ball and this guy (a Louisville forward) popped him in the jaw. Dukes went down, we lost the ball and Walter was called for walking.”

All hell broke loose during postgame handshakes. Life reported that a Seton Hall player, thinking he was about to be attacked, threw the first punch. Then maniacal Louisville fans poured onto the court.

“Somebody came out of the stands and grabbed Walter’s miraculous medal and ripped it off his neck,” Ring said.

In 1989, Regan told Newsday that the man said to Dukes, “You call yourself a Catholic” as he yanked the medal away.

Hannon got clobbered in the back of the head by a rampaging fan and collapsed to the floor, out cold. 

“Harry Brooks had to get 13 stitches across his eye,” Cooper said. “Harry was from Union City; he was a tough guy with tough friends.”

When Louisville made the NIT a few weeks later, Cooper said, “The word got out that (Brooks' friends) were going to meet the Louisville team on the train and beat them up.”

e whole mess “was so bad that the FBI got involved,” Cooper said. Only threats of expulsion by Seton Hall's brass kept everyone at bay.

"We did something special'
When the season ended the Pirates chose the NIT over the NCAA Tournament, without a moment’s hesitation. Thanks to clutch play by Regan, they survived the opener against Niagara despite Dukes fouling out with eight minutes left. Then they routed Manhattan before taking down St. John’s 58-46.

“They had a ticker-tape parade down South Orange Avenue,” said Ring, who grabbed 22 rebounds in the final. “The (Newark) mayor had a big dinner for us and invited the coaches of the teams we beat — they showed up.”

Seton Hall finished 31-2 and remains the only New Jersey college basketball team that can lay claim to a national title.

Ring and Cooper are in their mid-80s now, and both live in Florida. Ring’s wife of 56 years, Carol, passed away a few months back, but their nine grandchildren will be at the induction. Cooper and wife Pauline have been married 62 years, though she is battling Alzheimer’s now; this is the first time he’s left her side in a decade.

Dukes died in 2001 and Regan in 2002. When the group reunited over the years there was a common sentiment, one that will be celebrated — perhaps for the final time — on Thursday.

“We said we did something special,” Ring said. “It was.”

Staff writer Jerry Carino: jcarino@gannettnj.com.


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In 1953, Seton Hall Was in Bloody Battle for Top Spot

February 05, 1989|STEVE JACOBSON | Newsday  (Found in the Los Angeles Times)


The night after losing its 27-0 record, Seton Hall slept on the train in the station in Louisville, Ky. Walter Dukes, the All-America, folded his 7-foot body into the Pullman bunk and dealt with the outrage privately.

The city of Louisville was newly and only partially integrated then and Dukes and backup center Frank Minaya were not welcome in hotels. Change was coming slowly.

http://articles.latimes.com/images/pixel.gifThe last time the national rankings seriously concerned Seton Hall was in March of 1953 and Seton Hall had alternated with Indiana in the first and second spots in the polls all season. At Indiana, which went on to win the NCAA, people were convinced Eastern bias dominated the polls.

Seton Hall was a week from beginning its winning run through the NIT, which was still equal to the NCAA tournament then. It was three games from a perfect regular season.

Then the Pirates went west and wound up on the cover of Life magazine with Mike Hannon unconscious on the floor of the Louisville Armory and an angry crowd surging around them.

"I felt we lost one game on the trip, and one game was taken from us," recalled Arnie Ring, now a vice president at Morgan Trust.

"We thought we could finish undefeated; we were very brash," recalled Richie Regan, executive director of the Blue Pirate athletic fund, former athletic director, former coach and an All-America guard on that team. "We were all from New York and New Jersey; we thought that was the best basketball area in the country, and it was."

Seton Hall had Regan, who went on to three seasons in the NBA. Most of all it had Dukes, the leading rebounder in the country. Regan recalls that Dukes could have been an Olympic runner if he'd devoted himself to it. "He never tired in a game," Regan said. "He'd make a basket and be back at the other end to block a shot on a break."

They excited the school and New York in the aftermath of the big scandal of 1950, which did not involve Seton Hall. Channel 13 was in New Jersey then and all the Seton Hall games were on TV. They played in the same little Walsh Gym, which they didn't think was so little then, but they set a Madison Square Garden attendance record against St. John's in the NIT final.

They had defeated Dayton and Louisville earlier in the season. Dukes had been the subject of taunting by Western Kentucky at the Garden and strong-armed by West Texas State, and overcame it. "I would think it would have affected him," Ring said. "He was a brilliant fellow, but he was shy."

They played a tough game at Dayton and lost, 70-65. The controversy was that the official Dayton scorebook said Regan had fouled out with five minutes to go and Seton Hall claimed he had only four personals. "To this day I say I had four fouls," Regan said.

They accepted their defeat and got on the train to Louisville and were told they could not stay in a hotel on arrival. Their car would be dropped off in the yard, hooked up with heat and water. Dukes, who had been recruited from Rochester, N.Y., by former Seton Hall great Bobby Davies, was meeting Jim Crow.http://articles.latimes.com/images/pixel.gif

"We didn't like that we couldn't stay in the hotel because of them, not only because they were teammates, but they were terrific guys," Regan said. "They certainly didn't like it, but it might have been easier because their teammates were with them. We even tried to make light of it."

Ring remembers rooming with Dukes on trains and hotels on earlier trips and considering this situation a fact of life. "It was a conservative time," Regan said. "In the '60s there would have been pickets and sit-ins and everything."

Louisville was a good team, led by Chuck Noble and Phil Rollins. The game was rough from the outset and the crowd was hostile. "The same referees we had in Dayton called a different game," Ring said. "Richie couldn't move without being called for walking."

"Home cooking," Regan said.

Several times they came close to fighting. There were few police in the armory, but they were watching on TV in the station house. "We were scared stiff; 7,500 vs. 12," Regan said. In a desperate effort, guard Harry Brooks struggled for a rebound and his mouth was split by an elbow.

The fight broke out with seconds to play and Louisville realistically out of reach. Bottles flew onto the court. Regan recalled Dukes, who'd scored 35 points, standing his ground in the melee when a man ran out of the crowd, said to Dukes, "You call yourself a Catholic," and ripped the miraculous medal off Dukes' neck. "We were afraid for Walter and Frank in a hostile crowd," Regan said.

A spectator hit Hannon in back of his neck and he crumpled to the floor. "I started to go into the crowd after the guy," Ring said, "and Richie grabbed me. He said, 'No way I'm going in there with you; they'll kill us.' "

Three Dominican priests who'd been traveling with Seton Hall went onto the court and rushed Dukes out of the armory. The team dressed without showering. "We got our clothes on and got the hell out of there," Regan said. Ring remembers a police escort. "We never saw Walter again until we got on the train," Ring said.

They went to get something to eat with the trainmen in a diner across from the stockyards and rumors kept filtering in that the crowd was coming to get them. "I think we were too hungry to leave," Regan said.

Harry Brooks died a few years ago. Dukes got his law degree during his 10 years in the NBA, has fallen on difficult times and has become reclusive. The last his teammates saw of him was at the midnight practice that opened this season. This is the next best season since his team was 31-2.


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Life Magazine, March 16, 1953
Pages 115-118 




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Wednesday, May 31, 2017


DELTA HONORS MY MOM

Recently there has been a spate of negative stories about the airlines and treatment of customers.    

While I can't speak for the behavior of some of these airlines, I can speak positively about my experience with Delta.  I am currently a Diamond Medallion Member.  That means I flew over 125,000 miles last year on Delta.  My experience with Delta and its crew members has always been exceptional.   But honestly, what Delta just did for my mother and my family, has solidified my desire to remain a faithful and loyal customer of Delta for the rest of my life.

My mom recently passed away and predeceased my father.  My mother never served in the military, but her husband of 63 years is a retired U.S. Army infantry colonel.  Next week she will be interred in Arlington Cemetery as my father qualifies for burial there.   By government standards, she is not recognized as anything more than a military spouse.  Therefore, she is not entitled to a full honor funeral or any other benefit a veteran would accrue for service to the nation.  

Let me tell you her story.  Over the 30 years of my father’s Army career – my family moved 23 times.  By my count, we lived in 11 different states and one foreign country.   Many times my mom was left alone with her seven children, including the two times my father left for year long tours in Korea and Vietnam.  

Her contributions to this nation are evidenced in the fact that six of her children and three of her grandchildren would become commissioned U.S. Army officers.  All would earn an Army scholarship to college.  Two of her sons would serve in Desert Storm. Her grandson Jason would graduate from West Point and serve as an infantry officer in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Three of her children would retire from the Army. 

My mom never went to college, but her seven kids would accrue 13 undergraduate and graduate college degrees.  One would become a published book author.  And remarkably, all the achievements of her children can be directly attributed to her capacity for instilling in us the desire to be the best that we could be.  

Many of you have probably seen the Airline Honor Guards that properly and appropriately honor those who have fallen in defense of this great country.  As the remains of the fallen are loaded in the belly of an aircraft for the their final flight home, the Honor Guard reverently salute our heroes.  Sometime this week, a Delta employee learned of my mother's death -- her story -- her contributions to our great nation -- and she took action.  My mother was honored just as one of our nation's fallen heroes today as Delta employees loaded her remains on a plane bound for Washington, DC and Arlington National Cemetery.  Words cannot express my heartfelt thanks for their actions on her behalf.  Below is a message from the Delta Honor Guard to my family.   Our family will always be indebted to Delta for taking such good care of a great patriot and mother.  God Bless Delta!!  


Subject: Delta Honor Guard escorting Nancy Milani 02
Thank you for the allowing us the honor of getting Mrs. Milani to her final resting place, by reading her obituary I could see see was a very strong and patriotic woman, it was very humbling to care for her today, we covered her with the American flag for honors today in Atlanta, the following prayers were said by the Honor Guard and the local Airport Chaplain, thank all of you for your service. Sincerely Brian J. McConnell Honor Guard Coordinator.

Although your peace is shaken, hold on to the faith that Jesus will come down to wipe away
the tears that you cry. This life is for living until we are caught up into everlasting life and discover that our journey is just beginning. The winds may blow, and the storms will come, but Jesus died so that we can have eternal life, and have life more abundantly. Be with the family of this dedicated Wife, Mother, Grandmother and Patriot to give them the strength, courage, and wisdom to fulfill the humbling task that is before them. Stand tall and be of good cheer, God has great things in store for those that believe in his powerful hands...The Visions Scripture Philippians 4:13 States. "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me"  Amen
  

"God didn't promise days without pain, Laughter without sorrow, Sun without rain, but he did promise strength for the day, Comfort for the tears and light for the way.  If God leads you to it, God will get you through it. Amen"







Sunday, May 21, 2017


Who was my Wife?

by Jack Milani




Who was my Wife?

My wife was a lot of things.

She was that person with whom I have shared life so intimately.

She was someone with whom I could have meaningful communication.

A lively conversation where both of us try to get in our next point.

Or better than that - a silent conversation that will last for an hour or so.

Or sometimes that certain look, her clearing her throat or a squeeze of my hand provided me with complete communication.

She was a person who had much to say about everything and she had to be right part of the time.

But she knew so much about everything that she was actually right most of the time.

She held the whole family together while I was off in the war.

I always dreaded being away from for even a few days and was in agony when I had to be away from her for years.

She was a master of disciplining the children with those six little words, “Wait until your father gets home."
  
She was an antidote for this tired husband's headache giving aspirin and a relaxing neck rub.

And I know she probably would appreciate the same medicine in return when she had a headache.

She was that loving person who applied her first aid kiss and a bandage for skin knees.

She was someone who served food and water to the family pet that everyone else promised to care for.

She was the most connected person I knew with such tools as an iphone, Ipad, Laptop and a Desktop.  And she had more passwords than a Russian KGB agent.

She also did most of the family gift shopping. And was someone who made sure everyone received a birthday or anniversary card, including her mother-in-law.

My wife always stretched what little money we had by picking coupons and searching for bargains before she went shopping.

She was a gal who loved to go out to dinners.

But as a general rule only ate about the half of what she ordered and would take the rest home.

She was the one who got everything and everybody ready for the trip while I sat in the car wondering - why is she so slow?

She's was so tender, she would cry over practically nothing.

And yet she was tough enough to pull me through when it seemed the whole world had fallen around me.

She's been there to help me regain my confidence when a job or a promotion didn't come through.

She's also that wonderful person that will laugh at my jokes even thought she has heard them three, well maybe 30 times before.

She was the queen in our castle and in my life.  Her royal duties included things like changing diapers, cooking and cleaning driving kids to music lessons and attending every kind of sporting event you can think of.

She was a teacher, a doctor, a chef, family banker, family chauffeur, a coach and a lover.

She as a devout Catholic who loved to be a Eucharistic Minister, as well as making sure I always went to confession.

My wife was that mighty oak that grew at my side.

Together we bent and adjusted to what the winds of life have brought us.

Had we been unwilling to change and adapt we probably would have snapped and broken in a storm a long time ago.

And my wife is that rare beauty that's accented best by little lines around the corner of her eyes and her lips turned up in a smile.

So, who was my wife?

Well, she was simply a gift from God.




Eulogy of Anne "Nancy" Milani 

Anne Jane Milani … Nancy … was born in Newark, New Jersey, March 14, 1934.  She was the second of five children born to Marie and Bill Donnelly, Jr. 

Nancy can be defined by the word ‘family’.  She has left behind those of us who weep in bereavement, selfishly missing her, but knowing she has moved on to a better place.  She leaves behind her beloved husband, Jack – married for 63 ½ years -- and her finest accomplishments -- her children:  Mary, Peggy, John, Andy, Bill, Bobby and Dave.  The 15 grandchildren left in her legacy are:  John & Jason; Matt, Mark & Amy; Erin & Andy; Katie, Nick & Caroline; Gabby & Jack; Keel, Jacey, & Jake.    Sadly, she was predeceased by two of her grandsons:  Billy and Joey.  Nancy is also survived by her three great grandchildren:  Maddie, Johnny and Viola.  And finally, mom is survived by her four siblings, Marie, Joan, Clair and Bob.  She was predeceased by her younger brother Bill. 

“Nancy, I hope you never feel this bad in your life.”  These were the final words her father spoke to her the day before he died.   Her father was 35 years old and his death came just 6 days before my mom’s 10th birthday.  He left his wife Marie with five children under the age of 11.  It was in this moment that mom’s world was shattered. 

In the aftermath of her father’s death, the family would move from Bloomfield, New Jersey, to the house on Sanford Avenue in Newark.  This move would involve the loss of her Bloomfield friends and a transfer of schools in the last few months of the school year.  When my mom would speak about this time in her life, it was always with a terrible sadness.  It’s in moments of deep suffering that God’s mercy is revealed.  It came from Sister Delphine – her new 5th grade teacher at Sacred Heart School.  Sensing my mom’s loneliness and despair upon her dad’s passing, Sister Delphine took Nancy aside and taught her how to crochet.  It is not surprising that throughout my mother’s life, she would find great comfort in crocheting – a place where she could enjoy stillness -- forget about life’s hardships -- and all the while -- create something beautiful and special.

My mom would meet her beau, Jack Milani, at the Cricklewood Luncheonette, a place where all the guys from Seton Hall would hang out.  My mom had gone there with Aunt Joan, and my father saw Nancy across the room and he asked Aunt Joan: “Who is that girl?”  “That’s my sister,” Joan said, “and you should go over and introduce yourself.”

He did and their meeting would see Jack walk Nancy home that day -- accompanied by Joan and her future husband Uncle Vic.  Nancy was 17 when she met Jack.  By 19, she was married to him, and by 29, she would deliver their seventh child.  

Mom married an Army officer – but really, she married the Army.  Over the 30 years of my father’s Army career – the family moved 23 times.  As my boss in the Army used to say: “That’s a lot of curtains that don’t fit.”  By my count, we lived in 11 different states and one foreign country.  We lived in apartments, quarters, rented homes, owned homes and a couple of us even shared a cardboard box on Grandma McNabb’s dining room table.  And yet, no matter where we lived, my mom always made it feel like home. 

My mom conveyed to me recently, that the greatest loneliness she felt in her life, was when my dad departed for Vietnam, leaving her alone with seven kids under the age of 12.  My dad was 35 when he left her for the war.  Nancy had already experienced the pain of losing her own father at 35;  the thought of her children potentially experiencing a similar trauma   -- must of been disquieting and overwhelming.

As we mourn my mother’s loss, I think it important to remember that each of us defines the proud moments of her life.  Mom celebrated our successes with us, and she mourned our failures and losses as well.  Six of Nancy’s children and three of her grandchildren would become commissioned U.S. Army officers.  All would earn an Army scholarship to college.  Two of her sons would serve in Desert Storm. 

Her grandson Jason would graduate from West Point and serve as an infantry officer in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Three of her children would retire from the Army.  Her seven kids would accrue 13 undergraduate and graduate college degrees.  One would become a published book author.  And remarkably, all the achievements of her children occurred under the guiding hand of a lady who never went to college.  I remember Mom proudly telling me that she graduated from St. Vincent’s Academy with high honors.  Indeed Mom, you did more than that -- you graduated from life -- summa cum laude. 

My mother worked hard and made many sacrifices so our lives would be better.  How she managed to put dinner on the table every night, work as a licensed real estate agent in three states, constantly move the family, set up new homes, new schools, join sports leagues, attend all of our games and meets, join the bowling team, lead scouts, choir, CCD and make our lives meaningful and rewarding -- is simply beyond my comprehension. 
  
Even more incomprehensible was her ability to fight the good fight.  She survived a liver transplant, heart valve replacement, 13 other surgical procedures, six pregnancies, diabetes, twins, -- the kids broken arms, stitches, motorcycle accidents, car accidents, ruptured fire hydrants, stolen golf carts and Dad’s sailing.  She was tough – but aren’t all Jersey girls?  Her DNA test revealed that she was 73% Irish, 15% German and 12% Middle Eastern.  Translation:  100% pure fighter.  Every time I thought my mother was down and out, she would pull a Lazarus and come back from the dead.  Even last Saturday, after eight days of hell in the ICU, she was sitting up in her chair eating pudding.  And I thought to myself – “damn if she’s not going to pull through again.”  And she almost did.  Nancy passed away 24 hours later, on a glorious and beautiful Mother’s Day.  She was a fighter until the end and she passed peacefully surrounded by her family. 

My mom didn’t run a company, or a non-profit – she wasn’t a famous scientist or inventor, and she definitely wasn’t a politician.  She was however -- and to borrow crocheting terminology – she was the ‘loop, wrap and chain’ -- that held us all together.  

There comes a time in any crochet project when you realize you made a mistake a few stitches back, or worse, a few rows . . . or worst, MANY rows, and the only way to remedy your mistake is to unravel all the stitches back to that point and start again. There’s no way around it. And as annoying as it is to see all your progress being pulled apart, sometimes the only way to move forward is to unravel, deconstruct, and then start again, stitch by stitch.

Mom was my great unravel-er.  I suspect for all of us -- mom did a lot of unraveling.  Even though the process of unraveling is frustrating and painful, mom endured it along with us, putting us back together in a stronger more purposeful way. 

While Nancy has moved on, so much of her is left behind – her love of her Catholic faith, her cooking, her love of puzzles and word games, her laugh, her sense of humor, her smiling face – her crafts … needle point, clothes – who could forget our bicentennial bell bottoms and matching vests?  Dad’s Tiger vest or his Big Red One socks -- or embroidered shirts, scarves – a lot of scarves.  Curtains, valances -- afghans, blankets -- even grocery bag purses and St. Patrick’s Day Shamrocks -- you name it – mom made it and a lot of it.  All these things will forever be a reminder of her creativity and genius.  
  
If you ever feel like you miss mom, grab one of her afghans and wrap yourself in it.  She has embedded her thoughts, her hopes, her dreams – her very essence in the material of every creation.   A part of her soul permeates through each pattern and design -- and its texture and feel – is our connection to her strength -- her courage -- her love -- and her faith in each of us. 

In a conversation with my mom two years ago, I asked her how she wanted to be remembered.  She said: “I just want to be remembered as a nice person who was always friendly.”  Mom, I think you nailed it. 

I’ll end with this poem that I received from a family friend this week:

If roses grow in Heaven, Lord, please pick a bunch for me. 
Place them in my Mother’s arms, and tell her they’re from me.
Tell her that I love and miss her, and when she turns to smile,
Place a kiss upon her cheek, and hold her for a while.
Because remembering her is easy, I do it every day.
But there’s an ache within my heart that will never go away. 

Rest in peace, Mom.  We love you! 

Your loving son,

Bobby