Memories and memorials

Letter No. 288 | March 28, 2002


I had not thought about "Smiley" Sowolla and his death on the night of his graduation from high school for many years. A sad event indeed, as he was the class valedictorian. Such a shame to wipe a young life away that had so much promise. I also recall with sadness the events of your brother's death and you may recall that I once wrote to you about it.

My memories today travel back to my late elementary school years and freshman year in high school. I was young, but realized then that death could come to even the very young. The first loss was that of young Dominick Gelotte. He was the son of what was termed the Nanty Glo "Burgess" (mayor). They said he was killed by a blood clot in the brain after being hit in the head earlier by a baseball. I can recall the impact on his father, who wore a black arm band for years. Mr. Gelotte was an Italian immigrant and a fine man, but the loss of his son nearly killed him. Mr. Gelotte always used to call all the boys, Sonny, especially his son's friends.

We used to call the boy "Jiggs" and he was one of the better baseball players in our age group. I chuckle when I remember him giving me my first (and last) dip of snuff. I thought I was such a big deal, but only an hour or so later praying for God to take me so the nausea and misery would be over! I never touched snuff or chewing tobacco after that event!

My other memory was that that of a young boy, Jerry K---, who took his own life. Jerry, too, was a loss of potential that we will never know.

Although this does not pertain to Nanty Glo, I have also had many memories through your series of friends from my Vietnam years. I cry as I visit the Wall and see their names. They all were young lives snuffed out so needlessly.

Your "Leaves of Grass" was a good topic at this time of year. As Easter comes, we must all remember that however hard, loss of a loved one is not the end. The Savior promised we would all rise again on the Last Day. It is through that promise that maybe somehow the sadness of loss will be easier by knowing we shall see friends and loved ones again. I knew none that were evil, and by knowing that, I realize that Christ shall carry us all into final happiness for all eternity.

May God bless you and yours with a truly blessed Easter.

Paul Ceria

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