Eulogy for my Godfather – Uncle Phil 4

Euology for my Godfather

As many of you know, I’ve spent the last week in Connecticut for the funeral of my Godfather.  During the time there, I was able to revisit my old haunts and refamiliarize myself with where I grew up.

It really amazed me just how much changed and just how much was exactly the same.  I spent a lot of time taking pictures of places, sitting in quiet contemplation, and thinking about family.

I spent most of the time thinking about how Uncle Phil was always a part of my life and just what that meant to me on a personal level.

Uncle Phil (known as Uncle Joe to many) had 9 Godchildren and I was honored that I was asked to deliver the eulogy at his funeral mass.  

Normally, the purpose of a eulogy is supposed to be a celebration of the person’s live and “sings their praises”.  For me, it is/was also important to bring the attendees of the funeral closer to Uncle Phil and to know him as I knew him.  I needed to create a eulogy that not only praised the man but also comforted those of us left behind.

I wanted to do him justice in his eulogy but I was very conscious that it needed to be in such a way that it also honored his religious beliefs as a Roman Catholic, a 52 year active member of the Knights of Columbus, and a lay Marianist.

Below is the eulogy that I wrote.  As usual, I didn’t stick entirely to what I had written but I was fairly close.  This will, hopefully, give you an idea who Uncle Phil was and what he meant to those of us who were friends and family.

Eulogy for Phil Nanfito

Philip J. Nanfito was both on September 26, 1929 to Filadelfio Nanfito and Rose(a) Mangiamello Nanfito. He was the grandson of Vincent and Dolores Nanfito of Lentini Sicily.

He came from a large family of 7 children – 3 brothers (Vincent, Sebastian, and Dominic) and 3 sisters (Grace, Nancy, and Mary).

In 1941, he move to Portland and graduated from Portland High School in 1949. Two short years later, Phil entered the U.S. Army and served from 1951 to 1953.  By the time of his discharge, he attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. Friends know him as a Knight of Columbus, serving in that Order for 52 years.
He enjoyed boating, bowling, and golf.

Phil is survived by 21 nieces and nephews and 9 Godchildren.  These are all facts about him. But they’re not him. He was much more than that.

As one of his Godchildren, I never knew a time when Uncle Phil wasn’t part of my life.  He was there for all the holidays.  He was there for all the birthdays.  He was there through the good times and the less good times. 

I think that I was about 12 when I realized that although Uncle Phil was my Godfather, he wasn’t my father’s brother – that realization didn’t make him any less family. As a matter of fact, it helped teach me what family was.

Growing up with Uncle Phil being a constant part of my life, I have a lot of memories of him.  Memories of the nights that he and my parents would take us out to the bowling league to watch them.  Memories of him coming over for family dinner and an evening of play cards.  Memories of him taking me to the marina to see the boats. 

What all my memories of Uncle Phil have in common is that they’re good memories.  That’s not a coincidence and it’s not just selective memory.  It’s because he was a good man.

Uncle Phil always tried to do his best and to do right by his family and friends.  Sometimes, that meant that he helped out financially. Sometimes, more than once.  Sometimes, that meant that he helped out with advice and a new perspective.  Sometimes his help was in the form taking time off to help with something that needed to be done.  I know that he did a lot of babysitting, perhaps more than anyone I’ve known.  There were times that, I’m sure, he did without in order to make sure that others were taken care of. 

In my senior year of High School, my family moved to Springfield. Uncle Phil let me move in with him so that I could finish school with my friends.  I’m certainly not the only one who he made room for in his house.  For that, I’ll be forever grateful.

Uncle Phil was important to so many people and made a difference in so many lives. He was an example of what a man can be, what a father can be, and what a friend can be.

Phil passed away late in the evening of Tuesday, January 29, 2013.  I’m going to miss him terribly as I’m sure you will, too.  And so we grieve.

But, I ask that you not grieve for him but instead rejoice for him and know that he lived a good life and was a good man and that he is with his Creator and surely has received his Heavenly rewards. Let him go and rejoice in having returned to God.

However, if like me, you must grieve, then grieve for those of us left behind who no longer have him in our lives.  Grieve for the hole in our lives that his passing has left and that we now feel. 

Although the hole left by his passing can’t ever be erased, we can fill it with something – with memories of his life, with memories the happiness that he brought, with memories of how he touched us and how we are who we are today all because he was a part of our lives.

There is a saying from the old country – That which is remembered, lives.  So, let him go to enjoy his new life in Heaven with all those who have gone on before.  And remember him in your heart and how he touched you. He is now enjoying his new life in Heaven, so let us now enjoy ours here, and the memories we have of him, until we are once again reunited.

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