The many ways that we remember to remember
In Hammonton, reminders of what was are all around us. Echoes of the past are heard every day.
It’s a town that still calls the big empty white elephant of a building at the corner of Tilton and Pleasant Streets “the Kessler Factory” decades after the last suit was made there and the complex on Grand Street “Whitehall” long after the last bottle of Advil came off the line.
We embrace our history. There are many ways we remember to remember.
That’s especially true about people.
On September 9, I was among friends at Brother’s Pizza. They had framed pictures of my buddy the late George Scotto di Vetto, who had died on that date two years prior. Customers—both of the regular Friday night variety and those of us who stopped in to remember George—were greeted by his wife Lori, his son Mario and his wife Katie, their two young children and the Brother’s employees. George’s brother Geremia and his family were in Italy.
It was a wonderful way to remember him. The memories of George were there, so vivid I almost expected him to walk around the counter, like he had so many times with me and Gina and other customers.
George is deeply missed, but he lives on through his family, his friends, and the customers who come to Brother’s Pizza. On September 9, it was a moment in time to remember a man who touched many lives. I’m glad I went, stayed a while, chatted with everyone and had a pizza steak.
Lori handed me a few packets of seeds from the table where framed photographs of him were placed along with a box where people could put memories they had written on cards. I put my card in the box and looked down at one of the seed packets. It read: “In Our Hearts Forever & Always” and “Flanders Poppy Seeds ‘Remembrance Poppies.’”
This is the way we remember people, and honor them for the impact they have had on our lives. September 9 fell between the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8 (read Joseph F. Berenato’s column on how she is being remembered locally) and the 21st anniversary of the attacks of September 11.
Remembering those who have gone before us involves rituals public and private, large and small. I attended the viewing on Patricia Noto on September 10. From the photo arrangements on posterboards made by her grandchildren in the hallway leading up to the line of family members, hers was a life well-lived, filled with family and friends. The funeral parlor was filled with family and friends as well. It was clear she was a well-loved person.
In Hammonton, viewings are almost synonymous with reunions. There is a closeness that is a comfort to the grieving family.
I’ve lived here most of my life, and it’s safe to say between living in Hammonton and owning a newspaper here, you meet a lot of people. Some become close friends. When they have success and happiness, you share in those joys. When they suffer losses, you suffer along with them and are there to shoulder burdens.
The point is: you always remember to remember people.
Whether they are here or gone.
The people in your lives are counting on you. And you count on them. There is a depth to that feeling of togetherness. In Hammonton, you should never go hungry and you should never walk alone.
It’s just not that kind of town.
Hammonton High School unveiled a monument to Coach Joe Cacia at Robert Capoferri Football Field, also on September 9. It was a large rock with a plaque with an image of his face as well as some writing about his career and life on it. It’s never been done before, and it was a perfect tribute to Cacia on a perfect weather night when the Blue Devils defeated Highland 40 to 7 in front of a large crowd.
Cacia turned around the football fortunes of Hammonton, winning four Cape Atlantic League Championships in a row, beginning in his first year, which was 1968. I was walking out of Brother’s on the evening when Cacia was going to be honored and a person I knew well was walking into the restaurant at the same time. He said he was going to the game. I could tell it was going to be a big night for HHS and the Cacia family.
I knew the town would remember to remember Cacia, just as they remembered George Scotto di Vetto and everyone whose passing has left a void that can never be truly filled, but with caring hearts and sentiments, can be bridged with warm memories of the person by people who knew them well.
It’s one of the things Hammonton does best.
Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.