Francis Michael Sacco (Frank), beloved husband, grandfather, and father, uncle, cousin, son, and friend, passed away quietly with family at his bedside on November 24, 2016, after a long illness due to the consequences of a cerebral stroke suffered months prior. He was 94 years of age.
Frank was born in East Harlem, New York City, on June 18, 1922, the last-born child of Maria (née Popito) and Vincent Sacco. The family lived in a small apartment between Pleasant and First Avenues (near the renowned Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church). Frank's siblings were (descending in age) Rose, Jerry (Ciro), Anthony (Tony), Louisa, and Carmella (Millie). Of the children, the first, Rose, and Frank were the only offspring of Maria and Vincent born in the U.S.; the other four were born in Italy.
Vincent owned a small produce pushcart and also was an iceman, delivering ice for the rudimentary "refrigeration" available then, while Maria was a homemaker, although she also did some dressmaking piecework, as was customary for many women of that time to help make ends meet. Frank ("Frankie," as his father affectionately called him) played in the streets like the other children of New York City then. He was a happy and well-behaved child, although once it was noted that he mischievously appropriated an apple from a local pushcart without proper recompense to its purveyor! But by all accounts, he was a good boy, a proud and honorable Italian-American by heritage and ethnicity, and a true and loyal son of America by birth.
For various reasons, including not wanting his son to become corrupted by the urban streets, in the latter 1920s, familial patriarch, Vincent, moved the Saccos to a house he had just purchased in a newly developed residential section in the Wakefield and Olinville enclaves of the Bronx, New York, where the still relatively new Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) subway line had just been extended to encourage emigration from densely populated Manhattan to the then-bucolic outer boroughs. There in the multi-story home at 959 East 218 Street, Frank lived with his entire immediate family as well as his sister Rose's husband, Michael (Mike) Curcio, and their child, Nicholas (Nicky). In later years, when brother Jerry married Julia, the couple lived there for a time with their first child, Vincent (they moved to Queens, New York, before Richard, their second and last child, was born), and then Millie and her husband, Phillip DiPinto, lived there for many years with their two boys, Phillip and Stephen.
The senior Vincent planted a fig tree in the front yard and tended a small grape arbor in the back, expressly for the viniculture of wine (and some occasional vinegar!), in accord with the ancient traditions of the peasant and rural culture of native Italy, handed down from uncountable generations of Italian families for innumerable years.
It was the entirety of this familial and cultural experience that was the bedrock of Frank's life and from which he derived his core values, religious faith, and humanity.
Frank attended grammar and junior high schools in the Bronx, and then moved on to Evander Childs High School, where he graduated in 1940 with a commercial diploma. He was an intelligent, curious, and modern young man of the mid-century era, and these traits steadfastly remained with him as essential and obvious aspects of his character and personality throughout the many, many, and happy, years of his life.
After high school, Frank held various jobs, as young men then would do as they sought to find and make their mark in the world. His early work was clerical or similar, but for a summer he intrepidly ventured from his loving but parochial family habitat to the resort hotels of the Catskills in Upstate New York, where he found employment as a waiter. He was drawn to this spot because Frank had a keen interest in the world of entertainment and show business, a calling to this arena that never left him. This included radio. Once, he even auditioned for an announcer position with New York City's own WNYC radio!
A gift he received which he especially cherished was a very early-model Lafayette-brand portable radio, given to him by brother Jerry's wife, Julia. He took the heavy "portable" everywhere he could to listen to what he liked most: news, radio serial shows ("The Shadow" and "Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy" as examples!), and music.
Frank especially loved music, the popular music of the time, and never lost this love, this lure, which became only stronger in him over the years. His time was, of course, the time of the Big Band era, and he was one with the exciting new sounds of notables such as Benny Goodman, Harry James, Artie Shaw and the rest. But his favorite was always Glenn Miller. While still in his teens, the Hotel Pennsylvania in mid-town Manhattan was one of Frank's favorite spots to see Miller's band and other Kings of Swing perform live.
And his love of music included the love to sing. Singing was second-nature to Frank, and he had a good, smooth, sonorous voice, and he could skillfully express his tender, romantic feelings and happy moods in song, as Italians have done for centuries. He was an outstanding exemplar of this tradition, and excelled at it.
Frank continued this life-long love affair with music and song to the end, and his preferences and tastes, though strongly fashioned in the 1930s and 1940s, were inflected and expanded by the ensuing, changing times, even into the 1960s and 1970s. Of course, the Big Bands, the crooners of the 1940s and 1950s, and the Great American Songbook were among his standards. But after a time, he grew to like some of the pop sounds of the 1960s and 1970s. He even came to enjoy works by The Beatles, especially those of Paul McCartney (whose birthday he shares!).
Frank was also a big movie fan and great movie buff. As a youngster, he spent many happy afternoons at some of the famed movie "palaces" of the time - the Paramount, RKO - in the Bronx and Manhattan, venturing on the subway to them with only a quarter in his pocket! But that amount bought him entrée into an entire day of movie fun! He continued to cultivate his special affection for motion pictures, actors, and Hollywood throughout his entire life. He had an encyclopedic mind for movie facts and trivia of classic Hollywood as well as for the music and musicians of the 1930s and 1940s, his favorite period. His recall of details and the arcana of music and popular entertainment from the 1920s through and even beyond the 1940s would amaze anyone who asked him for some information or insight.
Finally but not the least, Frank was a big baseball fan, never wavering in his loyalty to his home team, the Yankees, often listening to the games on his burly but reliable portable. Keeping music and a connection to the world always in his grasp was another behavior that began when Frank was a youngster and which he carried into his golden years, unlike the monstrous portable, which he did replace when transistors replaced tubes! And decades later when CDs/DVDs replaced records, he made sure he had those, too, until the Internet itself replaced all! Frank did adapt to the changing times and technologies so that he always could keep his favorite tunes and the world in sight and sound close at hand, just as he did with that early Lafayette that he occasionally joked about having "lugged" everywhere he could when he would recall his happy memories of days past!
Frank and the Saccos remained in their home in the Bronx throughout the Great Depression. When the difficulties of those many years enabled the dark forces of the Nazi Party to capture the German mindset, emboldened Mussolini's authoritarian Fascists to gain control of Italy, and stoked Japan's imperial aspirations to assert its military might against the West for a right to empire in the East, Frank was called to the service of his country with the legions of other young men and brave women who today are honored as The Greatest Generation. Fate made him a part of this perilous moment for his generation and the world. In March 1943 at the age of 20, Frank became a soldier in the U.S. Army. He received his basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, qualified as a Marksman, and was stationed at various locations in the U.S., including Fort Niagara in Youngstown, New York, near Buffalo, where he was assigned as an M.P. to guard German and Italian POWs. Frank was awarded a Good Conduct Medal for his M.P. service. He was honorably discharged from the Army while at Camp Howze, Texas, at the end of May 1945.
After the war years, Frank continued to live at his family's Bronx home. He attended Packard College in the Bronx on the G.I. Bill, graduating in 1950, where he learned accounting and other white-collar business skills. He held various jobs, including one with the New York Central Railroad in 1952. That was when he met Gloria Rita DiMeo, also a Bronx denizen, through Gloria's close friend, who worked with Frank and made the introductions on the premise that Gloria, who had just started a job in the same building with them, lived in close proximity to Frank.
During their courtship days, Gloria and Frank would meet at the Horn and Hardart Automat for lunch, and ride home together in the evening from their offices near (or in) the Chanin Building, on Lexington Avenue and 42 Street, aboard the Third Avenue El subway line, still in operation then. The story goes that Frank said to Gloria, "I'm going to marry you in a year!" Gloria laughed amusedly, but incredulously. But true to his word, in April 1953, Frank and Gloria were married at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in their home borough. Gloria broke off her engagement to another suitor to marry her darling Frank instead!
The newlyweds rented an apartment on Decatur Avenue in the Bronx. In 1954, the couple had their first child, Robert (Bob), and shortly after that they moved to Gloria's family's home at 670 East 223 Street in the Wakefield section of the Bronx, where her parents, Carmela and Albert DiMeo, and brothers, Alfonso (Al) and Alfred DiMeo, resided. Gloria and Frank lived in a separate apartment there for nearly 23 years, and raised their family of four children: Elisa (Lisa), Paul, and Camille, along with Bob.
Throughout the early years of Gloria and Frank's marriage, Frank worked for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York City as a salesman. Afterward, he was a skilled business clerk and accountant for Nazareth Cement Company in Manhattan. Through the latter years of the tumultuous 1960s' decade, Frank managed a retail clothing store in the Bronx on Fordham Road near Fordham University. It was a time when the beautiful Bronx and the entire city he'd known and loved his entire life began its well-documented historic decline. In 1972, Frank was hired by Nestlé Corporation and held a few different roles for the company until Nestlé shortly promoted him to a payroll accountant position at the corporate headquarters in Purchase, New York, in Westchester County, where he remained until his retirement in 1988. (A little-known fact about Frank is that after he retired, he pursued work as an "extra" in movies and TV shows and commercials. He worked with a talent agency that handled extras and which got him a few auditions. Once, he had a background role in a TV commercial shot for Toyota!)
Frank moved the family from the Bronx to Yonkers in the latter 1970s, and in 1982, he and Gloria, along with son Paul, purchased a home on Bajart Place, where the family resided until Gloria's passing due to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in June 1998. Frank and Paul sold the Yonkers home shortly thereafter, and the widower Frank resided with Paul and his wife, Michele Sacco, in Greenwich, Connecticut, beginning in 1999, until the couple built a house in Pound Ridge, New York, in 2001, where Frank lived with them in their home in a separate apartment. In 2004, Michele and Paul sold their Pound Ridge home and moved to Old Greenwich, Connecticut. Frank then took his own apartment in a moderately sized multi-unit building owned by his daughter Lisa O'Brien and her husband, Donald O'Brien, in Greenwich. Frank lived there with complete independence for almost all of his final 12 years.
During this period, Frank was a parishioner of St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Greenwich, and an active member of Greenwich's Senior Center, where he frequently partook of the center's activities and social events. Frank also contributed to the center's regular entertainment program schedule when opportunities arose to regale his fellow seniors with song! He delighted everyone who listened to his untrained but nonetheless naturally mellifluous voice, which he used with tremendous skill and joy, singing the tunes that he especially came to love when he was still a young and dashing New York man, thoroughly enjoying that uniquely American time of the 1930s and 1940s, the period that shaped the foundation of his tastes in music and all the arts as well as so much of his understanding and appreciation of life - and it was a long life still coming to him then to appreciate, which he truly did; a life of many, many more good and productive and happy, loving years, with his wife and family, his colleagues at work, his friends, and just about anyone within eye view of his smiling face!
Tragically for the past 10 months, Frank could hardly speak due to the stroke. Now, he sings again, free of pain and fear, in loving harmony once more with his wife of 45 years, Gloria, whom he dearly loved so much, and with all his departed family members, with Vincent, Maria, Mike, Rose, Daniel Sr., Jerry, Tony, Marie, Julia, Millie, Nicky, Phillip, Louisa, Daniel Jr., Albert, Alfred, Tino, Carmela, Charlotte, Joe, Bella, Frank's predeceased granddaughters Claudia and Laura, and many other contemporary and ancestral blood and in-law kin and fellow "paisans," and the companions, acquaintances, and friends he easily made throughout his lively decades, those now gone from us, but all with him again. Frank's mellow optimism, buoyant nature, and gentle and compassionate soul resound now not from this soil we tread on here but from the expansive, infinite heavens, in celebration of his joyful return to our collective, celestial home, where we all will be, finally together.
Frank is survived by his four children and their spouses: Robert and spouse Valerie Knapp, Elisa O'Brien and spouse Donald O'Brien, Paul and spouse Michele Sacco, and Camille Dumont and spouse Steve Dumont; and by his five grandchildren: David O'Brien, Mark O'Brien, Elisabeth Dumont, Francesca Dumont, and Harrison Dumont.
Visitation services will be held on Monday, November 28, 2017, at Leo P. Gallagher & Son Funeral Home, 31 Arch Street, Greenwich, Connecticut, (203-869-1513) from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
A Roman Catholic funeral Mass will be held at St. Mary Church, 178 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich, Connecticut, at 10 a.m.
Burial following the Mass at Gate of Heaven Catholic Cemetery, 10 West Stevens Avenue, Hawthorne, New York.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, https://www.stjude.org/give.html.