Tony Timonte’s death makes years melt away

I bumped into Dr. Sam Rizzo at General Hospital the week before last and in the course of our conversation he brought up remembering a little boy in the yard next-door when he was just a tyke and how the two of them played separately but together on either side of the fence between them.
I knew he would bring that up because whenever he sees me he brings it up. See, I was that other little boy.
That memory and dozens of others came rushing back in the last few days since I learned of the death and attended the viewing of Tony Timonte, who died Monday at the age of 102.
The reason I was in that back yard is that when I was little, my family rented an apartment in the rear of Tony Timonte’s home. From the time I was about 3 years old until I was about 8 or 9, my mom and dad raised their four children in a humble but cozy four-room apartment at 12 East Oak Street, in the Browntown section of Pittston Township.
I did not quite realize it until hugging Tony’s three children at Graziano’s Funeral Home Thursday night that some of my fondest memories are of those years on Oak Street.
Vallie, Madeline and Carmie Timonte actually are not that much older than I but at the time they sure seemed it. Older and unbelievably cool. Whenever they took the time to pay attention to us it was a big, big deal. Even when it hurt.
But it hurt only once. That was when we were playing cowboys and I, perhaps 5 years old, was being dragged by the back of my collar by Carmie. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be “dead” or just “wounded,” but I do remember Carmie dragging me with my heals making tracks in the dirt driveway.
What I don’t remember is him losing his grip and my head banging off the corner of a concrete porch and having to go to the emergency room for stitches. That part has been told to me several times over the years but, as I said, I don’t remember it.
I likewise don’t remember bouncing on the bed when I was about 3 and “flying off,” to use my mom’s words, and breaking my collar bone. But that’s one of those tales I’ve heard so many times I think I remember it. The best part is my dad coming home from work, seeing me in a sling and thinking we must have been playing hospital.
It was in that little apartment that we got our first TV. I was home when the man brought it in and set it up and the first thing that appeared on the screen was Hopalong Cassidy.
Westerns were big then and I recall the whole family gathered together watching programs like Cheyenne and Sugarfoot and Have Gun/Will Travel and Bonanza.
And I clearly remember lying on the floor in front of that TV doing my times tables in a tablet while rooting with all my heart for Lew Burdette and the Milwaukee Braves to win the World Series, which they did. In was 1957. I was seven years old.
Speaking of Westerns, one of my Oak Street memories is the Christmas when a package arrived from my godparents, my Uncle Robert and Aunt Ethel, who lived in New Jersey, and it was a complete Wyatt Earp outfit, two six-guns and all.
Another is of the Easter when all four of us kids came home from an Easter egg hunt empty-handed and crying and my dad made us wait in the kitchen while he went out in the backyard and hid dimes here and there and we had our own egg hunt and he made sure each of us found at least one.
A stray dog had a litter of puppies in a shed in the backyard of Timonte’s house and all the kids in the neighborhood ran home to beg our parents to let us have one. Davey Remsky’s dad said okay and so did mine. They named their puppy Noodles and we called ours Pudgie. My dad fed him with a doll’s baby bottle and when Pudgie got sick, I recall my dad dissolving a baby aspirin in a teaspoon of water and getting Pudgie to drink it.
All of these memories are more than 50 years old, but looking over a photo display at the funeral home, seeing Tony and his wife Mary, whom he lovingly care for at the end of her life, just the way they looked back then, and Vallie, Madeline and Carmie exactly the way I remember them, made the years melt away.
In the presence of the Timonte family I am always a little boy again. The same little boy Sam Rizzo remembers.

Ed Ackerman