There were three things you didn't mess
with in our Newark house:
1. Mom's tomato gravy
2. The family dog, and
3. The St. Gerard statue (and votive candle) in the living room.
St. Gerard was “The Man”, the family guardian. Every
year Dad faithfully walked the feast parade route with the Saint,
as burly men carried the statue on their shoulders. Dad and others
helped guard the money lovingly pinned to it. When I bought my house,
one of the first things he did was give me a St. Gerard statue.
Besides his regular daytime job, Dad was a fully trained and long-time
Deputy Sheriff in Essex County. This was back in the days when if
you wanted to be a Deputy Sheriff you went to school 4 nights a
week for 3 years and took all sorts of police and legal training.
You got a sheriff’s seal for your car because you earned it.
He was licensed to carry and did---a snub-nose, .38 police special.
He called it his “pistola”; and it kicked like a mule.
He and other law enforcement friends, and the members of our neighborhood
social club, protected the walkers and the many donations to the
Saint. His trusty “pistola” was carried in a belt holster
inside his sport coat.
As October comes around every year, I think of how Dad prepared
for the walk…….remembering the stories of woman praying
and singing along with the procession as it made its way through
the old Little Italy section near the Cathedral. Many women walked
barefooted in sacrifice—praying, chanting, crying for loved
ones along the route.
There were regular stops along the procession route for the walkers
and statue carriers to refresh themselves with coffee and pastries.
It usually took the better part of a day for the event to be held.
A number of years ago, I faced a serious operation and Dad was
determined to make sure St. Gerard was there. The night before the
surgery Dad pinned a St. Gerard medal on my hospital gown while
the doctors were visiting with me. They immediately became concerned
about the medal not being sterile in the operating room.
That's all Dad had to hear. His face became blank and threatening,
warning them in no uncertain terms, "If my son comes out of
that operating room and I find that St. Gerard is not where I put
him, you’ll all be sterile after I finish operating on each
of you myself !"
Like I said, don't mess with St. Gerard.
When I awoke, Dad and St. Gerard were both there. And I had nothing
worse than a good scare. To this day, on the top shelf of my office
desk at home sits my St. Gerard statue, that pin Dad had put on
my hospital gown, and the wristband I wore in the hospital. It's
a reminder of a close call, and the two guys who were there for
When our beloved family dog died, Dad put his leash containing
all his dog tags around the base of our St. Gerard statue, and there
it stayed, never to be moved.
Now, Dad's with St. Gerard, and the dog…..probably having
a little coffee and pastry with the boys, with a front row seat
for the procession.