Dr. Anthony Palminteri (May 15, 1933-Nov. 10, 2020)
Rest in peace, Dad – AKA “Tony, Dr. P, Anthony, Big Daddy P, Grandpa, & Papa P”
Before I was even in high school, you included me on some very special occasions to join you and your business partners (all veterinarians) for your weekly Friday lunch meetings at the Villa Cesare in Hillsdale, NJ. It was a HUGE honor for me as a child!! You typically ordered grilled salmon or sautéed softshell crabs in season (with lemon & caper sauce of course). There was always a bottle of Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay on the table, which inspired my understanding that wine & food should be matched. Likely you shouldn’t have invited me to go to these lunch “meetings,” but I know I behaved while I was there…plus Dr. J & Dr. Bill were always so nice about it and made me feel important. I was just so flattered that they let me tag along. I still talk about it. Thank you for trusting me to share the experience!”
My amazing father just passed away on Nov. 10. My team will miss his prank bakery calls, demanding “12000 cupcakes by tomorrow!” He introduced me to my first wines, taught me to tap a dog’s vein for I.V., drive tractors, boats, and cars, and defend myself. He allowed me to climb 100’ up the rigging of a schooner, showed me much of the world as a child, and always let me know that I was loved. I will miss him every day.
A veteran himself, he closed his eyes just before Veterans Day. With great care given to him by his loving wife Gail, he’d hoped to live to 100… Well, he made it to 87, and he sure kicked some booty while he was here. This is a very brief testament to a truly impressive man whose full life cannot be packed into just a few paragraphs:
As a child, Dad snuck pets into his family’s Queens, NY home – anything from dogs & cats and city birds with broken wings to a coatimundi! A genius for his age, he skipped 2 grades in grammar school and later became one of the youngest graduates at Cornell’s School of Veterinary Medicine (inspiring me to attend Cornell too!) He designed & built the Oradell Animal Hospital (OAH) in NJ and became the first board-certified veterinary surgeon in New Jersey – OAH becoming the first-ever veterinary referral hospital. Nearly 50 years later, this hospital still ranks at the top of its industry in specialty animal care and service excellence. Our small farm growing up housed a regular influx of rescued dogs, cats, sheep, goats, and swans – every dog we ever had was abandoned by its former owner and fixed up by my dad’s surgical hands. One of our dogs was oddly named “P.D.” which actually stood for the pulmonary/heart surgery she’d had…
Practicing martial arts well into his adult years, he mastered the 9th Dan rank black belt in Ju-Jitsu, (when only 8 other people had attained that skill level). He shared those skills by teaching self-defense to the incoming cadets each year at the Police Academy in NJ for over 30 years. He challenged my sister, brother, & me regularly to attack him from any angle we wanted, and he said he’d subdue us by using “only 3 fingers.” Without exception, each time we found ourselves on the floor, laughing in pain and incapacitated by his incredibly slick Ju-Jitsu skills! (And YES, he intimidated every potential boyfriend that visited, kept us away from drugs, and inspired us all to take martial arts.)
Dad loved Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi, Italian opera, and more. He taught me to appreciate music by playing 1950’s jazz in the car, classical music every Sunday morning, and Calypso music on vacation. He’d grab my hand to dance at home with the “Wednesday Night Polka Party with Bill Shibilski” playing at top volume – we made quite the pair…and I have NO IDEA what inspired him to listen to Polka, but it was crazy fun!!!
1st Generation Sicilian
“There are only 2 types of people in this world: Italians and those who wish that they were…” Those words resonated in my ears for decades from Dad (no matter that he was ¼ German). His father & uncles came through Ellis Island from Sicily and led us all by example – after years of suffering as child laborers, they busted their butts through school and found success in NYC, helping to change the child labor laws so no kids had to slave-like that again. They taught him, and he taught us to “Work hard, work for yourself, and no one can tell you what to do.” These people were tougher than any of us today… What a blessing to be surrounded by smart, respectful, hard-working role models like this!
During this unprecedented year of Covid (damn, I feel like that word finds its way into our blogs too often!), many of us have been prevented from sharing happy celebrations and sad memorials with our family & friends. I was stuck in California when Dad died in New Jersey, and the 2-week quarantine prevented me from being allowed to see him in person. I feel sad and distraught, and yet we are not isolated or unique in this situation. Having lost my sister less than a year ago, I know her passing hastened his decline.
If you’ve read this whole blog, please take a moment to say a quick word of THANKS to your own special family & friends who inspire you and help make you the best version of yourself. Big Daddy P will continue to influence my daily life, as his soul will live forever in my memories. What a truly COOL GUY he was!