I thought perhaps the most effective way to convey my thoughts at this time would be in the form of a letter to you. Before I do that, however, I know that there are three very special people whom you would like me to acknowledge and sincerely thank: my wife, Mary Ann ‘ the lady of the house’ who during the last eight months has visited you virtually every day to cheer you up; and above all, your neighbors of over forty years on Maxwell Ave, Will and Sally Driscoll who have always been there for you, not only through your recent health problems but during your long and devastating ordeal with Gerry’s Alzheimer’s. Sally not only visited and comforted you each day, but as you well know, did the same with Gerry in her time of troubles.
A lot has happened since August of 2003 when Tiger Vistocco and Joe Madia brought you to the first of many “Deck Gatherings” at our home. This one was special because it was the beginning of our 50th Reunion from GHS, and you were our special guest of honor. Later that evening, in the wee small hours, Tiger, Joe, and I made a pledge that we were going to do some thing about getting the school district to honor you with some structure or monument in your name. You were politely appreciative but admonished us that is was something that was most unlikely to happen and shared with us your wisdom: “Sic Transit Gloria” (“All Glory is Fleeting” or as you have said many times in your updated version, “what have you done lately?”)
A year later, after starting a letter writing campaign to the School board in which people such as Bob De Sio, Al Antinelli, Dom Passalacqua, and Tom Venterea sent very moving and well written letters of support, something else happened in the summer of 1954. With the crucial support of Poppy Antinelli, Edge Deuel, Tom and Shirley Venterea and the GHS Class of 1954, the concept of the scholarship began. It would be easy to say, with the benefit of hindsight that it was an act of genius, but the truth is, as we both know, it was an act of desperation. (The perfunctory and dull title: “ER Cuony Tribute and Scholarship Fund” was created as I have told you before because, we needed to register with the IRS as a non-profit, and I had to come up with a name and filled all the required spaces.) You were most appreciative, but also suggested in a very diplomatic way that we really did not know what we were doing (you were absolutely correct) and perhaps had ‘a tiger by the tail’!
Since that time under your guidance and patronage, The Ed and Gerry Cuony Scholarships will have given out 29 scholarships of $1,000 each to deserving men and women from Geneva High School, DeSales, and the Geneva Annex of FLCC who have demonstrated those qualities which you and Gerry embodied in your long and distinguished careers: scholarship; leadership, sportsmanship, team work, commitment, citizenship; and, patriotism.
I think I can hear you say right now, “Thank you, Brian … but you have said enough, time to sit down!!” I assure you Butch that I am about to do just that, but there is one more thing I want to say. ( Don’t worry: it’s not going to be the true story of how you lost your index finger in World War II; it’s not going to be the time when, shortly after being discharged from the Coast Guard, you came back to the Geneva school system to the only job available: that of a second grade primary teacher at Prospect Ave. school and achieved your greatest and most long lasting success as a Primary teacher, demonstrating the dangers of nose picking to scared little students using the missing index finger; nor is it, under any circumstances, going to be repeating one of your Senior Citizen jokes from our “Dog and Pony Fund Raising Show” when we all held our breath, as you told the joke about the Senior couple talking about not having sexual relations ( fortunately ending with your perfectly timed and G-Rated punch line: “ and we did not even get a Christmas card from them !”)
What I would like to suggest, Butch is that a toast be made in memory of you representing the virtually hundreds, if not thousands of people whose lives you and Gerry have touched: whether in our thoughts or hopefully, later, with glasses raised:
“Here’s to you Butch, Ed, Dr. Cuony: teacher, coach, mentor, role-model, and, above all friend, we thank you for being part of our lives and, above all, in recent years, we thank you for the pleasure of your company! As Bob De Sio, one of your former students who ironically, visited you on Saturday afternoon the 22nd, said in an e-mail sent to me only yesterday: Your death “was truly the passing of a great human being.”
I know, Butch that you are of the generation that real men don’t hug and say “I love you” … but I am going to say this for all of us: “Goodbye, Butch … we will miss you, we will never forget you, and, we will always love you!”
Oh yes … and one more thing: GO ORANGE !!!
Eulogy delivered 05/25/10 for E.R. Cuony by B.Bell