Maybe you knew him as Pat the Handyman. If you were in the Rye High School class of 1955, you knew him as Patsy on the football team.
Maybe you knew him as Pat the Handyman. If you were in the Rye High School class of 1955, you knew him as Patsy on the football team. Maybe you knew him as the man who delivered “Fine Italian Sausage” right to your door. Maybe you saw him selling hotdogs on his truck or a bright, red, converted meter-maid scooter. Or maybe you saw him with his eyes closed, enjoying the Big Band sound, feeling every note, as he played the bass in an outdoor concert. I, of course, knew him as Dad.
That was my father, Pasquale “Pat” Daniel Iorillo Sr.
My father died on July 23, 2014. He was a life-long resident of Rye and he was proud of that. Even though most residents of Rye were born at United Hospital in Port Chester, my father was born in the house he grew up in. He would tell me the story about how, “in the old days,” when a woman was in labor in our part of town, all the other women would gather at her house. They would help her along until it was time to call the doctor with his little black bag. Thus, I imagined his entrance in the kitchen of the downstairs apartment of 69 Maple Avenue. It was February 3, 1937. As an adult, I became a midwife and find particular resonance with this story.
His family settled the little corner of West Rye that some folks know as Dublin. He says that Irish immigrants originally settled the area and that is how it achieved its moniker. Then, as more Italians came through Ellis Island, some found their way up to Rye to work for Theodore Fremd. According to my father, the Italians were the masons, gardeners, and bricklayers. My great-grandfather, Donato Capozzi, was amongst them.
They settled in the neighborhood that is now Maple Avenue, High Street, and Central Avenue. Donato and his wife had four daughters. Of the three surviving daughters, each was given a piece of property. That is how my grandmother, Angelina, ended up on the corner of Maple and High. There she raised, mostly as a widow, four children: Sonny Arthur, Victor, Virginia, and my father, Pasquale.
I grew up knowing the stories of my grandmother’s tomato gardens, and how they used to make tomato paste by drying tomato halves in the sun on a piece of plywood. As a child, my father loved running his finger through the sun-dried paste. Whenever my Dad would recalled that story, he would lift his finger up and I could tell that he could almost taste the fresh tomatoes on his tongue.
At Rye High, my father achieved Varsity letters in football and golf. He married Benedetta (Brenda) Marino and brought her from Stamford to live in the house in Rye. They raised four children: Pasquale Daniel Jr., Maria, LuAnn, and Laura (who were all born at United). When his firstborn arrived, my father was away in the Navy for a year during the Bay of Pigs. He also has ten beautiful grandchildren.
My father loved music and was a life-long musician. His brother, Sonny Arthur, played the accordion and, together with his mother who would sing, they were a staple at family parties in the basement that my father would sometimes refer to as a speak-easy. The trio would sing Italian songs and Frank Sinatra hits when they had backyard barbecues for the whole neighborhood. My father learned to play the bass when he was around 14, so that he could go out with his brother on gigs to the Rye country clubs and make extra money. I recently found a letter my father received from his junior high music teacher, declaring him as the outstanding musician of the year. He loved the bass his whole life. For the last years of his life, he joined Scott Wenzel in the 16-piece, Reddy Valentino Orchestra. He played in an outdoor performance in Rye two weeks before he died. He always said that, next to my mother, music was the great love of his life.
My father was one of the last characters of his generation. He was one of the last to remember the stories of when Rye had dirt roads and how things used to be in “back then.” His life was steeped in Italian-American tradition – working with your hands, devotion to family, and a deep dedication to pasta. He was incredibly proud of his heritage and roots on a small piece of property in Rye.
Thank you to all who honored my father with their presence at his wake and funeral. The line wrapped around the funeral home and out the door for hours. This tradition, the gathering of community, blanketed our sorrow in support, validation, and love. My father built a community around him, who celebrated and honored his life with their final goodbyes.
— Maria Iorillo