Sunday, July 21, 2013

Some Reflections on the Occasion of the Passing of My Great Uncle Richard ("Bubby") Acerra

UPDATED 11:55PM 7/22/2013 with new pictures and obituary link (see below).


My great uncle Richard D. "Bubby" Acerra has passed away. He died Friday, July 19th, 2013. He is pictured above this past January on the right (looking into the camera). His two brothers, my great uncles Eddie (middle) and Freddie (left), are next to him and their sister, my great aunt Babe, on the occasion of her 100th birthday party in West Long Branch, New Jersey on January 27, 2013. (The seated lady leaning away is my great aunt Tessie, widow of another Acerra brother. I didn't even recognize her. She has advanced Alzheimer's. Someone had to tell me that was Aunt Tessie.)

Uncle Bubby was (as the picture above shows), one of the last four of the original sprawling Acerra clan of Long Branch, New Jersey that included 17 (!) children, 15 of whom made it to adulthood, one of whom was my late paternal grandmother, Florence Acerra Todaro, and that included the all-brother baseball team (the Acerra Brothers).

I'm not sure why he was called Bubby, though maybe it had to do with being one of the youngest in the Acerra brood.

UPDATED 11:55PM 7/22/2013:

The Asbury Park Press obituary has appeared and the link to the online version is here. The obituary states the following (and I'm including the accompanying picture:

He is survived by his second wife, Agnes Clark Acerra; his children and their spouses, Thomas and Lori Acerra of Eatontown; Joseph and Julie Acerra of Long Branch; Joann and Rodney Walsh of Stamford, CT and Richard Acerra Jr.; 2 brothers, Fred Acerra of Long Branch and Edward Acerra of Long Branch; a sister, Frances "Babe" Christopher of West Long Branch; 4 grandchildren; TJ and Cassie Acerra and Maren and Rodney Walsh III and a step son, Gary Clark of Toms River.


In addition, it turns out that Quill actually had a JPEG copy of the original Newark Airport picture from the late 1930s. It is posted above. I'm also reposting the "marked up" one but with a new date (circa 1937) rather than 1939.

This is a famous picture of all the Acerra children plus great grandpa Luciano and great grandma Elizabeth taken on the tarmac and steps of an old TWA prop plane at Newark International Airport back around 1937. Uncle Bubby is the second farthest on the left.  (I have the picture marked as 1939 but looking at Bubby's apparent age and working backwards, I think the year might in fact be more like 1937.) The story as I understand it is that they were there on the occasion of having won a contest (possibly sponsored by the airport of New Jersey's largest family (!)).

Unfortunately, this is a scanned JPEG that I "marked up" to point out my grandma, Aunt Babe, and Uncle Freddie and I cannot find the original picture, so I'm sort of stuck with it.

*******

I really did not know Uncle Bubby that well, and although I spoke to him briefly this past January* at my great aunt Babe's 100th birthday party in West Long Branch, I'm not sure he even remembered me ("I'm your sister Florence's grandson ...") My dad (whom I called to tell him the news yesterday) said that at one time when he was young, Uncle Bubby was his favorite uncle. Bubby was about 85 or 86 years old -- and thus only 13 or 14 years older than my dad.

*No, I never did post the whole set of pictures from that particular event, just a subset of them as well as a full phalanx of pictures from the previous day featuring those of the trip up to New Jersey and a dinner with my childhood friend Chris in the Atlantic Highlands.

The iconic picture of the all-brother Acerra "Yankees" baseball team that was taken probably in the late 1940s. I'm pretty sure this image was taken after World War II (in which a number of the boys served and all returned safely). Bubby is the second farthest to the right on the bottom row.

*******

Uncle Bubby was a lot younger than my grandmother (who was born in 1908 and would have been 104), and not only did I not know him that well, I really didn't know his children all that well. He has four by his late wife, my great Aunt Audrey, who died some years ago. He subsequently had a companion named Agnes.

I'll try to find the Asbury Park Press obituary and link to it in an update to this entry. The Damiano Funeral Home's online "Book of Memories" page for Uncle Bubby is here.

Damiano Funeral Home has buried EVERY Acerra and Todaro in Long Branch for the past 70 years. If you were of a certain mid-20th Century Italian-American generation in Long Branch, New Jersey (or, as I was, raised by folks who were in their prime during that time), the very name "Damiano" meant "time for another funeral because someone you know just died" and, by inference, "Get ready, you're time is coming."

Damiano Funeral Home in Long Branch, New Jersey: A structure like this could only house a funeral parlor or an assisted living facility.

*******

Grandma used to say something like, "I'll be laid out at Damiano's ..." (always with the possessive "s" even though it isn't included in the actual name.

And the "funeral parlor" -- as it was called, the second word always said with an exaggerated emphasis ("pahrr-LOHR") -- to this day is housed in a ridiculously over sized late 19th Century Victorian structure (see above picture) at 191 Franklin Avenue that could ONLY be a funeral home OR an assisted living place.

Of course, for my grandma it has the terrible association of being the place of the funeral for "her Richard" -- my Uncle Richard -- who died 50 years ago this past March at age 19.

I found out about Uncle Bubby's death from my second cousin, also named Richard, who is the son-in-law of Aunt Babe. (So we've got four Richards in this entry: my late great uncle, my late uncle, my cousin, and myself!) My cousin is married to Aunt Babe's daughter, Betty Ann. Richard called me yesterday.

As for Aunt Babe, Richard said she is doing fine. She is now just about 100-1/2 years old!

I'd like to go to the funeral, but it just isn't going to work out logistically. I've mentioned before that although I am quite far removed these days in my isolated life here in the "D.C. Bubble / early 21st Century" from my New Jersey past -- not to mention the vast numbers of second and third cousins I have as a result of the size of the original Acerra clan -- I would like to have some connection to at least part of it. This makes it a good idea to go to the funeral, but I'm not sure how I'd get there.

Bubby was the second youngest just after "the baby," Uncle Louie, who died some years ago.

OK, that's all for now. My next blog update is probably not going to be until Tuesday or Wednesday.

--Regulus

2 comments:

RICHARD ACERRA said...

Great story I new you when you were under 10 I think. Richard Acerra

Regulus said...

Thank you. I am glad you liked the entry. I had a very different reaction from Donna and Michael -- my 2nd cousins removed this or that number of times -- when Uncle Freddie died. I meant no ill will in that entry.

I'm not quite sure Uncle Bubby remembered me at Aunt Babe's 100th birthday party.