Sunday, December 29, 2013

Some Reflections on the Passing of My Great Uncle Frederick V. "Freddie" Acerra Sr.

As I mentioned briefly in this recent entry, one of my last great uncles, Frederick V. "Freddie" Acerra has passed away. He died December 23rd, 2013. He is pictured above last January standing on the left. His two brothers, my great uncles Eddie (middle) and "Bubby" (right), 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 leading away is my great aunt Tessie, widow of another Acerra brother (I always forget which one). I didn't even recognize her. She was suffering from advanced Alzheimer's.)

Uncle Freddie -- pictured left in a close-up from the above image -- was one of the last three of the original sprawling Acerra clan of Long Branch, New Jersey that included 17 (!) children, 15 of whom made it to adulthood, and one of whom was my late paternal grandmother, Florence Acerra Todaro, and that included the all-brother baseball team, the Acerra Brothers.

FYI: The name is pronounced "A-chera" (not "A-sera").

It was just six months ago in July 2013 that Uncle Bubby died. I wrote a little about him (I didn't know him very well) in this entry (link embedded): Some Reflections on the Occasion of the Passing of My Great Uncle Richard ("Bubby") Acerra.

Left: A picture of Uncle Bubby that was featured in his obituary.

I wrote about Aunt Babe's 100th birthday and my trip to New Jersey for that occasion in this blog entry Aunt Babe's First Century and My 100th Percentile New Jersey Weekend (Prequel Entry).

A picture of Aunt Babe with Yours Truly at her 100th birthday party, W. Long Branch, N.J., 3:33PM January 27, 2013.

While I subsequently posted a lengthy entry about my visit to New Jersey and reflections on my childhood there, I never posted the entry featuring the rest of the pictures from the actual party.


Uncle Freddie lived for years in the bright green house on Morford Avenue (my grandma always pronounced it "Maw-ford") in Long Branch where the Acerras lived starting circa 1940 (after my grandmother had already married and moved out). It was a big, creaky old house that his grandson Michael had thoroughly restored about seven years ago.

I am reposting Uncle Freddie's obituary below as it appeared online in the Asbury Park Press. It was lifted verbatim from the Hoffman Funeral Home online obituary for him. (Oh, yes, amazingly, the funeral is NOT being held at Damiano Funeral Home but rather Hoffman Funeral Home, also in Long Branch, though I don't recall ever hearing of it.)

Frederick V. Acerra, Sr., 88, of Long Branch died peacefully at home, surrounded by the love of his family on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Born in Long Branch he was a lifelong resident. His love of baseball earned him the title of All State Short Stop for Long Branch High School. Frederick was a member and short stop of the famous Acerra Brother Baseball Team, Long Branch. The team was honored at the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

The Acerra team won the Long Branch City League Champions for ten consecutive years. Frederick was scouted by numerous Major League Baseball teams, the "Yankees" being one of them. He was also a member and Past Commander for the VFW, Brighton Memorial Post, #2140, Long Branch and a member and Past Exalted Ruler for the Long Branch Elks, BPOE, Lodge #742, Long Branch. He worked over 40 years for Monmouth Consolidated Water, Shrewsbury, where he retired as a Commercial Service Supervisor. He was predeceased by his loving wife of 42 years, Eleanor Hurley Acerra in 1991. Surviving are his children, Donna Urmey of Long Branch and Frederick V. Acerra Jr. and his wife Barbara of Brick; grandchildren, Anthony Urmey and his fiance Katie Fitzgerald, Michael Urmey and his wife Jacklyn and Cory Acerra; a brother, Edward Acerra of Long Branch and a sister, Frances Christopher of West Long Branch as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Mr. Acerra's memory to BPOE, # 742, Crippled Childrens Fund, 150 Garfield Ave., Long Branch, NJ 07740 would be appreciated. Visitation will be on Sunday, December 29th, from 2-4 & 7-9pm at the Hoffman Funeral Home, 415 Broadway, Long Branch. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held 10 am Monday, December 30th at Holy Trinity RC Church of Christ The King Parish, Long Branch. Interment will be private.

There was no way I could make it to the funeral, although based on how the obituary reads, the immediate family wouldn't even want me there. (I was not particularly close to Uncle Freddie's daughter -- I always got the sense she didn't like me. More generally, I get the strong sense that a number of the cousins did not particularly like the Todaro part of the family for a variety of reasons which I won't go into here (some perhaps understandable, others not).

That aside, and as I've mentioned in a number of entries over they years, the Acerra clan was not only remarkably large, it included the all-brother baseball team mentioned in the obituary. I also wrote about Uncle Freddie in the context of the all-brother baseball team, the Acerra Brothers, in this entry (link embedded): More Trade Winds Beach Club and long ago New Jersey Family Photo-Reflections.

Above is the most famous of the Acerra Brothers baseball team photographs. It was taken probably in the late 1940s (just after World War II, in which most of the boys served and all returned safely). Uncle Freddie is the third from the right on the bottom row. He is between Bubby and Eddie. They tended to pose chronologically.

At this point, only Uncle Eddie remains of the boys (he is probably about 86) and only Aunt Babe of the girls. Her age of nearly 101 is a great outlier of all the Acerra children. She is doing fine, and as I posted in a recent entry, she is in Hawaii with her daughter and son-in-law for several months.

Yes, a nearly 101 year old lady flies all the way from the U.S. East Coast to Honolulu. As proof, above is a picture of Aunt Babe taken this past Christmas Eve and sent to me by Betty Ann.


Above is a picture I've posted before on this blog showing all the Acerra children and their parents from a long-ago day at Newark Airport in New Jersey probably about 1937 (certainly before World War II). The story of why they were all on that TWA prop plane was on the occasion of having won a contest for New Jersey's largest family.

This picture features the 15 Acerra children from Tony to Louie ("the baby") who made it to adulthood. (I think one died at birth and another died as a baby in the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918.) The parents -- i.e., my great grandparents -- were Elizabeth (who died in 1977) and Luciano (who died circa 1968, before I was born). Of the 15, I knew to varying degrees all of them except Tony, who died quite young circa 1948.

Above: The same picture but "marked up" to identify my grandmother, Aunt Babe, and Uncle Freddie.


A few more reflections on Uncle Freddie ...

I wrote about Uncle Freddie in this entry way back in September 2008 on a weekend trip to New Jersey I took with my dad on the occasion of his 50th high school reunion that also includes some pictures of Aunt Babe, who was then 95 years old. (I also wrote a second, longer account of that trip is in this follow-up entry.) He had this really gravelly voice and -- as you would expect from an octogenarian World War II vet -- he cursed a lot, but it was always funny.

It was during this visit that Uncle Freddie said to my dad -- after my dad explained all the places he had lived since leaving New Jersey in 1993 in Florida, on the Outer Banks and near Myrtle Beach -- to him in that deeply gravelly voice he had: 


Above: Uncle Freddie talks to my dad, September 7, 2008. Unfortunately, this is the only picture I have of him from that Sept. 2008 visit, and my then-cellphone's camera quality was even worse than the one I have now.


Another recollection is from the early 2000s. I stayed overnight there in the summer for a few days both in 2000 and again in 2001 or 2002. (I recall the 2000 visit because we watched Al Gore's absurd acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention that helped to lose him the election.) At one point, we were talking and he asked me something about whether I had any women in my life and then he abruptly added in the most gravelly way:


Ha ha

Goodbye, Uncle Freddie. Tell my grandma I said hello and think of her often.

When I die -- which I suspect will occur in the next 10 to 15 years, by which point I will have no immediate remaining family -- it will pass with no funeral nor even any mention. And I suspect I'll be buried in some potter's field in some random place.

I fully intend to haunt someplace and/or some people, though.



Unknown said...

I am unsure as to why you chose the words that you did. I am not sure how or why my grandfathers obituary reads that way to you. You only get so many words, and to try and sum up such a long rich life in a short amount of time is no easy task. That being said, aside from it telling the simple story of my grandfather, I do not see any hidden undertones of dislike towards anyone. The fact that you do is a little ridiculous, and more than likely self absorbed.

I lived with my grandfather for 17 years, and ill be honest I do not know who you are, and I do not remember your visit here although that is a picture of my home right after the construction was done.

Anyone who knew my grandfather well knows that he was a man of forgiveness and he did nothing but welcome people. His immediate family (including my mother)reflect that. And even if not on a daily basis, it was most certainly reflected at the services celebrating his life where several people who may not be the best of friends were welcomed with open arms and allowed to pay their respects to my grandfather. Doing it any other way would have been a disservice, as my grand father was never known to turn anyone away from his doorstep. Anyone who knew him well knew that. Heck, anyone who knew him for more than five minutes knew that.

My grandfathers obituary and services were just that, my grandfathers obituary and services. Nothing more and nothing less. They were about him, remembering him and celebrating his life.

The fact that you jumped on the internet speaking ill of his family (and by the way I am reading this your family as well) and with your closing remarks made this entirely about you only shows people that you did not know him very well at all. If you did, you would have chosen a different way to honor him that didn't involve accusing his immediate family of hiding messages about you in his obituary.

I am reading that very short obituary and trying hard to find that place between the lines where you saw something about you and I just can't. How you made any of that about you is beyond me.

I am glad that you knew my grandfather, and that in some way he touched your life. I can only pray that whatever bitterness you have that taints those memories is washed away with time.

Regulus said...

I posted Michael's comments and a few of my own in this new entry.

Fabintro said...

The Acerra brothers story is an amazing part of the heritage of Italian ancestry in America. We applaud you for keeping their memories and accomplishments, their genuineness and families, alive for all Americans. This year the Italian American Heritage and Culture Committee of New York, Inc. celebrates Italian Americans in Sports: Legends and Icons. The Acerra brothers have a place of honor in that heritage. William Russo,

Fabintro said...

The Acerra brothers story is an amazing part of the heritage of Italian ancestry in America. We applaud you for keeping their memories and accomplishments, their genuineness and families, alive for all Americans. This year the Italian American Heritage and Culture Committee of New York, Inc. celebrates Italian Americans in Sports: Legends and Icons. The Acerra brothers have a place of honor in that heritage. William Russo,

Regulus said...

Thank you for letting me know that. I appreciate it.