“Ciao, boccia!” I was always greeted by this simple phrase in the Venetian dialect whenever I arrived at Panozzo Brother’s Funeral Home. Those words were uttered by Larry Panozzo as he sat on his stool beside the door greeting everyone who entered. To many, they were welcoming words of comfort that instantly took one back to the old days of Roseland and Kensington.
Larry was a gentleman’s gentleman. His calm and unflappable demeanor was always reassuring, whether you had lost a loved one or you were merely seeking a refreshing dip into the nostalgia of days gone by. The mere mention of Panozzo Brothers conjures images of Larry at his seat by the door while his brother, Dennis, moved easily around the parlor. For decades, the two have been walking encyclopedias of the lives, loves and history of Roseland, Pullman and Kensington.
Panozzo Brothers has been a supporter of St. Anthony’s Church since the 1920s, when the business originated. It’s almost as though no other funeral home existed for any St. Anthony parishioners. Other funeral directors cannot believe that distance has no bearing on people wanting to be buried out of Panozzo Brothers Funeral Home! Whether former residents of Roseland, Pullman and Kensington now live in the outlying suburbs of Chicago or other states, many request their final services be taken care of by Panozzo Brothers.
For me, walking into Panozzo Brothers always meant hearing Larry’s gentle voice greeting me with “Ciao, boccia!”, which means “Hello boy!” The beautiful thing about that phrase is that it also mean “Goodbye!” I would hear it as I left and it would echo in my ear as I walked to my car.
Throughout the decades, Larry’s gentle nature shined through as he gave comforting words and calm reassurances to families in their time of crisis. Larry would make himself available to anyone with a need or a question, and that same kindness is evidenced in the six children he and his wife, Nettie, had, as well as their many grandchildren.
When Larry and Nettie decided to get married, Larry was stationed in Trieste in post-WWII Italy. They were first married in Trieste by the Army chaplain, then traveled to Asiago, where Nettie was from, to be married in the Duomo di San Matteo, so her family could attend. A year later, when his time in the service was up, they returned to Chicago, where Larry attended mortuary school prior to joining the family business. Years later, at 90 and 87 years old, they travelled back to Asiago for the last time. As always, they went to mass at the church in which they were married.
When former St. Anthony parishioners get together, the conversation often turns to Panozzo Brothers. The funeral home was a place St. Anthony students could count on during the annual paper drive. Many students would race there to gather the stacks of newspapers the family had been stockpiling since the previous drive.
Every year at the New Year’s Day masses, religious calendars would be available to parishioners, and every single year, those calendars were donated by Panozzo Brother’s Funeral Home. Although the neighborhood has changed considerably, the custom of donating the calendars continued for over fifty years, even after the funeral home’s move to Chicago Heights. Panozzo Brothers would come through for St. Anthony’s on countless other occasions, whether it be with floral arrangements or some other necessity.
The town of Treschè Conca is in the mountains of the Veneto region, near Asiago. That’s the town the Panozzo families emigrated from, and it’s also the town that inspired the formation of the Treschè Conca Society here in the Chicago area. Their board meetings have always been held at Panozzo Brothers: yet another example of the Panozzo way of keeping their heritage alive and their community together.
From all the Roseland, Pullman and Kensington families who, throughout the years, have benefited from the benevolent spirit of Larry Panozzo, with one voice we say, one final time, “Ciao, boccia!”
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Copies of “Petals From Roseland: Fond Memories of Chicago’s Roseland, Pullman and Kensington Neighborhoods” are available from me with prompt delivery at $20 + $5 s&h.
Almost 700 copies have been sold. Roselandites who have bought my book are excited to have their memories brought to life. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have provided so many fond memories of Roseland.
My book is also available at D & D Foods, 1023 S. Halsted, Chicago Heights and at Bookie’s New and Used Books, 10324 S. Western Ave, Chicago.
Contact CJ Martello at 11403 S. Saint Lawrence Ave., Chicago, IL 60628; 773-701-6756; or email@example.com.