To the entire Amato family, I wanted to let you know I am thinking about you and remembering Vinnie, and all the great times our families shared. Vinnie was a very special, kind man, and he will be missed. You remain in my thoughts.
Dear Sarah and Children: My family and I will always remember Vinnie, and the good times we had together. Our love to all of you. Much love, Phyllis, Cosmo, Rob, Scott and families.
Mike, Jean, Sarah and all,
I was so sorry to hear of Mr. Amato's passing. He was always a gentleman and the kind of father that a lot of us kids wish we had.
Our prayers are with you.
Vincent E. Amato, Sr.- From his kids
I want to share some thoughts and experiences with you on this often understated but quite extraordinary man.
When you think of our dad, Vinnie, there might not be one immediate thought or impression that pops into your head. Maybe that he was an incredibly kind person, devoted to his wife of 57 years, Sarah, and their 6 kids and 12 grandkids. But when you stop and think about Dad you realize that he was truly a remarkable person who lived a life mostly to make his family happy. Dad, from all of us down here, we can emphatically say you did a wonderful job.
Dad was born on April 1, 1928. He was the second son of two Italian-American immigrants. Dad was in effect raised an only child, since his only brother, Julius, was quite a bit older. His parents were hard workers, often leaving him alone to fend for himself. As a child, Dad enjoyed swimming and developed an affinity for the water. He also loved tinkering with mechanical and electrical devices. He graduated from a technical high school in Manhattan and then enlisted in the Air Force, since he had also cultivated a love for aviation. It was 1946, so World War II fighting had ended, but Dad played an important role during the ensuing couple of years. His job as a radio operator was to guide the fighter pilots onto the airbase runways, often in bad weather. Since these were the days before sophisticated radar, his role was obviously critical. His service took him across the country, as far away as California, and he was honorably discharged as a sergeant. His love of aviation didn’t stop there however, as he become a licensed pilot and flew his own plane. Believe it or not, we still have the old wooden propeller from that plane.
Under the GI Bill, Dad decided to study aeronautical engineering in college in California. However, the distance from home became too great a burden and the home-sick New Yorker returned to Brooklyn to begin a career that we’ve best labeled as a mechanical and electrical designer.
In the early 1950’s, a buddy of Dad set him up on a blind date with an Italian-American nursing student from Brooklyn. Sarah Crivelli had quite a reputation around the streets of Brooklyn as a tomboy. And Dad was feeling a bit like an outsider to Sarah’s dad and mom, John and Mary Crivelli. But the “Calabrese” soon won over their hearts and mom has never admitted it, but we’re sure it didn’t take long for her to fall for the dashing, zoot-suit-wearing pilot taking her for a quick flight at sunset. In 1954, he and Sarah were married. Children quickly followed, the first four in the next six years.
One of my favorite childhood memories involves the time we were living in Woodside Queens when I was 4, maybe 5 years old, and dad would be arriving home from work. Dad would get off the train, and walk home, Mom would take me outside to meet him. When he was just up the street she would let me go and I take off, racing up the block to greet him. He would have his arms outstretched, newspaper in one hand, big smile on his face. I would jump into his arms and he would lift me in a big bear hug. I remember to this day how he smelled of Old Spice and newspaper and… Dad. He was warm and good.
In 1962 President Kennedy came into our lives and changed all of us forever. Kennedy’s quest for the moon meant all the best people were sought after to be part of the team to design and build the Apollo space craft. Dad was given the opportunity to help design the instrument panel for one of the Apollo rockets. He never made a big deal of it but he was part of that group that successfully designed and built the rocket that took our astronauts to the moon multiple times! Imagine that!
At this time our family was firmly rooted in Queens, New York but the Apollo job was in Boston. Dad and Mom made the difficult decision that Dad would work in Boston for the length of the project, a year or so, and then return to Queens. In July of 1963, however, the project timeline was extended and it was clear the best opportunity for the family was to move to Boston. Vinnie, Sarah and the four boys settled in the suburban town of Belmont, saying goodbye to city living, noise and congestion and hello to tree-lined streets and good public schools.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder and you can probably guess that was true for dad. He was thrilled to be reunited again with the family in the new home. And it wasn’t long before there were two more additions to the family. The first and only girl, Jean, his beloved Gee Gee, the apple of his eye and the namesake of his three boats, arrived soon after settling in Belmont. In 1966 the arrival of baby Mike made the family complete.
With piloting an impossible hobby now and Dad’s apparent love for not being on solid ground, Dad bought a boat for the family. Our love for boating, fishing, and waterskiing was born. The 16-foot boat was quickly replaced with an 18-footer, then 24-footer, and finally a 31-footer. Dad became Commodore of the Watertown Yacht club, a sort of working-man’s yacht club on the Charles River, and taught boating courses to novices. Summers would find us fishing up in Lynn or Boston Harbor, and for 2 glorious weeks waterskiing at Sebago Lake in Maine. For endless hours Dad would take all of us and our friends water-skiing. With our family of mostly teenage boys staying at a group of cottages that seemed to have mostly teenage girls Dad never complained about us constantly asking him to drive the boat so we could teach yet one more girl to water-ski or go for a boat ride on the lake.
Ah, the times on the boat! Whether it was having the best seat in the house on the Charles River for the Fourth of July fireworks, or catching and cleaning 60 flounder when we went fishing, these were some of the happiest times for Dad.
He loved the water and being on the boat for any reason or occasion. There was no question who the captain of the boat was. We all looked to Dad for leadership. One particular time we were caught in a surprise thunderstorm, with high winds and incredible thunder and lightning. I remember looking behind us at this giant wave, bigger than the boat and being terrified. Yet Dad calmly returned us to the yacht club – never once making us feel like he wasn’t completely in control of the situation.
Dad’s career took him to many different companies, designing parts for everything from pizza ovens to Polaroid cameras. One year, Dad happened to get laid off about a month before Christmas. We all thought that this might mean Santa Claus would be a little less generous that year. Not a chance. The customary room full of gifts for the six kids was as large as ever. And that’s what Dad was all about. Always coming through, always being there for us. Dad wasn’t the loud, flashy type. Never brash or a braggart (although you may agree with me that he had cause to be!) He was a humble, kind-hearted man. He always knew what to do.
And knowing what to do meant, for us, a room full of Christmas presents, memorable family vacations or simple fishing trips. He excelled at swimming, snow skiing, bowling and waterskiing but those pursuits would take a back seat to our needs. He supported us in any endeavor we wanted to try. He was a Cub Scout leader for our troop and there was no question we always had the coolest pinewood derby cars because of him. When we were older, he spent endless hours working on all the real cars we owned, starting with my 1954 Ford. He loved mentoring us all, but I think especially his namesake son Vince who shares Dad’s love of tinkering, his mechanical ability and love of the water and boats. I remember young Vince sticking to Dad’s side watching and learning even when he was very young.
Dad even took me hunting when I showed an interest in that sport. Here was a man raised in the city, in Brooklyn, but he never hesitated to take me out to wander the woods of the Fitchburg sportsman club because it was an interest I had.
Dad never particularly cared for watching sports on TV, but he thoroughly enjoyed watching his kids play, whether it was Little League, soccer or softball. John and Michael excelled at soccer, Carl at football and all played on high school teams. He seldom missed a game. He supported us in that quiet, patient manner so characteristic of him.
He was also the very definition of a supporting and loving husband. He loved Mom and he was always there to make dinner, take care of the kids or whatever needed to be done when Mom was working the late shift at the hospital. 57 years of marriage and to the very end his main concern was that Sarah was being taken care of.
One of the things I think of when I think of Dad was that he could fix anything. Electrician, plumber, welder, mechanic – these words all describe him. He helped those of us who didn’t inherit his mechanical talents through home-ownership. He either actually fixed the things in our houses (he was always so gracious when we’d inevitably ask him to fix something while he was visiting on vacation) or walking us through it step by step on the phone with an incredible show of patience. His legacy will be hard to match.
And oh did he love to make us laugh, and his jokes became classics. To this day my brothers, sister and I can’t look at chocolate pudding with whipped cream without thinking of the time when we were young that he covered his pudding completely with whipped cream and proclaimed that all he had was a bowl of whipped cream. Of course as young kids who adored their dad, all we wanted then was a bowl of whipped cream. Or on Vince junior’s birthday every year – EVERY SINGLE YEAR – when Vince and John would be the same age for a month (no they aren’t real twins, but Irish twins), he would proudly exclaim he had two 6-year olds or two 12 year olds or two 49-year olds in the house.
Even when he was sick he would still come out with some understated joke or comment that would have us all just smiling.
Later in life dad kept busy by working at a boating store in Massachusetts and quickly became the “go-to” guy for any type of boating electronics. As with all the other places he worked, everybody loved Vinnie.
When it was time to escape the cold and move to Florida, it didn’t take Dad long to join the Veteran’s Club of Solivita and the Honor Guard. He truly loved the camaraderie of the club and readily volunteered to help out when he could. He always enjoyed the Solivita activities, including the billiards broom, movie night and the Memorial Day festivities, where he proudly carried the colors. But he especially cherished his fellow veterans and othe friends he met through the Veterans’ club and throughout Solivita. He was sincerely grateful, as are we, for all the help Ginger Minervini, Larry Dunivant and other Solivita residents provided to us in driving Dat to his numerous medical appointments over the last year.
This last year was a tough one for dad. But you know he never complained. Doing for others still motivated and pleased him. It did become increasingly difficult for him to do that and he graciously accepted help. Here I want to mention my brother Carl. I will never forget when he announced to us about a year and a half ago that he was taking a leave from his job to come to Florida to care for mom and dad. And Oh boy I am not sure he really knew what he was in for! But he quickly got a handle on the situation, stabilized their care and essentially, single handedly kept both our parents out of the nursing home and able to continue to live in their home in Solavita.
Along the way I think Dad and Carl developed a special relationship. Carl became Dad’s caregiver, advocate, protector and friend. And Dad became Carl’s companion and buddy. They went out to breakfast together, to lunch, to the movies, to air shows and who would have pictured Dad at a motorcycle rally! There was dad on his scooter, sunglasses and wearing a bandana on his head, mingling with a thousand tattooed motorcycle dudes! Carl and Dad had a very special relationship. Carl I know you will miss him terribly. All of us want to thank you for the love, caring, and dignity you provided to dad.
So how do you sum up 83 years of a full life? He was a mechanic, fix-it man, hunter, fisherman, cook, captain of the boat, commodore, comedian, teacher, mentor, pilot, aircraft controller, veteran, a man with seemingly unlimited patience, devoted husband, father and family man, he was all of these things and more.
When you remember Vinnie, our Dad, remember the guy who never thought of himself first, but always of others, especially his family. We love you Dad. We miss you. May you rest in peace.
Sarah, Paul, Carl, John, Vinnie, Jr., Jean and Michael,
I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Vinnie. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. I often reflect on the great times our families had together, and I will always remember Vinnie with great fondness.