Nicholas A. Angiulo (1932 - 2018)

Obituary
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April 14, 2018

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."
---Mark Twain

Hi Dad,

I know, the Twain quote is funny. However, it's a very inexact description of our relationship. It's likely as a kid growing up I made you feel ignored at times, but I always loved you. Years later, when we were both much older, I remarked that as a kid I could never understand at times why you were worried, irritable or distracted. When I got into the work force, I understood within a week.

I'm sorry it's taken so long to write you. The last 4 weeks since you've been gone have been dark. I see you everywhere in the course of my day, but I can't reach you. I miss you deeply. If I wrote down at every level how much you're missed, it would fill a full page of this newspaper.

People who love you are asking if there will be a funeral or memorial service. We talked about this a number of years back and you told me what you really wanted was just a party. I've reached out to two of your friends and we have a party tentatively planned for late June or early July. The three of us will get the word out.

This is a hard letter to write. Love letters usually are. Words are coarse tools with which to distill the essence of a human being; who you were to me and to the many others who loved you. But I'll give it a try.

My first memory of you was as a toddler. I'd be half asleep, my arms wrapped around your neck and you carrying me upstairs to my room. Last month, when I picked you up at the cremation society, the woman said, "lift him up by the bottom, he's heavy." I said something to the effect that you lifted me up by the bottom any number of times. I'm just returning the favor. Everything comes full circle, doesn't it?

You were born in 1932 at the height of the Depression, one of 5 children of Italian immigrants in Canton, Ohio. You rarely talked about your childhood when I was young. But when you did, you said you grew up in a multi-ethnic neighborhood and remarked that walking home at night, you knew the nationality of the residents by the smells coming out of their kitchens. Your experience I think was similar to many first-generation Americans, then and now. You lived in a dual world. You once said there was the ethnic culture of the home and the world of street and the great magic trick was to reconcile the two. It's a world I never knew and if I was exposed to it all, it was marginal at best. You understood the promise of America but realized at times the reality didn't always square with the promise.

By the time you were 10 years old, you were selling the Canton Repository downtown on the corner of Market and Tuscarawas. One of earliest headlines you shouted out was "US Victory at Midway".

Canton was not exactly out of a Norman Rockwell illustration. You used to say that it was named "Little Chicago" because any "vice" that could be found in Chicago could be found in Canton; on a smaller scale to be sure, but probably just as potent. There were children everywhere downtown then; kids shining shoes, girls selling paper flowers, the Amish children that would come in occasionally from the countryside selling produce. There were also a lot of "edgy" adults that oddly enough looked out for the kids.

In the course of your childhood, you sold newspapers, shined shoes, worked at a bakery and golf caddied for the privileged men at the golf course. As a teenager, you obtained membership in the Musicians' Union which allowed you to play in bars and clubs under aged. My guess is that you saw a fair amount of "adult behavior" in those places. But you were never coarsened by the experience. If anything, you always had empathy for people who were somewhat wayward or had a tough go in life.

In 1951 you joined the Air Force, got accepted to the Air Force Band and were stationed at Mather Air Field outside Sacramento. You often said that you joined the band because the worst day in the Air Force Band was better than the best day in the infantry. One of the sillier cracks you would make was that in the entire time you were at Mather, not one North Korean bomb hit Sacramento.

In 1953 you married Mom and started a family 2 years later. You were all of 23. When Mom was dying, she said that you were the best friend she could ever have had. Dad, you were the best friend I could ever have had.

You would go on to attend the Music Conservatory at the University of Pacific and in 1959 were hired by Sacramento City Unified as a music teacher.

What many forget about teachers is that they have numerous children and dedicated teachers, like parents, want the best for their kids. And that describes you underscored. Most people who knew you know about the first-class music program you had at Kennedy High School in the 1970's and 80's and that the JFK band represented California in Washington during the 1976 bicentennial celebrations, but they may not realize how much you cared about your kids after they graduated.

In the course of your career you wrote hundreds of recommendations to schools ranging from Yale to Julliard to Annapolis for "your kids" as well as numerous job recommendations. Many of your students went into traditional professions; some became music educators and professional musicians. One became a Grammy nominated Bassist, yet another became a naval aviator flying off a Nimitz Class carrier. You had so many people to be proud of.

I was blessed to have had you as my father and a friend. You were always a steadying force for me when I would overreact to some situation. You always told me to do the right thing, most of the time I did but at times I failed. In a very "teacher like voice", you told me the world was not divided between winners and losers, but really between "learners and non learners". It wasn't so much that you were an advocate of "creative failure", but rather that setbacks were a part of life and only useful if you learned from them. That's always has been a hard one for me to learn, Dad, particularly now. In the final analysis, it wasn't the gifts or a first loan for this, that or the other, it was the love and the blueprint for life you and Mom gave me.

As you grew older, you got smaller and smaller. I towered over you. But Little Father, to me you were a giant.

Thank you for being such an important part of my life.

Goodbye, Little Father, you loved me as much for the child I wasn't as for the child I was.

Love you always always.

Nicholas A. Angiulo (Mr. "A") Feb. 27, 1932 April 14, 2018

Memorial contributions may be made to the or to the Nicholas Angiulo Scholarship at CSUS.
Published in The Sacramento Bee from May 12 to May 16, 2018
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