Remembering a Great Man on Presidents Day

In honor of Presidents Day (can someone please tell me where the apostrophe should go here!) I had originally intended to write this post reflecting on the legacies of the most revered men (thus far) in our country’s short history. Although our presidents have had their flaws, today is generally a day in which we reflect upon them and honor them. I wanted to discuss what made them leaders, what their positive and negative qualities were, and what they left behind.

Instead, however, I will leave that to the historians. Today I woke up to the sad news that my Great Uncle Rogie (the adjective necessary in both an upper and lower case) had passed in the middle of the night. And so, I would like to take a moment instead to reflect on his legacy. For although he never earned the title of “president”, he truly was a leader and an inspirational figure in my eyes, and duly deserves the honor.

Roger Sorrentino, or Uncle Rogie as I always knew him, was a man who knew how to squeeze every last drop out of life. Every memory I have of him is filled with joy, for he carried the emotion in everything he did. He ate with joy, he drank with joy, he conversed with joy—frankly the man expressed flatulence with joy. And he let everyone know it (both the joy and the flatulence). Often after dining at my home, it would be insufficient to just express gratitude or satisfaction with a mere thank you. Oh no—we were always graced with spirited accounts in the form of letters. Not one afraid of the superfluous adjective, these letters were sated with expressions of reverence, simply for the celebration of a good meal and time well-spent together.

These letters were not only noteworthy for their exuberance. My uncle was a stupendous writer. These missives themselves contained references ranging the gamut from Shakespeare to pop culture, yet the flow was always seamless. His passion and skill with the written word certainly inspired me to want to write even in the shadow of his talent. Often I would timidly submit some of my earliest pieces of school work from an English class or something to that affect, looking for his judgement. I always knew that his criticism was constructive and something to be valued.

Perhaps this ability to critique wisely came from his many years as a teacher. He graced the halls as an English teacher from Yonkers, to Italy, and even to China. His spirit could not just be contained on one continent, so he carried it throughout the world. And the ripple was felt. My life has been filled with meeting his past students coming back and expressing the transformative impact he had on their lives. In fact, it is because of his ability to change the lives of so many through teaching that has inspired me to be a teacher. If I can influence one student the way he impacted so many, I will feel as if my life merited something.

So today, as we all reflect on the meaningful legacies of men who changed the world, I would like to add my Uncle Rogie to that list. He was a man filled with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thank you Uncle Rogie for your influence in my life. May you rest in peace.