Artifact: Made in America

Photo: New York Times Co./Getty Images

On January 7, at the funeral for Salvatore “Bill” Bonanno, who died on New Year’s Day in Tucson, Arizona, his nephew Anthony Tarantola gave the eulogy reprinted below. Bonanno’s father, Joseph, was the head of one of New York’s Five Families; they went into “exile” in Arizona in the late sixties following the “Banana Wars,” a long struggle for control of the family triggered by the elder Bonanno’s decision to make Bill his second in command.

Good Morning.

Most of us tend to dwell on past decisions and worry about the future, forgetting we are here to live life to the fullest … in the present. Bill was not like most of us. He knew the value of living every moment. If you ever asked him what life is all about he would say, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

God knows Bill had plenty of those.

Please take a minute to look around you. (pause)

You’re here because Bill touched your life in some way. Maybe it was as a mentor, a father figure, a grandfather, a business associate, an advisor, or, because you just needed to talk to someone. Bill made the time! If you were a friend and needed him, you only had to call. Once you asked for help, he would drop what he was doing and take care of your problem, no matter what time of day or night completely disregarding his own health or circumstances. His resources were limitless, worldwide, and from every walk of life. I guess that’s not too surprising … since he was a man living in Two Worlds! You would think Two Worlds was enough for any man. Not for Bill, he’s probably busy organizing one heck of a party in his New World right now!

He lived in a world of Tradition, Respect & Honor. Bill was truly a Man of Honor. Bill was unique, because he made his relationships so special. He had the uncanny ability to make you feel you were important and your needs always came first. You knew anything you said that was confidential, remained confidential. If he ever asked you for a favor, you jumped at the chance to help. He brought excitement into every situation. He lit up the room when he walked in, and everybody wanted to be close to him seeking his attention … and he always came through with grace and humility!

Bill was a historian and teacher. He could tell you the history of Sicily and the United States in detail with names, places, and events that would astound you. He had a life-long passion for education instilled by his dad. He would say “Ancora Imparo” which, means, “still learning” a favorite expression of Senior. Bill always said if we learn something new everyday -the day was complete. Bill acknowledged dying as part of the of life and when discussing it always said his regrets in life were few. He did have a philosophy of life that only a “thinking” man or woman would appreciate. It is best described in one of his favorite poems and tells a lot about how he truly felt as he got older. If you would indulge me I would like to read it to you …

[text of “The Dash,” by Linda Ellis]

… Bill’s sense of humor, attention to detail, and always calling “shots” as he saw them without excuses, were evident even in death. If he were talking with us right now, I can hear him say, “O.K., I’m riding off into the sunset and figured I’d top the fireworks so you’d always think about me on New Year’s Day.

To Bill, my mentor, teacher, brother and father. I know the void will never be filled, but am so proud to have been part of your life and have you in mine.

If you truly want to honor Bill listen a little harder, care a little more, and do a lot more.

I’m sure when it is time to for us to take our journey Bill will figure out a way to greet us at the gate.

God Bless- I love you - Rest in peace.

Thank you.

Artifact: Made in America