If you ever want to see it in person, drive through Washingtonville, New York, stop at Betty's Country Kitchen, honk your horn at the blue CYO gym as you pass by...you'll see his street sign right on main street on Route 208. It all looks pretty similar to when I used to be a kid there, dressing up in wizard capes in my cousins' basement, immortalized somewhere on home video tapes that I may never see.
There have only been a few times in my life where I wrote a line without knowing what it means and then a few years later, it ended up becoming true. When we come home they'll name the streets after us became that way. But I didn't get lucky with that one, it's because of my grandfather's once-in-a-generation dedication to the community in which he lived.
He was king of his town, a town called Washingtonville. And nothing could stop him from moving about town, not even cancer.
When we got the news, we didn't know how long to expect him to be around. But he stayed, surprised us all, fought for a while. Fought from a hospital bed and fought from a homemade hospital bed. He was deeply religious, and he of all people didn't have to give his mortality a run for its money, but he was stubborn, ritualistic, not one for giving up. He was a lot to look up to. And he seemed to think his work here wasn't done yet.
That life work was made up of a lot of things. He ran our family's printing business, Spear Printing Co., and therefore printing is embedded in so many of my childhood memories. The smell of the print shop. The countless whistling, loud machines, the dusty stacks of different sized paper, the maze of rooms and wood wall paneling...the ringing phones. It's a smell and environment you don't forget, especially when you first experience it as a kid. Everyone in our family helped out at "the Shop" at one time or another. Printing was my grandpa's career but also a way he could give back. He printed my first ever business cards for me as an "artist" when I used to sketch the same four characters again and again in the fourth grade. It was magic to see my name on a business card alongside my drawings that birthday. Years later he would be there for me when I released my first music. He printed the cover of A Living Inverse, and then a year later printed the entire album booklet for How To Stay Young. He would measure things out with scientific precision, doing machine-like math of slicing measurements in his head, often talking out loud to himself...these moments in the print shop quite literally helped bring my music into reality.
His work also included being the founder and director of the local CYO basketball program where he provided so many kids with the means to play basketball, serving as editor and publisher of the Orange County newspaper, coaching basketball and traveling with his teams until his last moments, and attending daily Mass as an altar server at the local church, all while contributing to the town planning board as a fifty-year member...plus a whole lot more.