By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
My lasting image of Frank Addario is one of Mr. Addario and his wife, Eleanor.
They are arriving for 8:30 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Kevin’s, their long-time parish. I see them walking across the foyer, side by side, arm in arm, stopping occasionally to exchange greetings with fellow parishioners before making their way into the church, favouring a pew near the front. Exemplars of lives well lived, their side-by-side togetherness characterized the closeness of their married life, 62 years.
Frank Anthony Addario, a much admired Wellander, died Friday, February 14, 2014, aged 92. His funeral Mass was celebrated Saturday, February 22, 2014 at his parish church.
The death notice for Mr. Addario provided readers with a well-crafted composite of a man who was gifted in so many ways: “He was a skilled and meticulous man. He was modest and understated. He could play bridge, change a tire, fix a broken sink, tie a perfect Windsor knot, carve a beautiful fruit platter, and tell you exactly what he and Eleanor did on their first date (they went to see Nellie Lutcher)” is an excerpt. The richness in texture we are provided from this man’s life calls to mind words in the writings of the evangelist, St. Luke: “Much is expected from those to whom much has been given.” Mr. Addario did not disappoint.
He was a long-time teacher and principal at Welland High and Vocational School. His teaching career there began in 1945 and on July 1, 1964 he was appointed principal, the post he held until June, 1969. He then became a superintendent with the Niagara South Board of Education. After his retirement, he served as an elected trustee on the public school board.
I researched Welland High and Vocational School memorabilia to gain some insight into his career. In his final principal’s message, published in the 1969 yearbook, The Student, he wrote with obvious fondness: “The last five years have provided many happy moments. Who will ever forget the excitement and rivalry of the Thanksgiving Day football games, the tense moments of the Tribune Tournament, the laughs and good times of the Annual Ice Carnival, the Midget Boys and Junior Girls SOSSA Basketball championships, the music exchanges, the wagon races, and the Talent Night showcases to mention a few. The March for Millions and the Red Cross Blood Donor Clinics gave both staff and students the opportunity to show their concern for the less fortunate and to serve their fellow man.”
Mr. Addario hired many on the teaching staff at Welland High during his time as principal. Among them were Bob Muir and his wife Heather, former Wellanders who now reside in Pelham.
“He hired me in 1965 and Heather in 1967,” Bob Muir wrote in an e-mail over the weekend. “Frank loved his family but also loved WHVS. A great man.”
Heather Muir e-mailed: “Frank Addario was already a force of nature when we came to Welland. As principal of Welland High he hired Bob straight out of university and convinced him that Welland was a great place to teach. Bob accepted the offer to teach History and decided it would be just a couple of years before he would return to Sarnia. Welland High under Mr. Addario was a place of decorum, respect and dedication to excellence. These were qualities Mr. Addario exhibited and demanded from others. One of his greatest public challenges was the student strike (short lived, in September, 1968) over construction delays in the renovations to the school. He was firm in the face of defiance, as he spoke students realized that returning to class was the best course of action.
“No small part of his continued success was the woman who stood at his side for over half a century. Together he and Eleanor raised an exceptional family, maintained warm relationships with hundreds of Wellanders and modelled respect and decorum every day of their lives.”
Among the several messages of condolence on websites of the funeral home and the daily newspaper is one from George and Catherine Addario. George Addario, a cousin to Mr. Addario, recalled: “Frank was my principal at Welland High and during one of our conversations long after graduation, Frank and I were talking about successes and failures, I mentioned to Frank that I really didn’t do all that well in high school. Frank simply said to me, ‘The degree of your success is proportional to the effort you put in.’ I will never forget that statement and use it to this day.”
Scriptural readings at the funeral Mass brought into relief the vocation in Mr. Addario’s life – master teacher, Rev. Jim Mulligan CSC said in his homily. The readings came from the prophet Isaiah (Old Testament), St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans (New Testament) and the Gospel – The Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. The articulate priest referenced all three.
Said Father Mulligan, about the beatitudes and the example that Mr. Addario was: “Blessed are the poor in spirit/the meek/those who hunger and third for righteousness/the pure in heart/ the peacemakers…Knowing Frank a little but listening to so many others since his death, Frank the teacher was a walking homily on the meaning of the beatitudes. Without flair, without attention drawn to himself, he simply lived humility, gentleness and mercy. He was there, a ministry of presence, in the time of someone’s crisis. He often was the agent who would bring people together, supporting those without the power of words and knowledge of laws and what to do.”
Just one more lasting image of Frank Anthony Addario.
CAPTION FOR PHOTO: Frank Addario was honored to be present when a painting of Welland High became part of a gallery on display at Rapelje Lodge in 2013. Shown with him is Ruth Brocklebank, a Rapelje Lodge resident and former Welland High student. The painting is by Welland artist and muralist Darlene Kisur-dePagter.
(A former reporter and editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ont. The Lasting Image feature will be an occasional post on the site )