<< (Back) In Memory of Frank

With tears and then a party, friends say farewell to Frank

By ANDY ROSEN, Reformer Staff

Monday, June 26

BRATTLEBORO -- It was Frank's party at the Putney Inn on Saturday.

The building was full, and though the guests had heavy hearts, still mourning Frank Giamartino after his death this week, there was laughter in the air.

Earlier in the day, in a eulogy at Giamartino's funeral at St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church, his wife Mary had encouraged everyone to come along to a reception at the Inn. She said Giamartino would've wanted nothing more than to have a party.

"He said when his time was done, he was going to have a great chat and a bottle of scotch with God," she said. "I don't know if he's done talking yet."

Frank Giamartino, of Newfane, died last Monday from injuries sustained in a car accident along Route 30. He was 53. The co-owner of Hotel Pharmacy, he was active in the church and his community. He was a regular umpire at all levels of youth baseball, and a loyal, enthusiastic New York Mets fan.

Throughout the day, friends and family remembered Giamartino as a warm welcoming presence, who touched all who knew him.

In his brother Joseph Giamartino's words, Frank Giamartino was "larger than life."

"Family for Frank was not just a blood thing, but all of humanity," his younger brother said in his eulogy. "I can only dream of touching and influencing the lives of so many people. We will carry his inspiration and example with us forever."

So it seemed fitting that so many people would come together in his honor. Guests at the memorial service filled the pews and back walls of St. Michael's Church.

The service was simulcast to overflow visitors at St. Michael's School across the street.

On Thursday and Friday, thousands of people came to Giamartino's calling hours at Brattleboro Union High School to pay their respects. Mary Giamartino said Sunday that of all the 2,000 pictures of Giamartino at that event, he was smiling in every one.

The only time he wasn't happy, she said, was when he couldn't get an insurance claim to go through for one of his patients.

"He'd just give them the medicine for free," she said.

Handshakes became hugs as people who arrived early for the Saturday morning funeral shook off their umbrellas and shared tales of overnight flights and early morning drives.

Those at the funeral stood up to greet Giamartino at the door when his casket entered the chapel, and his personality was present in the room all day.

Outside of the funeral many people wore New York Mets shirts, hats and jackets. Members of a Little League baseball team, the Cubs, were there in uniform to show their support.

In his eulogy, Frank's son Vincent remembered little things about his father that made up the man himself.

Frank used to get sons Nicholas and Vincent out of bed early on snow days, and order them to shovel the front of Hotel Pharmacy.

When they were finished, Vincent said, it was crucial to return the shovels carefully. If they all fell out of the closet, he said, Frank would not be pleased.

"My dad would get so furious," he said.

"Just remember all the elements that made him the man he was," said Vincent. "That's a big part of who he was, emotion in general."

There were many different ways to remember Frank; as a baseball umpire, as a fan, as a father, husband, brother and son, as owner of the Hotel Pharmacy, or a boss. Still, everyone seemed to appreciate his friendship above all.

The staff of Hotel Pharmacy, who had lost their leader, served as honorary pallbearers at the funeral.

"My heart is breaking for my staff," Mary said on Sunday.

The Rev. Stanley Deresienski, pastor of St. Michael's, officiated the funeral mass. He shared some of his impressions of Frank.

Giamartino was active in the church, he said, and a passionate voice on the board of St. Michael's School. Rev. Deresienski said Frank, as a pharmacist, helped him deal with diabetes and other medical issues.

"Frank was always there for me, and I know he was always there for you," he told the crowd. "Frank's goodness and love has not disappeared. His willingness to help and reach out to those who have a problem brings light to a world dark with selfishness.

"Frank's light is still shining brightly in the world. Because of Frank, I am a more human man, a more caring Christian and a more compassionate priest."

Family friend Donna Phinney, whose son Seth William worked for Giamartino at the Hotel Pharmacy, said she loved his sense of humor, and the fact that he always had time to chat.

"Frank had a way of no matter how busy he was, he could give you his undivided attention and make you feel like you were the most important person in the room and you had the most important question of the day," she said. "He just had a way of making you feel important and special."

Phinney said she'd gone to Frank for her prescriptions for 15 years.

As the funeral ended, and the crowd filed out, "Sugar Magnolias," by the Grateful Dead, played on the church's public address system. Family got into stretch Lincoln Navigators, and made their way to the party in Putney. Hundreds of people followed in their own vehicles.

"This is what Frank would've wanted," said friend Margee Fagelson. "That, and 'Sugar Magnolias' playing at the church."

She said the Giamartino family had become like her own kin, and marveled at the number of people who felt that way.

"I just thought Frank and Mary were better to me, but I was sorely mistaken." Fagelson said. "Everyone thinks they were solely generous to them."

But Giamartino was generous to everyone, and it was clear on Saturday that, though Giamartino is gone, his effect on this corner of the world is real, and it's here to stay.

It's evidenced by the sheer number of people who have shown their support for Giamartino and his family.

"He said to have a huge party," Mary said Sunday. "The entire town was spectacular. The police, the state police, the sheriff ... everyone in town, who did things for me that I don't know about yet. I can't say enough about the community."