There was more than one dimension to Bobby Garippo. Let me quickly recall some of them and get on with that dimension many among us knew best. Like so many of his friends here today, Bobby Garippo’s identity was forged by the neighborhood in which he grew up…its people, bonded by a common heritage,…the streets that became our litmus test… and the institutions that served the Legendary Taylor Street. Those institutions included Dante School, Holy Guardian Angel Church and School, the CYO, Sheridan Park and the Jane Addams’ Hull House.
Among those early achievements that portended the role he would assume later in life was the Presidency of the “Young Tay-Hals.” If you don’t think that’s the ultimate acknowledgment of strength and character, then you don’t know Taylor Street. Forget about New York… “If you can make it on Taylor Street, you can make it anywhere.
Bobby was a son to a loving mother, Mary, whom he adored and cared for throughout her waning years. His father, Harry Garippo, was one of the icons of the Taylor and Halsted neighborhood. An icon Bobby was destined to emulate. Carrying the mantle of Harry Garippo was not something he would take lightly.
Dating his sister, Tommie, I remember the pre-teen Bobby Garippo. I had the good fortune to coach him once in a grammar school basketball tournament. There were some great basketball players that came out of our neighborhood. I knew virtually all of them. The fabulous Billie Russo and Johnnie Incardone stand out. But there was no one like Bobby Garippo. An 8th grader popping jump shots that rivaled those of Kobey Bryant’s 3 pointers,long before the 3 point rule came into effect. It wasn’t until Michael Jordan came along that I saw the equivalent of a young Bobby Garippo’s driving lay-ups.
Bobby was recruited by and played for more than one Windy City World Championship team. His championship rings and the MVP award voted for his World Series performance playing for the Bobcats, along with his induction into the Hall of Fame, were further indications of the extraordinary athletic ability he possessed,shades of his father, Harry Garippo.
Later in life, Bobby, an entrepreneur in an assortment of business ventures, spent much of his time at the Ridgemoor Country Club. He became an outstanding golfer, representing the Ridgemoor Country club in various competitive matches. Tiger Woods’ success was attributed to the early age at which he started golfing. Tiger Woods first began swinging a golf club at age two. There was a four decade difference between Tiger and Bobby, when each first swung a golf club. Despite Bobby’s late start, there was only a minute difference in the level of play each had achieved.
There’s also the Bobby Garippo, as a young police officer, berating his partner for giving a traffic ticket to an elderly couple. If you know Bobby Garippo, he either tore the ticket up or paid for it himself. I suspect that the award he received, for his service as a police officer from the CPD, was not for writing traffic tickets.
How many of us, family and friends alike, had gone to Bobby trusting in his wisdom for advice or trusting in his fairness for the final resolution of a dispute? Yes, there was a “King Solomon” dimension to Bobby Garippo that we came to know and respect.
And there was Bobby Garippo the story teller. As he matured and began digesting his life’s experiences, he developed the knack of retelling those experiences, Richard Pryor style. They weren’t fabricated jokes. They were actual real life incidents in which he had been personally involved. If there is such a thing as an “endless laugh,” it was listening to Bobby recant those experiences in a way that only he can. My favorite was the story with the following punch line, Bobby, you play short stop and bat third.” If you haven’t heard that one, look me up later. Better yet, ask Corky or Moose.
Bobby and Darlene Colucci had two lovely daughters, Carla and Roberta. Most everyone in this room is aware of the intense feelings he had for his family, especially his daughters who visited him regularly at his sister’s home during his illness.
On January 30, 1958, with the birth of his first nephew, Marc Romano, another dimension of Bobby Garippo emerged:”Uncle Bob” Uncle Bob is that dimension of Bobby Garippo our side of the family knew best. For the first ten or so years of his having become Uncle Bob, he was the Santa Claus that pranced along our lawn with an elf as his partner. One year he even climbed our gabled roof to complete the ploy for his nephews. I can’t tell you how disappointed Bobby was that his partner, Jose, the Elf, and not Santa Claus, got top billing from his nephews each Xmas eve.
As far back as I can remember, Bobby spent every holiday, every birthday, every father’s day with his nephews and his nephews’ friends. When Alicia, Christina and Angelina, his grandnieces, came on the scene, one by one each, individually and collectively, were there for him on every one of those days that were so special to him.
Uncle Bob became the “go to” guy when all else failed you. That was true, not just for family, but for friends and new acquaintances, as well. Uncle Bob was anything and everything you could want. How many of us here today have heard an acquaintance or even a stranger exclaim, “You know Bobby Garippo!” Just this past summer a limo driver, a complete stranger, exclaimed to me, You know Bobby Garippo! And the limo driver wasn’t even Italian. The parting words of the limo driver, as he unloaded my baggage, were, “I don’t know if he would remember me, but, next time you see him, be sure to tell him I said hello. I love that man. I’ll never forget him and what he did for me.”
Bobby’s three nephews, Marc, Rick and Vincent, along with an unending web of his nephew’s friends and friends of their friends–and the ripple of friends that went on and on and on–all knew him as Uncle Bob. Let me read an excerpt from one of the multitude of my sons’ generation that came to know Uncle Bob. The full text is on the back cover of your program:
When I remember “Uncle Bob” I think of the legend he is. The laughter of unique humor, the magic of wit, and the greatest of all, unconditional love. As Uncle Bob continues his journey to fulfillment, I am eternally grateful and empowered by that experience. Thank you Uncle Bob!
For Brian Hanson, the author of that piece, and the Limo driver earlier, Bobby Garippo just happened to be passing through.
In India there is a saying, “You are my Gemma.” The Gemma is a tributary that flows into the Ganges River. At the point where the Gemma flows into the Ganges, the Ganges is no longer the same river. It is forever influenced by the Gemma as it journeys on down to the sea, ultimately touching and shaping distant shores. “You are my Gemma”A saying reserved for a very few, for those who had made our lives something more, something better, something different than it would have been had we not met them. Gemmas live on in us as we continue our personal journeys to the sea and beyond. They echo through eternity.
For many of us here today, our personal journeys will forever be influenced as a result of our lives having been touched by Bobby Garippo. Bobby Garippo was a Gemma, Gemmas never die!