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Chuck Polito

 

POLITO, CHARLES NICHOLAS JR. December 29, 2016 in Beaufort, S. C., age 80, beloved husband of Janelle L. (nee Jones); loving father of Charmaine (Nelson) Perez and Janelle (David) Nelems.  Mr. Polito was a graduate of Lafayette High School, where he was a member of Tau Zeta Tau Fraternity. He received an Associate’s degree from Erie County Technical Institute and had a long career in food service.  Besides his wife and daughters he is survived by sisters Ann (late Thomas) Carroll and Margaret (Nils) Hjalmarson, a brother Louis (Kathy).

Mr. Polito was a caring ‘Poppa’ to grandchildren Charles (Brittney) Perez, Michael (Kendyll Short) Nelems, and Madison Nelems.  He was predeceased by his brothers Anthony (Dolly) and Joseph (Louise).  In lieu of flowers, donations to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation are requested. A Memorial Service will be held at St. Gregory the Great Roman Catholic Church, 200 St. Gregory Court, Williamsville, NY 14221, on Saturday, March 4, 2017 at 8:45 AM.

To post on-line condolences, click HERE.

    Chuck, his mother Grace Tramontana Polito, and his brothers Tony and Joe all were felled by the disease pulmonary fibrosis.  In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation at http://pulmonaryfibrosis.org/ways-to-give or at:

Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation
230 East Ohio Street, Suite 500
Chicago, Illinois 60611-3201

 

Charles N. Polito, Jr., chef, food service manager

Charles Nicholas Polito Jr., a
Buffalo native, passed away on December 29, 2016 in hospice care at Beaufort, South Carolina Memorial Hospital, after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis.    Chuck was the son of the late Charles N. Polito, Sr. and the late Grace Tramontana Polito.  He entered the U. S. Army in 1954, shortly after graduating from Lafayette High School, where he was a member of Tau Zeta Tau Fraternity (TZT), a source of lifelong friendships.   In the service, he was dispatched to mess hall duty “because he had worked in a grocery store” and they needed someone to cook: ironic, as he had never cooked before at all.   He quickly found out that he had a passion for it, and the mess hall assignment was to shape his professional life.

He and several of his high school friends (Leo Siracuse, Bill Tufillaro, Ange Coniglio and Tom Tirone)
were stationed in Germany in various villages during the same period in the 1950s, and he would often visit them when on leave (see below). He played 1 year of semi-pro football while in the army.  He found that the other players were larger than he, and after he injured his knee he decided he would stick to cooking .

After his military service he attended Erie County Technical Institute (now Erie Community College), earning an Associates Degree in Food Service Administration . Soon after graduating in 1959 he began employment with Interstate United Food Service (IUFS), where he supervised food service and supply accounts locally for Buffalo Children’s Hospital and for national accounts with US Steel, Republic Steel and General Motors. He was with IUFS for 24 years, relocating in the
Eastern US eight times to locations including Ohio, Florida, and Alabama, retiring as a Regional Manager.   He was an accomplished chef, and after retiring from the food service industry, he operated a successful child-care business with his family.

In 1960 Mr. Polito married Janelle L. Jones, his wife of 56 years.  They met while he was a student at ECTI and she was attending Buffalo State Teachers College.
They had their first date in September 1959.   He took her home to meet his family on New Years day of 1960. He had already told his mother Grace that he had found the girl he wanted to marry. They wed on September 3, 1960.  Their daughter Charmaine was born in 1961 and Janelle arrived in 1966.  They celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary among family and friends in Buffalo, in 2010.

Mr. Polito was pre-deceased by his elder brother Anthony (Dolly) and younger brother Joseph (Louise), who also was a fraternity brother in TZT.  In addition to his wife and daughters he is survived by three grandchildren: Charles (Brittney) Perez, Michael (Kendyll Short) Nelems, and Madison Nelems; by his sisters Ann (late Thomas) Carroll and Margaret (Nils) Hjalmarson; and a brother Louis (Kathy).

 

        I've known Chuck since our Lafayette High School days, in the early 1950's, as a dear friend and fraternity brother in Tau Zeta Tau fraternity.  We went into the Army together in 1954, and even though we were separated, we both wound up in Germany.  When we took our physicals, I weighed 125 pounds soaking wet, and Chuck weighed 250.  In Germany, he once visited me at my deployment in the little backwater town of Kirch-Goens, and thanked his lucky stars that he wasn't stationed there!

        A couple of months later, bundled in my bunk in the barracks at Kirch-Goens, in the middle of the night in one of the coldest winters in German history, I felt a presence, as though someone was watching me.  I drowsily opened my eyes, and in the dark I made out a huge shadow looming over me.  It seemed to be a giant, holding a club.  I rubbed my eyes and finally recognized that it was Charlie Polito, with his arms folded across his chest, holding a baseball bat.

       I cried "Charlie!  What are you doing here?"  He answered "I'm guarding you."

       I asked , "But what are you doing in Kirch-Goens?"  His answer: "I got transferred here."

       "Why are you in my barracks?"  -  "I'm s'posed to be guarding the motor pool, but it's cold out there!"

       "Why do you have a baseball bat?" - "They ran out of rifles!"

       Yes, that was your U. S. Army, keeping you safe from communism in the 1950's! 

       Chuck always looked out for me, and when our tour was over, even though we were in different units, we returned to the U. S. on the same troop carrier.  I was seasick the whole way, and couldn't keep hardly anything down.  But Charlie, being in the cook service, had pulled duty in the ship's mess.  He kept me alive, with saltine crackers that he 'requisitioned' from ship supplies.

       That friendship has lasted our whole lives, through Chuck and Janelle's stays in Cheektowaga, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, and wherever his profession as a first-rate chef led him.  Brothers forever.  ~ Ange Coniglio

 

   

From the pages of the TZT scrapbook 1952 - 1957

 

Chuck with TZT Fraternity Brothers and their dates at Buffalo's Town Casino in 1953

     

Joe Polito, Chuck, Bob Mangano, Bill Tufillaro
Orlando golf outing, 1997

Chuck showing his form
at the Orlando golf outing, 1997

   

Bob, Ange, Joe, Little Dick, Chuck, Sal, Big Sam, John
at Dick's retirement

Chuck and Janelle
at TZT's Vegas Reunion, 2002

   

Chuck and Janelle at their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 2010, with TZT Fraternity Brothers .

eulogy

Today, 4 March 2017, family and friends celebrated the life and legacy of Charlie Polito, and I was privileged to be asked to give one of the eulogies. 

I recall that when we were in high school at Lafayette, we'd 'mine' the couch at the Polito's home at 499 Breckenridge on Buffalo's West Side for loose change.  If we found a quarter, that was enough to get a gallon of gas for Charlie's Dad's car, a '48 or '49 Mercury that we called 'the Beast'.  And we had change left over to get a Coke to be shared by the six or eight fraternity brothers we crammed into the car.

I remember the times spent together, from TZT Valentine's Day dances and wiener roast hayrides in high school to the Army and beyond. I remember that our classmates Leo Siracuse, Bill Tufillaro and Tom Tirone all went into the Service at the same time as Chuck and I, and at our physical, I weighed exactly half of what Chuck weighed!  Then came shared experiences in our Army days, and then at Fraternity and class reunions, and at golf outings in Florida.


My least favorite part of growing old isn’t the creaky knees, or the aches and pains associated with an aging body.  It’s seeing my loved ones and friends leave me behind.  The older we get, the more it happens.

I’ve known Charlie for six and a half decades, and there are those of you who have known him since birth.   He was many things to many people: a loving son to his parents Charles and Grace, who I remember fondly; he was a little brother, a big brother; a dear husband, a very proud father and Poppy.  Even though we weren't close geographically, to let Charlie whip open his wallet to show off his kids and grandkids, he still used modern ways to boast of their accomplishments: email and facebook, and you could just picture him beaming as he spoke of them.

To his many nephews and nieces, he was 'Uncle Chuck' . . . everyone should be so lucky as to have an uncle like Uncle Chuck!Others will remember that fun-loving fraternity brother or former schoolmate from our days at Lafayette High School.

As I reflect on Charlie’s passing, though, I know that he hasn’t really left.  His love shines all around us, and if you’re like me, you’ll continue to find yourself thinking about him, larger than life, more permanent than death.  You’ll see something new and say to yourself, “Charlie would like that.”   You’ll hear a joke, and remember how he would crack himself up while he was telling one of his.  You’ll hear a song and remember where you and he were when you first heard it.  One of Charlie's favorites was vocalist June Christy.  I'll never hear another song by her, or hear the Four Freshmen ballad 'Charmaine', without thinking of Charlie.

And we’ll even speak to Charlie, and he’ll sometimes answer, because he will always be here in our hearts, and forever in our thoughts.

Somewhere, I’ve heard these words that help me deal with having to say “Goodbye for now” to someone I love:

       Don’t weep because he’s gone, SMILE, because he was here!

       May he rest in peace.

 

Lafayette High School classmate Leo Siracuse attended the Celebration of Life for Charlie,
and brought these photos from their 1955 Army service in Germany.

Unidentified G.I. to the left of Tom Tirone,
Chuck, and Bill Tufillaro

Chuck

 

Leo Siracuse and Chuck

Chuck and Leo

 

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