August 17, 1955 – March 13, 2017
Good morning. My name is Pablo Malavenda, and I am one of Michael’s nephews. On behalf of my wife Kristin, my kids, Max & Zoe, and myself — I wish to offer my sincerest condolences to the family — especially Ann Terese, Marissa, Michael, my Mom, Lucille, and my Uncle Jimmy. I so wanted to be with you today — but am not able — so, I thought I’d share with you a few stories of one of my favorite people ever — my uncle Michael.
My memories of Michael go back to the 1960’s & 1970’s — growing up in a big Italian family with lots of aunts, uncles and cousins — who gathered every Sunday at our grandparent’s home for a big pasta dinner. Michael was only one year older than my brother Peter — so, although he was our uncle — he grew up with us and was very much a part of our generation of cousins. We loved and respected ALL of our uncles and aunts — but Michael was ours — in a special way.
Each Sunday, my grandfather, John Carone, got up at the crack of dawn, started the tomato sauce and meatballs — and then walked to church. On his way home from church he stopped at Shorty’s and bought candy bars for all of the grand-kids. BUT — he didn’t give them to us — he gave them to Michael to distribute to us at his will. Michael took us to his room — and had us earn the candy by picking up his room, doing push-ups, making his bed — and if a quarter didn’t bounce on his bed, he made us make it again — until it did. Eventually he would give in and give us our candy bars. The truth is though — we loved it!
Michael and my brother Peter were the leaders of this gang of cousins — or should I say “boy-cousins.” (My sister, Marybeth, was the only girl cousin and although she was tough enough to keep up with us, she often chose to hang out with all of the aunts and get pampered.) A motley crew we were — it was Peter, John, Jon, Scott, Tommy, Todd…and me. This was Michael’s turf — so, he would lead us in games — mostly baseball, football & basketball — and on adventures in the neighborhood. After dinner, when the Mr. Softee truck came through the neighborhood — my grandfather bought twin-popsicles and each of the cousins got a half — but not Michael. He got what he wanted. And again — we loved it!
During the summer months Michael spent many of his weeks with our family in Meriden — and we loved having him. Once my brother Peter spent a week with him in Hartford — but that ended badly with Peter getting his foot caught in the spokes of a bicycle and needing to go to the hospital — and Michael felt awful.
That whole era ended when my grandparents decided to move back to Franklin Avenue — but before the move was complete, my grandfather died suddenly. This is when my grandmother, Phyllis, asked my mother, Lucille, to take over the Sunday meals — and she did. Not much changed except the location — all the cousins were there and Michael still led us through our Sunday activities. We were now all entering middle school and high school — so our relationships began to evolve — and as the cousins got more athletic, the games got more intense.
As the least athletic of the bunch — I was sure I would be cast aside — but Michael wouldn’t let that happen. He tried to teach me how to catch a baseball — to no avail — but eventually I became the permanent pitcher or permanent catcher — and always the score keeper. He made me feel special, he saw me, he included me. One of the highlights of my early life was when Michael agreed to be my Confirmation sponsor. He attended Confirmation Mass in an awesome pink suit. He looked so good the pastor approached him and told him he loved his suit. I selected St. Michael the Archangel as my saint — and Michael gave me a gold medal of my saint — which I have not taken off since and wear to this day. Much like St. Michael, my Uncle Michael was a warrior — he protected me, he defended me and he made me a better person.
When I was accepted to attend UConn — I had no way to get to campus. I eventually moved into my grandmother’s apartment on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Bond Street and took the bus each day to the UConn Hartford Campus. Michael was living there at the time too. When Michael and Ann got engaged — he moved into an apartment in Wethersfield and asked me to be his roommate until they were married. He didn’t need me — but he knew I would be more comfortable in his apartment with my own bedroom and not on a cot in the living room of my grandmother’s. I cherish that time I spent living the life of a genuine Italian on the “avenue.” I went with my uncles and cousins to the South End Italian Club, I was the scorekeeper for the South End Yankees and helped plan Michael and Ann’s wedding with the help of Rosemary, Ann’s sister. What an incredible experience for a kid from Meriden — and Michael was at the center of it all.
Soon after those glorious days, Michael and Marissa were born, and a new generation of cousins was emerging — Anthony arrived and Jamie was getting older. Our generation of cousins was also getting married and having kids and drifting apart. When my grandmother passed — Sunday dinners continued but the focus had shifted to the younger cousins. To me, Michael was still the bright light of the family. Before our eyes Michael became a man, a husband — and what a joy it was to see him become a father. Michael had so much love for each and every one of us — but the love he had for Michael and Marissa was boundless. Even though he now had a family of his own — Michael always reminded me that he loved me, he would protect me and most importantly he was proud of me.
I was so happy that Michael met my wife, Kristin, attended our wedding, met my two kids, and attended both of my two kids’ Christenings and their first birthday parties. Soon after that Michael had his accident — but my family and I had wonderful visits with him twice a year — each time we traveled to Connecticut from Indiana — for the past 15 years. Our most recent visit was in December — and we got a lot of hugs in.
I know for certain that Michael was carried to Heaven in the palm of God’s hands. He was greeted by St. Peter — who said “Welcome — come right in! I’ve been watching you since you showed up to that Confirmation Mass in a pink suit.” He immediately hooked up with his partner in crime, my brother Peter and they stormed in and loudly interrupted a serious game of setback with my grandmother, my grandfather, my father, Patty, Sonny, and Ronny. Heaven has a new angel who brings his laughter and his love and his light.
Dear Michael — I love you. I miss you. I thank you. And I’ll see you someday — on the other side.