July 16 • 09:26 AM

Big love, big life, big, big legacy

June 12, 2019
Note: In remembrance of my father Francesco 'Frank' Minolli on the eve of Father's Day, I am re-running the eulogy I shared with the huge gathering who came to honor his life after he passed away on February 21, 2011. It is hard for me to believe eight years have gone by. I miss him more with each passing year.

What happens when you have big love? Great love?

Let me tell you.

A boy meets a girl. They are very young. They choose to love each other then and don't even know it. They are familiar. They speak the same language, literally and in ways that cannot be described. Her name is Anna. His name is Francesco. Destiny is sealed.

What happens when you have big love like this? You get four daughters and a family like no other. It does not, cannot happen "by accident."

My sisters and I were brought up to not squander our gifts. My dad had many and through his remarkable talent for just about everything, we learned to make the most of our own gifts. The most important one was the gift of family. And when you are the product of such big love, you know you are special. You must be. There is no other explanation than love. Huge, huge love.

My dad would be rolling his eyes right now, assuming a pseudo-mudra yoga pose and letting out a slow, low "ohmmmmmmmmm" to tease me, but I believe our spirits chose each other. And I know that it does not end here.

I know this because we never would have been so blessed had we squandered our gifts another time. I know this because we have been so blessed to have dodged many bullets. Iraq deployments, rollover accidents, heart attacks, cancer surgeries, illnesses, job loss, turmoil, heartache. We persevered and rose above.

I know this because we always had music. Dad wired our entire house for sound. Unbelievable—that is unless you know my dad—there are speakers built into the walls of every single room in the house we grew up in. And we sang songs. A favorite of my dad's was Simon and Garfunkel's 'The Boxer.' We were all 'the boxer,' though we really didn't know why back then. Now I know. My dad always knew. He was the boxer right up to the very end. And it doesn't end there.

I know this because we always had art. An appreciation for creation; a sometimes excruciatingly boring dissection of how and why things were created. Why things worked the way they did. If you ever want to know the intimate details of the space and energy required to create a vacuum when you think you're simply putting Saran Wrap on leftovers, do so in front of my dad. You think you're storing food. In my dad's world there's a better way to store it. And he'll tell you about it. More than once.

There was nothing he couldn't figure out, fix, make better or accomplish. He even understood the mysteries of life—mostly by knowing there are mysteries. And he knew the "order of things."

That was among my dad's favorite sayings. When we were troubled by the bittersweet realities of life and death—the loss of a pet, human tragedies, loved one's passing—his answer "it's the order of things" helped make sense of things that sometimes, in our small human world, were hard to make sense of. He often spoke about "the order of things," and knew—still knows—there's an order of things that cannot be interrupted, altered or changed. Except, maybe, by love.

I know this because we always had nature. He'd park the motor home in a wildflower field, next to the lakeshore or out in the woods. My dad's deep appreciation for the beauty of nature was a gift of love.

And that love also included good food. Wonderful, colorful, fragrant food. Italian food; the best food in the world. All kinds of other food, too. Whatever it was we were encouraged to try it. And we were opened up to new and different things. It was yet another experience of life, and it does not end here.

I know this because we had adventures beyond the scope of what most people realize. How many 45-year-olds take a 500 mile motorcycle trip with their 75-year-old dad and 70-year-old mom with nothing more than the gear that fit in the saddle bags? Better still, how does a middle aged woman explain to her peers that her folks are at Daytona's Bike week...and the real topper...Sturgis? Ask me. I'll tell you.

How does this happen? How do we get all these gifts? Because we chose each other and we were chosen. My father, at age 83, continued to ride his Harley until mid-September of 2010.

He was an adventurer, an artist, a connoisseur, a physicist, mechanic, teacher, drill sergeant, soft touch, and a pioneer. A pioneer from a long line of pioneers who learned to use their gifts; it was part of his DNA. And now it is part of mine, and my sisters.

You cannot tell me this "just happens." It happens because of great love. My dad's great love of family. Of life. Of laughter. Of us. And it does not end here.

My dad, Francesco 'Frank' Minolli, passed away at 11:04 a.m. on February 21 (2011) with the sounds of all of our voices in his ear. Now, his song of life forever sings in mine.

Email Catherine at

Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.
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