This past Wednesday, Anthony Migetz — one of my last surviving uncles from Berlin, New Hampshire — died at the age of 93.
There are those in Berlin who still remember Tony for his many years of service working for the city’s police department, serving its residents and insuring their very safety, come hell or high water. But as I viewed Tony’s obituary on the New Hampshire Union Leader‘s website today, I learned that there was a lot more to him than being a police officer — for example, Tony was a past president of the New Hampshire Police Association, as well as an appointee to the New Hampshire Appeals Tribunal. Not to mention the fact that Tony played key roles in organized labor over the years. It was proof positive that Tony cared about the community he lived in — and how to improve it for the better.
Tony was a devoted husband to my late Aunt Bernice, who died last December — their marriage, which lasted for almost seventy years, was an inspiration to many who knew and respected them. Even into his late-eighties and early-nineties, when Bernice’s health was already declining, Tony continued to help her out by doing chores around their home and head out in their car to take care of whatever errands that needed to be done — concrete proof of how deep Bernice and Tony’s relationship as husband and wife (and equals) was.
Tony was also a great uncle, as evident when he and Bernice welcomed my family into their home when we headed up to Berlin to visit our relatives most summers during our combined lifetimes. I always enjoyed going to Bernice and Tony’s home, where I could pretty much take it easy — it was a reminder of how much I enjoyed going up to Berlin during most of my lifetime. Tony was also a great brother-in-law to my late father — even in the last decade of my father’s life, when a stroke permanently crippled his left side. Having the entire family go up to Berlin (and the Lavernoich camp in Milan) nearly every year of our lives was an event in itself — more precious than all the riches in the world. After suffering his stroke, our trips to Berlin became even more precious whenever we took Father between 1985-94, and especially when we visited Bernice and Tony’s home, which was always a sure bet when it became the center of attention in our personal lives, especially when many of Father’s other brothers and sisters came over there to see not only him, but also the rest of my family. For that, we’re eternally grateful to Bernice and Tony — and the rest of our relatives living in Berlin — for welcoming us into their homes, and treating us as both family and friends.
The last time I saw Tony alive was back in May, when I came up to Berlin with my brothers Bill and Edward to attend Bernice’s burial — it had been almost three years since my last visit to Berlin. When my brothers and I visited Tony back in May, what I saw was heartbreaking — and it’s stayed with me even after I came back from Berlin. The uncle I knew for all of my forty-five years was no longer the strong and vibrant man that he once was — a reminder that our personal worlds have changed forever, a fact that must always be accepted, no matter how painful it is.
The next time my family visits Berlin, I know that things will already changed greatly. While we’ll no longer be able to visit Bernice and Tony’s home (as well as the building where my father’s family grew up in), we still have the great memories that we’ll always cherish whenever we visited Berlin in the past — and how it shaped not only our lives, but also how we viewed the world we lived in. And in the end, that’s the kind of legacy that’s always preserving.
July 30, 2010