By Sal Girifalco
Dr. …, Professor…, Uncle…, Brother…, God-Father…, Grandpa…, Dad…, Husband…, Friend….Whatever you called him, Lou was special.
He was interested in everything, and learned about it all. He was an avid reader. Reading was very important to him, it was a passion. Last night I took a quick look in his library and saw two titles that caught my eye: One was The Quantum Theory of Many Particle Systems. A few feet apart sat Old Jewish Folk Music. Diversity!
I was not that interested in reading when I was younger. To help change that, one day he handed me a volume from his complete works of Mark Twain and suggested I read the story about James Fennimore Cooper. I found it hilarious and became a fan of Mark Twain. I even tacked down the same set of books for myself. It also showed that we had a similar sense of humor. This reminds me that I need to get my grandkids to read some of those stories. Nate and Sam, get ready.
Early on Lynn commented: “He makes anyone feel comfortable, and can talk to anyone about anything. From children, to renowned scientists, even politicians. He made everyone feel as they were if the most important person in the world.”
Lou was a lover of good music (he had a strict definition of “good”…It began in the 1700’s and ended in the 1940’s).
He had charisma. Let me tell you a story. Lou was always a celebrity among our relatives. One evening He, Cathy, Dot, Lynn and I had to travel to a wake for a cousin. We arrived after the starting time and were alone in the parking lot, feeling a bit solemn and were about to walk in. Dot asks, “Lou, why do these people always make such a fuss over you?” He buttons his suit jacket, raises himself up to his full height, and says with a stern face, “Because I’m Don Luigi!” We instantly went from wake mood to laughing. We had about 5 seconds to regain our composure before he opened the door and walked in. Naturally, the fuss over him was made.
He loved photography, even developing his own pictures in the early days
He was very good ping pong player as I learned as a teen when he trounced me.
He wrote a dozen books, for many different audiences. Some were Science books that most of us can’t read. For those who would like to understand him a bit better, and be closer to him, I recommend Never Turn Left. He got that phrase from our Father who felt that turning left was dangerous and you could get almost anywhere with only left turns. Funny, but UPS has adopted that as a guide line for its drivers. Another great read is Private Thoughts, Dep and Shallow. There you will read many short essays that reflect some his thoughts and reflections. I have not yet been able to read My Life with Cathy. Maybe in a little while. If you haven’t read those yet, visit Amazon. They are a treat.
And, to show his diversity, he wrote a University based mystery, “The Prime Sequence” Naturally, it has a math based title.…..And, If you want to win at the Craps, read his book on it.
To bring him down to earth, Cathy would often remind him that he made about 6 cents/hr. on his books.
He was personable, friendly, kind, caring, loving. A man of integrity.
He had a great sense of humor. I want to share our last laugh together. When we visited 2 weeks ago, we had a conversation and in addition to telling him how important was to me, I said there was something I could not forgive him for. He looked at me questioningly, and I reminded him that when I was considering high school subjects, I had to pick a foreign language. He said that since I was inclined towards science or engineering, that I should take German. So, I did. Big mistake. I could not stand it, and never found any use for it. I also said that I recently learned that he didn’t like German either. He looked me in the eye, scrunched up his face and said in a forceful voice “I hated German”. “Yet, you told me to take it!!!”, I said. We laughed hard over that.
He even played the piano.
Some considered him smart. If there was any doubt, during a visit in February, his daughter Terry and I were talking and she told me about a new product she had come across. It was light, thin, almost indestructible, and was made up of a single layer of carbon atoms. We saw Lou a while later and thought he would want to hear a material science discovery. We said it was a new material made up of a single carbon atom. He immediately said, “Oh, you mean Graphene”! Terry and I looked at each other. “How do you know about that?” “I did research on it some years back”. He then described it exactly as Terry had. WOW. Here is a new discovery generating new products, and Lou was involved with it years back. I think we were simultaneously surprised, yet not surprised at the same time.
He had broad shoulders that carried a lot for others.
Two weeks ago I told him about Lynn and my new granddaughter, the youngest Girifalco. He said “The circle of Life”. We talked about that a bit and both agreed that some parts of that circle suck.
One thing is for sure, he cast a big shadow that affected us all. As Sandy recently said, “He was a giant of a man”.
Lou was a unique man that we are all fortunate to have had in our lives.
Now, a challenge…
I ask you to each think of some quality of his that you admire and that you are not so good at. Some that were mentioned are: Integrity; Look for humor, Welcoming; Accepting; Curious; Friendly; Forgiving; Family First.
To honor him, consider trying to build on that quality in yourself. That way he will always be with all of us. Don’t talk about it with each other, do it. Let us experience it.