As a dear friend of my Father put it, what this is really about is a love affair with Frank Gaglione.
We are all here because we love Frank Gaglione, and each of us here felt love from him whatever the role – Father, Husband, Brother, Grandfather, Friend, Confidant, Mentor – Frank Gaglione had a love affair with people and a love affair with the law.
I’m standing here with a distinct split between mourning and a sense of celebration for the life of a truly remarkable man that I proudly call my Father. What I have to offer is my perspective of his life and how I loved him, and the feelings and stories about him that all of you have shared with me recently and over the years. In that sense, it is only the cumulative consciousness of this room that can begin to define the journey of my Father, Frank Gaglione.
It all starts with a mama’s boy wanting to make his Mother proud. The relationship that he had with his mother, Bertha Gaglione, was extremely formative, and the charm, charisma, and twinkle in his eye came from his knowing he was making his mother proud. It also explains a few other things in leading to this incredibly sharp dressed man who could solve problems with nothing but integrity. He had been diagnosed with his heart condition at the early age of 10 at which point his mother, Bertha, no longer bought him sneakers for fear he would run … enter Weejun Penny Loafers. That, paired with Bertha laying out his clothes for him everyday, amounted to a boy with perfectly pressed khakis and loafers on the basketball court.
I love the daydreaming sense I get when I think about his Wonder Years. I look at the old photos of this cool little kid hanging out with his neighborhood buddies. It’s like a story book to me. I can just imagine my Dad and his buddy since the age of three, Steve Robshaw, playing catch, whiffle-ball, checkers (which he always claimed he was the checkers champ), or hanging out in their tree house.
He was the man we know and love early on not only in dress but also in character. His brother, my Uncle John, didn’t walk or talk until he was 2 years old [said he didn’t need to – if he needed to say something Frank would say it for him, if he needed something Frank would get it for him]. In his 67 years, it seems unfathomable that he went on to help and be there for so many people – there was only one of him. He was there for us on a personal level, he was there for us on a professional level, calm, always a gentleman. His advice was highly regarded, helping us navigate life. He got us out of trouble to the point where ‘Call Frank’ had become a catch phrase. For me growing up, I took it for granted. There was no speeding ticket that could stick, no trouble with the law that couldn’t be handled with a phone call. And it was only when I left NY and got to college in New Hampshire did I realize that being out of his jurisdiction was a whole other ballgame. Some of the stories about Frank Gaglione being ‘the fixer’ are fun anecdotes, like times when he was quick with his sheriff’s badge to ward off a rookie cop from a buddy in need.
Some of the stories are about fixing deeper issues – again both personal and professional. “I lost my suit of armor” is a definitive quote from his best friend of 50 years.
My first memories of my Father are of him as a lawyer, building his practice and taking care of his family. As far as I could tell, he was always on this path and maybe he was even born as a lawyer. So it amazes me that this exceptionally brilliant man, who granted was getting a top notch Jesuit education at Canisius High School, was an average student [maybe even a goof off], and who, continuing his esteemed Jesuit education at Wheeling College in West Virginia, maintained a mediocre GPA. This brilliant man, this larger than life man, this charismatic man, this force of a litigator, this mentor who taught lawyer’s their craft [who till this day say everything they learned about the law they learned from Frank Gaglione], was still just a diamond in the rough. But he was already armed with his intelligence, courage, wit, warmth, personality and good looks [in short, blessed with the Seven Beauties] when his true passion came calling – the law.
Tracing his path to Catholic University in Washington, DC, where he studied law and interned at the Pentagon during the summer lead to his first real accomplishment as Editor of the Law Review. He’s married, Christy’s on the way, and just barely in his twenties. Now he is a serious student, the light switches on.
As Editor of the Law Review he begins to get noticed and contemplates taking the bar in DC, ultimately to bring his family back to their roots in Buffalo where he interviews with Saperston, Day and, yes, he gets hired beginning his career as a litigator. From here I can go on about his rising star in the world of law, he becomes partner, he heads the litigation department, he becomes managing partner, and is in fact now the finest corporate litigator. He takes all his talents and starts his boutique firm back here in Williamsville where he can practice law for big firm clientele in his small firm atmosphere. Perfect.
Those are the nuts and bolts, but where the real plot unfolds is in the courtroom, he loved the action. I only saw him in court a couple of times, but I remember the first time I did like it was yesterday. I was young, and I thought, well, I’ll go see what the old man does for a living. I sat down in the beautifully ornate courtroom, watched the players take their places, saw my Dad, maybe gave him a little wave, and watched him proceed to own that courtroom. I had heard it said before, he had the brains and he had the balls. The last couple of days lawyers that have worked with my Father have been telling me over and over how much they learned from him and how much he gave to them, a lawyer of his stature actually taking time on many occasions offering spot on advice. With all his skills and connections, with his ability to “get people to move in his direction” he never compromised his practice or his integrity for money – never. That was his love of the law.
I would like to describe a few sides of Frank Gaglione. He’s a man as smooth as a man could be, larger than life. He walks into a room, he is a presence, and when he talks with you, you feel like you are the only person in that room, the best of company, a hell of a guy. He’s a father raising his kids, a Grandfather head over heels in love with his Granddaughter. He’s a husband sharing a wonderful life with Nancy. There’s a side filled with humor, so many stories of ‘laughs’ with Frank. Whether he is in on the joke or on the receiving end of a prank, he supplied so much gut-twisting humor into our lives that recalling the stories will make us laugh forever. Accident prone, perhaps the most unsettling side of Frank Gaglione. I was going to tell a few stories on this one, but I think everyone here can recall one or two. The musician, tickling the ivories at home for family and friends, golfer, story teller, boat captain, Dean Martin fan, Steve martin fan, the list goes on …
So, here we are to say goodbye, but this is not the end of the love affair. He lived as a legend and that can only imply that he will live on in our thoughts, our stories, in what he stood for, and in what he built. He lived his life and filled it up from beginning to end. I am sad for us, for our loss, but I could not be more happy or proud for what filled the bookends of his life. Again, there was just one of him, one who shared so much.
Francesco Tomasa Giuseppe Gaglione Sr., this is FrancescoTomasa Giuseppe Gaglione Jr. saying we all love you, we are all here for you, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts.