FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 13, 2009
MAYOR BLOOMBERG DELIVERS EULOGY AT FUNERAL SERVICE FOR DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION SEWAGE TREATMENT WORKER GENNARO MONTELLO
The following is Mayor Bloomberg's eulogy as delivered:
"Thank you, Monsignor. Ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner Steve Lawitts, President Lillian Roberts and Joe DiGiovanni, Joey here? Joe, I just wanted to say thank you. Joe, you should know, is somebody who tried very hard to respond and to save Gennaro Montello when this terrible accident happened.
"Now it's not too often that I get a chance to refer to Mick Jagger from the pulpit, but this is one of those days because we're here to celebrate the life of a man whose admiration for the Rolling Stones was, I'm told and as many of you know, practically limitless. In the Concert for New York after 9/11, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards performed a song in honor of the people that were lost that terrible day. It was called 'Salt of the Earth.' Now there are certainly notes of cynicism in that song if you know the lyrics but to me, the term 'Salt of the Earth' fits Gerry Montello to a 'T' from everything that I've been able to find out about him.
"He was indeed one of those quiet, hard-working people whose struggles and sacrifices are all too often gone unsung, but make this world a better place. So to you, Donna, I never got a chance to meet before we talked on the phone, to Gerry and Briana and Agnes; to Gerry's beloved adopted family, his in-laws the Kostas - his mother-in-law Mary and his three brothers-in-law Billy and Robbie and John; and to all of those who worked side-by-side with him at the Owl's Head Wastewater Treatment Plant I just want to say how deeply the people of New York City appreciate what Gerry Montello did for our City and how much we share the sorrow of his passing.
"When you ask his co-workers what Gerry was like, these are the kinds of phrases that immediately leapt to their minds: 'He had your back,' 'He was a fiercely loyal friend,' and 'It didn't matter what had to be done; Gerry would pitch in.' At a plant like Owl's Creek, that last quality is all-important. Gerry's official job title was sewage treatment worker but in a real sense that actually meant doing whatever it takes to keep the plant running. So on a day-to-day basis,
Gerry was something of a mechanic. He was a bit of a carpenter. He could do a little masonry and a little plumbing and by all accounts he was an expert glazier. And on top of all that, he was a walking encyclopedia on every episode of the Honeymooners and on the movies of James Cagney. I do remember the Honeymooners very well and it was one of those things that I shared with Gerry.
"He was, in short, the proverbial jack-of-all-trades and he never said no to a friend or refused any job and all his hard work was truly a labor of love for his family. Gerry was very aware of and very proud of how he had pulled himself up by his own bootstraps. As a young man, he'd also struggled to anchor his life, something that you, Donna, helped him do when he met and married you.
"He found meaning in being a husband and a father, and in devoting himself to providing greater opportunities than he'd had for young Gerry and for Briana. And that's why he poured himself into extra work not just at the plant, but in extra outside jobs at night and on the weekends so his family could get ahead. He was overjoyed when that hard work paid off a few years ago when you moved into your own home in Dyker Heights. And now he was looking ahead, looking ahead to young Gerry's high school graduation this spring and to watching Briana's own high school career begin to take off.
"Let me say something to the two of you, Gerry and Briana. I know what you're feeling. My father died when I was 21 years old, roughly your age, and you never get over it. But the tears do change to laughter and to good stories. My sister and my mother and I talk about my father. We did a couple of weeks ago at my mother's hundredth birthday and we went over the memories that we share and that wonderful bond that he left all of us and I'm sure that's going to be true for you two.
"So Gerry, when the Mets finally win that pennant - who knows, maybe that'll be this year - you'll hear your Dad's voice cheering on and me as well. It better be a Subway Series with New York winning in the seventh game. And Briana, as his little girl develops into a young woman, your father's spirit will be filled with pride. I have two daughters and it's all I think about. And when you both strive and succeed in the classrooms and in your careers - and Gerry, you have the responsibility now as the man in the family - you'll be doing what he would have wanted you to do and what would make him very happy. He would want you to have a great life and have lots of friends, lots of laughs, lots of good times and lots of success.
"Donna, I know these days have been very difficult for you but also I know that Gerry's legions of friends in the community and on the job, many of whom knew Gerry virtually all his life, have been there for you and they'll continue to be there for you. And I can tell you this: today in the city, flags at schools and courthouses and on public buildings are all flying at half-staff throughout the city and that's in honor of your Gerry. It's a tribute to what he did for this city. Everybody tells me he really was a good man and he was one of those 280,000 people, including me, who work for the City. He got paid a little more than I did, but that's okay. People probably thought he was worth a lot more than I am. Nevertheless, he made a difference in this city and that's why your children will have a better life.
"So Monsignor, I know we are in church. Let me quote, however, the Stones' song directly, just this once: 'Let's drink to the salt of the earth.' May God bless the memory of Gerry Montello and may God rest his soul."
Stu Loeser / Marc La Vorgna (212) 788-2958