If Giuseppe was the founding father of our branch of the DiPaolo/DePollo family, then cousin Gary DePollo was the godfather.
You see, Gary was the keeper of the family history. He meticulously researched our genealogy, organizing it in a homegrown database. He cared for old family photos (of which there are many), and converted countless home movies to DVDs for posterity. He started a successful chain of family reunions — reuniting cousins near and far — and documented them all. Then he built a wonderful website to showcase all of it so relatives everywhere could share in the fruits of his labors. In short, he cared for all of us, as any good godfather would do, and demonstrated how to appreciate being a DiPaolo/DePollo from Thomas, W.Va.
I never really asked him why he had such a great passion for our family history. I probably should have. In general, I believe it was his love of family, his pride in his Italian heritage (he was also related to the Quattro or Quattrochi family from Davis on his mother’s side) and his fondness for wild, wonderful Tucker County that spurred him on.
The grandson of Giuseppe’s oldest son, Tony, Gary grew up in the Detroit suburbs, where his branch of the family had relocated for work during World War II. However, holidays and summer vacations were frequently spent in Thomas and Davis, and he had many fond memories , hanging out with cousins on both sides of his family. Recently, he and his brother Doug told of walking as teenagers from the Davis home of his Quattro grandparents to Blackwater Falls State Park — a distance of several miles. There was no real mission — just simple entertainment and perhaps a swim under the falls or a hike on a trail.
As he got older, Gary was the designated driver for his grandfather Tony’s annual visits to Thomas. Gary reminisced about afternoons spent shooting the breeze (or maybe it was “the bull?”) in DePollo’s Store on Front Street in Thomas with his Great Uncle John and twin cousins Joe and John. The DePollo family home place was above the store, and he felt a close connection to all who lived there.
So it was no surprise that Gary organized the inaugural DePollo Reunion in 2015 when the store building turned 100. Now the Purple Fiddle, the day was celebrated with tunes by family musicians, commemorative souvenirs made by Gary’s talented hands and a picnic at the Knights of Columbus pavilion nearby. With Gary’s help and support, we’ve managed to keep the annual reunion going for several years since then.
To say we are grateful to Gary would be an understatement. His tireless efforts to keep us connected to our Italian- American roots — and each other — have had a lasting impact. In addition, his kind and easygoing manner made you want to be a part of it all and join him for the ride.
Sadly, we will miss his quiet smile, his many talents and his friendship. We will do our best, dear Cousin, to travel the family ancestral trail you blazed. Hopefully, we can continue to care for the family tree you so lovingly planted and nurtured. R.I.P., Gary. Fino al nostro prossimo incontro.*
*Until we meet again.
(The photo Janice included is not loading and will be uploaded as soon as possible. We did not want to postpone sharing Janice’s beautiful thoughts to resolve the photo challenges.)