March 20, 2008
Cortland says goodbye to ‘Parge’
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Pallbearers wheel the flag-draped coffin of Jim Partigianoni to a hearse outside St. Anthony’s Church on Pomeroy Street Wednesday morning. Partigianoni, alderman, baseball umpire and community figure, died Friday morning at the age of 78.
“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” became a powerful and moving hymn Wednesday for the crowd gathered in St. Anthony’s Church for the funeral of Jim Partigianoni.
The community had come to bid farewell to a popular man, whose voice and laugh and presence had been felt from the baseball diamond to City Hall and points far beyond.
Affectionately known as “Parge,” Partigianoni died Friday morning in Michigan while visiting one of his five daughters. The alderman, baseball umpire and family man was 78 years old.
Daughter Jamie Brown of Cortland lived closest to her father and during the funeral service acknowledged that she would have to face the reality of his absence every day.
“But I have the built-in support system of the entire community,” Brown said.
Parge was laid to rest Wednesday, and each of his daughters took a moment at the services at St. Anthony’s to tell a story about the man who gave each of them a piece of himself.
Kelly McGraw of Oneonta was the youngest and stepped up to the podium first.
“We know my dad always enjoyed a little mic time. Not that he needed a microphone,” McGraw said, reminding audience members of Parge’s Common Council ward reports that never suffered from lack of detail. Or volume.
Parge was an organ donor, and McGraw wondered what her father’s most desirable feature could be.
She decided his own most likely response would be, “Sorry folks, but I already handed down all my good looks to my grandchildren.”
Parge had a thing for numbers and made tough decisions on issues that came before him as an alderman — McGraw supposed his brain would be a good choice.
The most obvious choice, his heart, was damaged in the heart attack that felled him, his daughter said.
“If you knew my dad, you know he had a very big, strong and tender heart,” McGraw said.
Parge, himself the product of humble roots, looked after the underdog throughout his life.
“We can’t donate his ears, because we all know he couldn’t hear a lick,” McGraw said, quick to distinguish between hearing, which Parge struggled with, and listening, which he excelled at.
In the end, it was his eyes that a fortunate recipient would be able to use best — McGraw said it was perfect because her father had a “wonderful view of life” that he passed on to his daughters and 12 grandchildren.
“You should never give up the opportunity to seize the moment, to be silly and to have fun,” McGraw said.
Brown briefly acknowledged the irony of an umpire donating his eyes — ballplayers typically think little of officials’ eyesight — and then moved on to her own silly stories of her father. Whether getting used to cell phones, devouring newspapers and magazines cover-to-cover, cobbling together reading glasses with the remains of an old pair, or pulling over on the side of a country road after a baseball game and digging up dandelion greens for a salad, Parge was Parge. And he had fun being him.
“Here’s to my Dad, the richest man on earth,” Brown finished.
Daughter Pamela Quinn of Binghamton, like Brown, would miss Sunday dinners with her father. In an affected Italian accent, Parge would remind one and all that “Sunday is not Sunday without the spaghetti, eh?” as he pinched a cheek or two. Quinn said her father was most in his element when his family was gathered around the table.
Daughter Colleen Partigianoni of Big Rapids, Mich., said that although her father did not make it to each and every Mass, he was one of the most Christian men she had ever met.
“My Dad would give the shirt off his back for everyone,” Partigianoni said.
His positive impact on the lives of others was apparent in the nearly 1,000 people that Colleen Partigianoni said moved through the church during calling hours Tuesday.
The line stretched around corner after corner, winding through St. Anthony’s Catholic Church and never diminishing for the entire three and a half hours of Parge’s calling hours.
“The biggest difference now is that heaven is a little louder,” she finished.
Kathy Oliver of Maryville, Tenn., was the last of the daughters to speak at the services.
“They took all of my ideas and they took all my Kleenexes,” Oliver jokingly lamented.
She said that her father offered a vision of hope for the future of his community based on the premise that people were good.
“He tried to see Christ in everyone, and that was a real talent,” Oliver said.
A friend who had umpired with Parge for the past 35 years, Harley Bieber of Dryden wondered at the changed place heaven would become now that Parge was going to be around to keep things loud, fun and interesting. Bieber imagined St. Peter going to great lengths to explain the rules of heaven to Parge — surely, it must be a quiet, restful place — only to have Parge loudly say “Wait, wait, wait a minute. What’d you say your name is?”
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