Remembering Tommy Pacello 

"People will never forget how you made them feel."

It was a beautiful fall day. I walked Cleo the five or six blocks to a neighbor's house. Something in Cleo's past had emotionally damaged her. She didn't like most people. I had high hopes. She was a rescued wolf and husky hybrid, and my neighbor had owned this breed before.

My neighbor lived in an old renovated firehouse building that had served the Uptown community in the early 1900s, now a residence. The door didn't have a bell and the living quarters were upstairs. No one would hear a knock. I started to call, when a car drove up and simultaneously the firehouse door opened.

click to enlarge Tommy Pacello - TOMMY PACELLO/FACEBOOK
  • Tommy Pacello/Facebook
  • Tommy Pacello

Suddenly, where there was none, a flurry of excitement magically manifested. A slight, animated woman hopped out of the car. My neighbor, followed by his girlfriend who had set up the meet-and-greet overnight stay with Cleo, introduced me to his mom. She pulled dog treats out of her pocket. These were dog people. I felt good about this.

We encountered a problem. The living quarters upstairs in the firehouse were narrow with sharp turns. Cleo balked ferociously. My neighbor's mom pulled more treats from her pocket. We pushed, pulled, and enticed Cleo with treats. Somehow we managed to get her all the way up into an open space. Cleo, with great relief, stepped into the expanse.

The back door led to an upper deck and another set of endless stairs down into the backyard, more like a park really. Lots of trees, a picnic table, and lots of room — a dog's paradise. Between the back door and the stairs to the yard park was a fat orange cat that was crucial to Cleo's future. A new dog would have to get along with this cat. Cleo liked cats. But it's not the dog that makes the decision to be friends, it's the cat. Both beasts seemed cautious but curious. Cleo had her eye on the park-like backyard. The cat was merely a distraction to her destination. Without goading or promise, she navigated the stairs down to the yard like a pro.

As Cleo ran around, I felt really good about these people. They were dog people. Now that Cleo was not the focus any longer, my neighbor talked about the property and his progress.

He showed me an uncovered cistern. When he initially uncovered it, he said, there was a goldfish living down there in the murky water at the bottom. He said it was huge and hadn't seen the light of day for many years, if ever. He surmised it had belonged to a child who emptied a fishbowl into the cistern. There had been only about a foot of water at the bottom, but the conditions were perfect for a goldfish. The oldest recorded living goldfish was 43 years old. I wondered if this goldfish had broken that record. We'll never know; the neighbor relocated the fish to live out its natural life in better conditions.

Cleo didn't work out. She bit a visitor to the firehouse. My neighbor, Tommy Pacello, was active in the community, and had many visitors. Cleo not liking people was a problem. Tommy did tell me how he sat with Cleo and they bonded. Cleo liked Tommy. It was hard not to like Tommy, with his infectious smile and genuine, easy demeanor.

Time moved on. Tommy married his girlfriend, Olivia Wilmot. Later came a daughter, Colette. Olivia would stroll Colette past my house and take pictures of Cleo in the backyard then text them to me. They had another beautiful daughter, Cecile. Tommy was invested in life, his family, and his community.

If you want a list of accomplishments, degrees, and community projects attributed to Tommy Pacello, there are some great articles published of late that you'll find in other publications. This one isn't it. Look up another article.

This article is about his love for life. Even a life as small and insignificant as an emotionally damaged dog or an isolated elderly goldfish.

At the young age of 43, on November 16th, Pacello passed away from complications due to pancreatic cancer during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. 

There's a famous quote by businessman and community builder Carl W. Buehner from 1971: "They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel."

A similar quote attributed to poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou adds a few more words, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

What Tommy said and did was laudable. His greatest accomplishment? How he made us feel — wonderful.

Julie Ray is the Flyer calendar editor.

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