The Life of Frank Congelio

Frank L. Congelio


CANFIELD – Prayers will be held Saturday at 9:15 a.m. at the Higgins-Reardon Funeral Home, Austintown Chapel followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. at St. Christine Church for Frank L. Congelio, 86, who passed away Tuesday evening at St. Elizabeth Health Center in Boardman.

Frank was born on April 26, 1923. He was 86 years young. For those of you who knew Frank, you know that my Dad was his own man. But then, Dad is first generation Italian and there’s not too much you can tell those crazy Italians. Dad wasn’t crazy, just firm in his convictions. Very firm.

Those of you who knew my Dad know that Frank never backed down to anyone. Never. Now, I’m not saying that my Dad was always right, but you had to admire his integrity. And, boy, he had enough for two!

He was born outside of Uniontown, Pa., in a little community called Isabelle. He was the son of a produce man, my grandfather, Louis A. Congelio who was married to my grandmother, Susan Lazaran.

In the early days, before Mom, Dad helped his father sell produce door-to-door. They called them “hucksters” back in the day and my father wore that badge with honor. I guess helping my grandfather “on the truck” is how Dad caught the produce bug and made it his life and career until he retired in 1998.

During the war, Dad went to serve his country. I don’t think he ever shot anyone while he was over there unless, of course, they deserved it by making my Dad angry. However, instead of getting shot, they’d probably receive a sentence much worse, the silent treatment. But then, Dad’s Italian, they have their own way of dealing with matters.

Somehow, during the war, Dad found himself in Lowell, Mass. where he met my Mom. Mom, or affectionately known as T.J., short for Therese Joan de Arc Bergeron, was a beautiful young lady who was proudly helping the war effort. Mom, as she always liked to announce, “packed parachutes during the war.” Maybe it was this military connection that made my Dad fall in love. Who knows, but Frank married the love of his life on Sept. 14, 1946.

Living in Uniontown, they produced four fine offspring and me. Their names in descending order are Frank (Nancy) Congelio Jr., Mark T (Jamie) Congelio or “Pee wee,” Noel (David) Paull, Lou Congelio and Linda (Jay) Sinchak .

In 1968, bad times hit Uniontown as supermarkets started springing up all over the place and the world of milkmen and hucksters sadly came to an end. Dad, facing economic uncertainty and a houseful of hungry kids, made the bold decision to move, knowing life, as he knew it, would never be the same in his hometown.

Sadly leaving his family at home, Dad found a job with a supermarket in Cornersburg, by the name of Sparkle Market. It was a Godsend! Dad, for the first time in his life, was actually guaranteed a paycheck, which he dutifully sent home to Mom every week.

Dad’s talents as a produce man were quickly noticed and he was promptly promoted to Produce Manager. And we were quickly moved to Austintown, where my Dad lived until the day he died.

Dad loved living in Austintown and working for Sparkle Market. It wasn’t until later years, actually five years ago, that my Dad revealed to me just how stressful it was for him and Mom during this period. But, you know, you would never have known it by the way he acted. He just kept working longer hours.

He was strict but fair and always enjoyed taking the family on a Sunday drive.

While living in Austintown, Dad became a member of the local VFW in Ellsworth, and the Ruritans in Canfield.

Dad would make cole slaw for the VFW fish fry every Friday and I got to help occasionally because from 1976 to 1978, I had the privilege to work alongside my Dad at the Sparkle Market on Rt. 224 in Canfield.

Dad was the kind of employee that any boss would kill to have. Talented, conscientious and loyal, Dad would get to work before 7 a.m. and many times wouldn’t return home till after 7 p.m. He treated his produce department as if it was his own. Truth be known, it was. Nobody messed with Dad in his domain.

Dad retired in 1996, at the age of 67, much to the dismay of his customers but, maybe, not so much of his employees who had to meet his exacting standards of excellence. “Love you, Dad!”

In the years that followed, Dad and Mom were blessed with lots of grandkids and great-grandkids, more then I can remember, to tell you the truth, but I’ll try, Natalie, Jessica, Zack, Josh, Jonathan, LeeAnn, Brittany, Elena, Christiana, Marisa, Nathan, Ahyanna, Savannah, and Emma Lee.

Dad loved to play cards, so on Tuesdays, he and his buddies would play cut throat pinochle. They met religiously for over 20 years. It was after one of these pinochle games when Dad slumped over in the car and never woke up. Luckily, his friend Frank was driving and took him immediately to St. Elizabeth Health Center where Dad died. He had a heart attack. I think that’s the way my Dad would have liked to leave this world…after playing cards with friends, telling old, worn out jokes and passing away peacefully. I have no doubts in my mind, whatsoever, that Dad’s last thoughts were of the wonderful and proud memories he had with T.J., his bride of 63 years, and his family.

At the Congelio household, Dad was the boss, King, ruler, loving husband, devoted father, and “Pap-Pap” to his many grandchildren. We will miss him and remember him forever. “We love you, Dad!”

The family will be receiving friends Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the funeral home.

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