To the Editor:
This year, Nov. 17 marks the 13th-year anniversary of the death of my grandfather Edmund T. Sarno. To us seven grandchildren, he was “Pepa”; to the mayor turned governor, Lincoln Chafee, and most of the politicians in the city of Warwick, he was a political icon. I was 11 years old at the time of his passing, old enough to know that it was a great devastation not only to my family, but to many others as well. I remember the packed-full church of people who came to pay their final respects, and the many articles that were written about him. I suppose it is safe to say he was a popular man. Now that I am older, I understand why. My grandfather had that “sweet and sour” sense about him. John Howell couldn’t have described him any better, “…behind his sharp tongue was a large, kind heart.” Indeed there was. Many have described him as a great friend and supporter to all, but he would never back down from his thoughts or opinions about any kind of situation. That was his political side.
On a family note, he shared a special bond with my cousins, my older sister and myself individually. Because I was the baby, he called me Picolina, which is Italian for “little one.” Every holiday, he sat with us kids at the kids table. He would always much rather be with us than the adults, and if any of us were lippy, he would say, “Hey! You better watch that mouth or I’ll put pepper on your tongue.” That’s when we knew he meant business.
To this day, when I visit my grandfather, I can still picture Pepa sitting in his favorite rocking chair with a cigar in his mouth and asking me to go get a peppermint patty out of the candy drawer, which we would split between the two of us. I’m sure even now that is how most people remember him; a cigar in hand, political rants and, of course, his love for the Yankees. I could go on and on.
So what does being a Sarno mean to me? Well, I can think of three words. Loyalty, love and respect. Those are the three that come to mind when I think of my grandfather, who has made me proud in saying to anyone who asks, “Yes, I am a Sarno.” And I always will be.