John Erardi

Obituary of John Peter Erardi

John P. Erardi, 97 – known as "Big Daddy" to his five children, "G-Unit" to his eight grandchildren and "Grandpa" to his three great-grandchildren – died peacefully at 9:50 a.m. Thursday January 28, at the home of daughter, Nancy O'Connor, and her husband, John "O.C." O'Connor, in Dexter, N.Y. He was a "One-Percenter" when it came to a long life well-lived: son of Italian immigrants, a World War II veteran, and a Last of the Mohicans tie to Syracuse's pre-war West End of the 1920s, '30s and '40s. Big Daddy was a proud GI who served in the Persian Corridor at Camp Amirabad, a sprawling U.S. Army base two miles outside Tehran, Iran, that built trucks and other vehicles for the Soviets on the Eastern Front. He served in the Special Services, and was the second baseman for Amirabad's All-Star travel team that played hardball at Army sites throughout Iran. Back in the States after the war, he was a longtime foreman at Caryl Electric in Syracuse, before starting his own contracting firm, JFK Electric, with Fred Kalil Jr. Other close, longtime friends made in the workplace were John Commane, Ed Lundy and John Speach, who took Big Daddy on fishing trips out of Henderson Harbor. Pops worked daily in the electrical business until he was 95. For years, he was one of the city's top bowlers (Fairmount Lanes), longtime secretary of the Thursday night bowling league, and an avid golfer. He was proud that his eldest son, Johnny, played baseball at the U.S. Naval Academy and Murray State University in Kentucky, and that his second son, Greg, rose to the major leagues as a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, and that his third son, Frank, a scientist, took to the outdoors. But it was his two daughters -- eldest child, Joanne, and second youngest, Nancy -- who always got the most face time in Dad's slide shows. "Pops knew who was the heart and soul of the family after Mom," Johnny said. Joanne's earliest memory of her dad was watching Friday night boxing with him; he was a big fan of Carmen Basilio. Nancy's fondest recollection is the way her dad would walk in the door at 6 p.m. ("usually whistling"), and immediately begin doctoring up wife Mary's cooking, as Mary headed for the living room to read that evening's obituaries in the Herald-Journal. For Frank, the memory was Dad at the oars. "When I wanted to fish, we packed the rowboat in the back of the van and off we went, often to Jamesville Reservoir for the big bass," recalled Frank. "I'd fillet them on the front stoop and Dad would make a big fish fry." The "Erardi fam" took lots of spring and summer car trips with Dad and Mom (Mary Jane Gannon of Kellogg Street) to see Broadway plays, the occasional game at Yankee Stadium and the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, World's Fairs in New York City and Montreal, and a week every August at Stiefvater's on Fourth Lake in the Adirondacks -- after the Salt City Little League and Liverpool Babe Ruth League seasons were over, of course. "Sometimes we had to balance the two when we went deep in the tournament, but we never -- ever – missed either," Greg said. "Mom liked baseball, but she wasn't about to give up that week at Stiefvater's." John Peter loved baseball, beginning as a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals "Gas House" gang in the early 1930s, realigning what would prove to be a lifetime allegiance to Joe DiMaggio's New York Yankees in the late 1930s, grabbing some "karmelkorn" downtown on the way to Syracuse Chiefs games, and ultimately introducing his children to baseball, including the girls he taught to keep score. His was a baseball family, through and through. "The glorified rehash," his late wife, Mary, would describe, tongue-in-cheek, the nightly post-mortems of the kids' ballgames over dinner and a beer. Every year, she'd host a big St. Patrick's Day party and pull out all the stops, "Big Daddy," the Italian-American, would belt out "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," right alongside Mary Jane and her Irish friends. Pops may've had the best pipes in the family: school chorus singer and an enjoyer of opera music. Big Daddy was a heck of a cook, too. For him, it was nothing to whip up huge spaghetti dinners with all the trimmings for a dozen of his sons' friends. "Sunday drives" were de rigueur for the Erardi clan, even though Big Daddy, in his foreman years, would spend hours behind the wheel, supervising one electrical job after another. It was nothing for him to rack up 50,000 miles in a year. He knew the roads, streets and alleys of Central New York like he knew the back of his hand. Whenever one of his kids would ask for directions somewhere, he'd add an "alternate route." Alternate Route practically became his middle name. "When Dad said in the last couple of days that we should 'start the car,' we knew he was ready for one last road trip," said Nancy, smiling at the memory. Big Daddy had his favorite phrases: "Fer cryin' out loud" (exasperation), "ham-and-egger" (a fancy pants whose work ethic didn't quite cut it), "knowing which side your bread is buttered on" (appreciating who is helping you out), "they put their pants on one leg at a time" (before a big game) and "it only costs a little more to go first class." "Actually," his son, Greg, would tell him, "it costs a lot more to go first class." They'd both laugh. The Erardi family lived on Hanover Avenue in Galeville for 36 years and walked as a family to 11 o'clock Sunday Mass (never quite making it on time) at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, residing in Galeville until Mary Jane Gannon passed in May 1988. John later married Genevieve Bielski, his wife of 30 years. She survives him, as do their two sons, Nathaniel and Matthew and two of Genevieve's other children (John's stepchildren), Barbara Adamski and John Furman, and their five children -- Anna Adamski and Jennifer and Chad Eighmey, and Katherine and John Tillapaugh. Also surviving are the two children of Jennifer (Riley and Shafer) and the two of Chad (Piper and Ethan). Over the years, Big Daddy's hitting plastic golf balls on lunch breaks in vacant fields gave way to naps alongside the same sites. But always – always – a cup of tea and a donut at the crack of dawn. He enjoyed fuller breakfasts at the B'ville Diner with his friends (he was a home fries and ketchup man), linguini in red clam sauce at Tassone's and greens and beans at Santangelo's. Pops was no ham-and-egger, even though he ate like one. The past three summers especially, Big Daddy loved watching the "big ships" pass under the Thousand Islands Bridge at Collins Landing, always looking up their numbers -- tonnage, length and destinations; he was a math man – in that year's "Big Ships" book. Besides the Islands, he also enjoyed trips to son Greg's camp at Blue Mountain Lake, having often hiked to the mountain summit in his younger days. Big Daddy had been living with John ("O.C.") and Nancy near Watertown since a bout with sepsis in September 2018. Theirs was an especially close bond. "O.C." did the meat and potatoes cooking, and the soups, pastas and venison tenderloin that Big Daddy so enjoyed. "How about a piece of pie, John?" O.C. would ask after dinner, knowing that Nancy hadn't had a chance to make one of her signature pies, such as raspberry cream or sour cherry or pumpkin or coconut cream (Pops had the coconut gene). "Sure, whaddaya got?" Big Daddy would ask dutifully, knowing there wasn't any pie. Same routine, same laughs. Sometimes a pie would appear. They'd feign shock and dig in. After dinner, there was often a Syracuse University basketball game, a Yankees game, or a movie with an historical element to watch. "John loved seeing his kids, grandkids and great-grandkids," O.C. said. "World War II is what he liked most to read about. And what a baseball fan he was! Especially the Yankees. I'll never forget how affected he was when Yogi Berra died. It was as though they'd grown up together. He said losing Yogi was like losing a family member." Raised at 707 Park Avenue in a Polish neighborhood on the West End of Syracuse, John Peter Erardi was the youngest of 13 children of Anna Lucia Duva and Giuseppe Ierardi of Armento, Italy, on the instep of "The Boot." He was the last of the gang from 707. The front-porched home is now gone, absorbed by a parking lot at Strada Mia Italian restaurant on North Geddes. An era has ended, but six years ago he met Mia Lilyana Smith, first of the fifth-generation descendants of Anna Lucia and Giuseppe and proudly sat for a picture of all five generations. Two-hundred and forty-five World War II veterans die each day; at the time of John's passing, he'd made it into one-percenter's territory: Of 16 million Americans who served, only 1.9% (318,000 veterans) were alive as of Jan. 28. His children imagined that 707 Park Ave was what Italy must be like -- and it was. There was a big backyard garden, complete with horseradish for a special monthly marinara sauce, an apple and three cherry trees (two sweet, and one sour for pies), a backyard chicken coop for eggs, homemade Italian sausage packed in lard in the root cellar next to two 50-gallon drums of fermenting grapes, which were a mix of pinkish white ones from California, red ones (for color) from the Finger Lakes and occasional stray white-green ones from the back-door arbor. Every spring, a teacher at nearby Frazer Elementary would bring her students by for a lesson in backyard-to-table self-sufficiency. "My dad was in high school before he realized he was an Italian-American," recalled his son, Johnny. "My grandmother, who couldn't read or write in any language but could cook any dish imaginable and barter the socks off the fruit and vegetable man, spoke in broken English. I remember her talking to my older cousins in Italian, and them saying back, 'In English, Grandma, in English!' " There was a barbershop and ice cream shop next door, tailor shop across the street, bar around the corner, grocery store across from it, and the school-outdoor swimming pool-and-ballfield a block away. "Dad would tell us of the 6-by-6 inch gold-cloth star that hung in the window at 707, looking out on the front porch where the Erardi brothers and their friends would gather as kids," recalled daughter Joanne. "The star was for his brother, Joe, killed in the War in France in the push to Berlin, and for Anna Lucia, a 'Gold Star Mother.' " "I enjoyed hearing the stories Dad would tell of the big shots at nearby Sacred Heart Church offering the neighborhood's Polish-American teams free uniforms and equipment to assimilate into the church's programs. On one condition: that the Italian-American boys be excluded," son Greg remembered. "To which the Polish-American boys told the big shots, 'No thank you, the Erardi boys are the best players we've got!' The Trojans played in regular pants and T-shirts, the Erardi boys at their side, whipping everybody in town." Growing up, "Blackie" -- as he was known for his dark summertime skin -- was a close friend of Eddie Lyskawa, who later served in the 101st Airborne 327th Glider Infantry Regiment "Screaming Eagles." Eddie landed in Normandy during the first wave on June 6, 1944. Eddie also fought in Bastogne, Operation Market Garden, Battle of the Bulge and Ardennes Forest. "He was a real hero," recalled Big Daddy, always speaking of Eddie with genuine admiration. "But that didn't slow me down. We were home from the war, both in our 20s. Eddie asked me to keep his date company while he went to change his shirt. While he was changing, I walked her downtown for an antipasto, her first. She must have liked it. We were married for 39 years." John graduated from Vocational High School and was an alumnus of Syracuse University. Besides his five children by Mary Jane Gannon, he is survived by his son-in-law and three daughters-in-law: Barbara Boehmker, Crescent Springs, Ky.; Tina Rose, New York City, and Amy Frahm, Baltimore, and eight grandchildren: Matt DeNinno, Rutherford, N.J.; Nick Erardi, Boston; Joseph O'Connor, Jersey City; Katherine Erardi, Hudson,Wisc; Chris Erardi, Echuca, Australia; Patrick O'Connor, Killington, Vt.; Molly O'Connor, Philadelphia, and Gina Erardi, Newport, Ky. He is also survived by three great-grandchildren, Lucy, James and Jocelyn. Also, his grandsons Matt and Joe's wives, Jenna Campagna and Jeweliet Yost, sister-in-law Patricia Petrivelli, and 12 nieces and 13 nephews. There will be a service 9 am, Saturday, September 18 at St. Augustine's Church, Baldwinsville, and interment with an honor guard at Saint Mary's Cemetery, Dewitt. Falardeau Funeral Home, Baldwinsville, is in charge. Memorials are suggested to Honor Flight Inc., 4601 N. Fairfax Dr., Suite 1200, Arlington VA 22203. For photos, please go to: https://photos.app.goo.gl/AE3qEtRnJSqvD6Rn7
Saturday
18
September

Final Resting Place

Saturday, September 18, 2021
St. Mary's Cemetery
4100 E. Genesee St.
DeWitt, New York, United States
Saturday
18
September

Funeral Service

9:00 am
Saturday, September 18, 2021
St. Augustine's Church
7333 O'Brien Road
Baldwinsville,, New York, United States
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