Culture, Faith, Life, Food, Travel

My Uncle Sal

Zio SalI dedicate this blog to my uncle Sal Verri who passed away a month ago – July 13, 2012.

Sal Verri was an extraordinary man who may not ever end up in history books or have acclaims in literary circles, or scientific journals.

He was an extraordinary man because his time on this planet, which spanned two centuries and saw drastic changes in every sector of society, politics, and technology, was a living example to us all – relatives, friends, and acquaintances.

He was a living testimonial of how one should live and act in society, in business, and within a family, regardless of the fads and modes of the times.

His love of life and ever present exuberance was a poignant reminder to all those who wasted their time in chasing petty issues, engaged in useless discourses, or even worse insisted on living in the past. His pet peeves were in fact people who continuously mentioned past events and were not able to move forward with their lives. The past is past, he used to say. Let’s move on.

He often proudly contested: “I have never been sick a day in my life” (although this wasn’t entirely the case). What he really meant was that even when he didn’t feel so great he still made the effort to go out, go to work, meet people, and be as productive as possible. You could be sure that when most of the city shut down due to a bad winter storm, his office doors were still open for business – he never missed a day.

Living well was an art to him and life a gift from God. He was a peacemaker. He believed that Paradise was reserved for those who truly made an effort in living life to the fullest, for those who loved to meet and interact with new people, for people with a good sense of humour, for those who avoided conflicts, for peacemakers, and for those who opened their doors to others in need. His idols included Pope John the 23rd, Pope John Paul 2nd, Bill Clinton, Barak Obama, John F. Kennedy, and of course Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

Sal Verri was a born teacher who was an inexhaustible font of knowledge and could answer almost any question on any topic you engaged him in. Not only he had a vast familiarity of literature, Latin, music, mathematics, history, poetry, and much more, but he was constantly on the prowl for new learning opportunities. Our morning conversations, especially after a significant political event, an art festival, the opening of an opera, or a new scientific discovery, were a welcome break from the mundane tedium of office mediocrity and politics.

He would constantly remind everyone around him, through his mannerisms and impeccable style, of what is truly important in life: family, friends, good manners, politeness, and good taste. He was an exemplary true gentleman who never missed the chance to offer a chair to a lady, open the door for an elderly or a child, walk on the right side, or stand-up when a lady at the table would get up; rare events of chivalry that have sadly vanished with him and his generation.

He had an extremely keen sense of humour and could make light of the tensest situations with a few well placed words. A true orator and master of ceremonies, he loved to speak in public. There wasn’t one formal event, gala night, family gathering, or party where he would gladly take the podium and ad lib a speech without script anytime, anyplace. He took great pride in this talent of his.

Sal Verri loved to dance and was often the life of the party. He would charm his way through any crowd or situation with his usual mannerism – business card in hand – “let me introduce myself – I’m Sal Verri”, and before you knew it, there he was, on the dance floor, waltzing around with the most beautiful lady in the room.

He loved his friends and family and never missed an occasion to visit, thank, or pay his respects. He would never forget an important event, a birthday, or an anniversary and was the first to call and offer his best wishes. His office at Christmas time was like Santa’s castle as he would prepare gifts for everyone well ahead and then call to remind you that he had that special bottle of Grappa or Prosecco that he knew you would enjoy. Flawlessly, every time, he made an effort to remember what everyone liked and preferred. He rejoiced at everyone’s successes and was proud to be the head of this family.

A true professional he would make sure to keep abreast of the latest rules and tax regulations and inform you well ahead of time of what you needed to do to comply. A lover of technology and innovations he was miles ahead of colleagues and often had brilliant ideas that inevitably would make someone else very rich.

Sal, you often jokingly complained that I seldom called you Zio. But I also think that you must have known the reason why. You were more than a zio to me. I couldn’t use the word “Zio” as it was just too diminutive to encompass all that you were and did for me and for my life – Zio, you were a mentor, a friend, a brother, a father, a business consultant, a confidant, a travelling companion, a point of reference, and my compass for who I am today.

You will be greatly missed.