Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Uncle Neale

My uncle Neale has passed. Earlier this week, my uncle Neale F. Hooley left this plane at age 81. Good for him to make it that far. He was the youngest of the Hooley Clan, my mother's side of the family. My mother was 15 years older than him and she was several years younger than her brother Jack Hooley, the oldest of the seven Hooley kids. I always liked the name Hooley. A Hooley is a sort of mayhem in the streets. The word hooligan comes from Hooley, so that gives you an idea. Hell raisers.
    There were seven kids in all: My uncle Jack, a newspaper reporter who covered wars and strife; my aunt Ag, a professor at Bowling Green University who helped coach a couple of women's olympic teams; my uncle Clem, a great big guy who used to do cartoon work for the Farmer Gray type of cartoons, then became a salesman, then won a Pillsbury National Cookoff; my aunt Sienna, who made a living as a speedreader and pinched our cheeks mercilessly when we were kids; my mom, a New York Times lingerie model who went into radio acting and invented what was later known as the "Brooklyn" voice, you know, "des, dems, dos..."; Neale, who was the baby who played Class B baseball after college--I'm not sure it was after or before his stint in the marines--and then became a lawyer and finally a judge. Dick Hooley is the last of the family: An economist who's worked with several presidents and the UN. What happened to me? Don't ask. But the Hooley's were a good bunch. Full of fun, full of vigor. Big people--Way bigger than the Gorman side of the family. Jack Hooley, grandpa, was probably 6'4" and he was born in the 1880s in Ireland and came over to the US as an indentured servant working the Boston Rail Yard. When he finished his stint he went to NYU and became an engineer with 41 patents to his name. His kids were raised at a gorgeous house in Larchmont, NY, and then at their sprawling Park Ave. apartment at 1296 Park Ave. at 96th street, where we used to go as kids to watch the Thanksgiving Day Macy's Parade with all the floats and Irish marching bands.
   All our aunts and uncles were cool. Jack (probably Jr. though we never heard that term) introduced me to Chinese food on a visit to his place sometime in the 1960s. Clem was a riot, always saying he wasn't hungry but tasting about 1/2 of all the food meant for our family of eight, plus him. Ag taught us ferocious volleyball. Sienna just made us laugh. Mom, Madeleine, well, she was mom and everyone came to visit us on the holidays. And Neale was the baby. He was a strapping boy: I mean he was probably 6'1" and all muscle. He was just a wall of a man when we were little kids. My sister Regina reminded me today of when he got his first car, a Volkswagon bug, and we were all excited and he took us for rides in it. When he got older and made some money he switched from Volks to collecting a few old Bentleys. And Regina also reminded me of the time when we put a piece of plastic cheese into a sandwich we'd made him. "Do you remember? He kept trying to chew it and couldn't!" she laughed.
    We had some memorable times with him. A few stand out: Once, when I was looking to sell things on the street in front of our house--my allowance wasn't big enough for my comic book and candy appetite--I found his military pistol and put that up for sale along with all the metals I found on his dress military jacket. I think one of the neighbors bought it and brought it back to my mom, suggesting that I probably shouldn't be selling an automatic .9mm on the street.
    Another time he was babysitting my younger sisters Barbara and Regina and me. We were in the girls' bedroom jumping off the top bunk bed. Well, we, probably me, wound up dropping an 8' length of ceiling molding on his head and he was upstairs in a split second threatening us with mayhem if we did not just sit down and be quiet for a couple of hours. (My dad made me spend two days screaming and kicking with him while he found the lumber, glue, gesso and paint and rebuilt the damned molding to look like the original.)
    And then there was baseball. That's where we really, really converged. He'd played pro, as I said. And my brother played at Archbishop Molloy and then at St. Johns, both perennial powerhouse teams. They would go out nearly every Saturday and bring a big bag of balls and pitch to each other. I'd sit myself in left-center and catch or chase the balls. They would each get about 20 swings, then reverse the order. Both had good arms and pitched hard. I want to say they'd each get about 100 swings--which meant I learned to shag flies and pick up line drives on a hop pretty well--before they'd call it quits. And then they'd give me maybe 20 swings before we all went in Neale's Volks for a soda. I often got a good cream or root beer. I always resented that I only got 20 swings after shagging 200 balls, but at the same time it made my arm so strong that even now I can throw the hell out of a ball if you give me just five or ten warm up tosses.
   So almost that whole family is gone. They were a great family and I'm glad I was allowed to be part of it. And Neale was a great uncle to have. We always kept in touch, at least at Christmas. He had kids I only met once or twice, and a lovely wife I met a couple of times. I mostly knew him when he was younger and I was a kid. I hope his passing was easy. I hope he's in a good place with my mom and his brothers and sisters. I hope his kids and wife are alright.
   Thanks for being my uncle, Neale.


phoenix said...

You are quite the character yourself Peter. And you did/do have an interesting family. Thanks for sharing. I wish my family was 1/4 as interesting as yours.

Unknown said...

Thank you for writing some of your fond memories about my dad. I am Alicia Hooley the youngest of his children. Reading this brought back memories of my father and myself from when I was a young child to more recent times. He had a great life and was surrounded by terrific family and friends. My love to you all.
Alicia Hooley

Unknown said...

Yes, thank you for sharing the wonderful memories you have of my father. I am his oldest daughter, Meghan. He loved baseball and I remember him speaking fondly of playing baseball with the Gormans. Thank you for sharing info about the Hooleys. A wonderful clan! I wish I could have known them better or have met Uncle Clem and Aunt Madeleine. I named my middle daughter (Madelyn) after Aunt Madeleine mostly due to my father's memories of her. My father loved his family. They were very important to him.
My father passed peacefully on his 81st birthday and was surounded by his family!! We will all miss him dearly.
Lots of love to your family!
Meghan Hooley O'Rourke

Peter Gorman said...

Meghan and Alicia: Thanks for writing. Your dad was a great uncle to have and I loved going out to the field with him. Big strong guy with a good laugh. I'm glad he passed over peacefully.

Unknown said...