Bob Carmignani’s life was celebrated at home with good food and good friends, just as the family celebrated every holiday. His elder daughter Christen called it “My Big Fat Italian Funeral.”
Technically, with no body present nor any church involvement, it was “My Big Fat Italian Home Celebration of Life.” But that just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Still, it was a wonderful way to remember a wonderful man.
The house was filled with family and friends. In the open kitchen, visitors helped themselves to spaghetti and meatballs, salad, garlic bread, roll-ups, cookies, wine, beer and coffee. In the living room and dining room, memorabilia and photos of “Big Bob” were displayed.
“You’d always have coffee and food whenever you’d visit us, and sit and eat,” said Christen, who is a hospice volunteer and studying to be a chaplain. “Death is hard for people to approach. When you honor the people you love, you honor life itself.”
The younger daughter Lawren added they didn’t want to do anything too heavy, because Dad wasn’t a somber guy. “It helps to do this process. There are guys here from his high school football days, names I’ve only heard growing up. Great guys.”
Bob Carmignani was the quarterback for the Manzano High School football team, Honorable Mention All-American Quarterback, a 1970 graduate. His high school friends regaled me with stories of the Carmignani family and how the grandparents settled in Gallup in the 1930s to work the mines there.
They talked about how Bob’s dad was a renowned dentist in Albuquerque and that Bob wanted to be a dentist too, but he didn’t get into dental school. So Bob became a lab technician, using his talented hands to create the crowns, caps and dental implants that dentists put into their patient’s mouths. Bob’s lab was right next door to his dad’s dental practice.
And they said he was so proud of his two daughters and their children. “If you have family, life continues,” one said. Bob’s brother Lawrence came from Seattle and his mother Joyce Morello, who lives in Albuquerque, received condolences from the many people in attendance. The photo below is of a portrait of Lawrence and Robert from 1966.
Bob was a big guy – 6’4″ weighing 350 pounds. At the age of 58, he had a massive heart attack in the driveway at his home in the evening. A passing couple called 911 and did CPR. He had no ID on him, so the police entered his unlocked house and found his personal phone book. They called daughter Lawren and asked her if Bob was her brother. She said he was her dad, and went to identify his body, which was hard.
And it was daughter Christen’s birthday this day. Ironically, the girls’ mother had passed away from colon cancer two years before, on the same day that Bob died. They held her funeral on the same day they were doing this celebration of Bob’s life. Though their deaths were so very different, today’s celebration “kind of ties it all together,” said Lawren.
In all, it was a warm celebration of family, and I am so grateful to have been received so graciously into this home celebration of Bob Carmignani’s life. As his son-in-law John commented, “If he was here, he’d be the life of the party.” The party of life continues with his memory warm in our hearts.