Anthony “Tony” Pakinkis, 67, was the custodian at Congregation Albert, a Reform Jewish temple, for 27 years. While he was raised a Roman Catholic, the temple held a Jewish memorial service for Tony, to let his grieving family know that they are not alone in their grief, to recall details and share stories of the man, and to remember what was good and noble in his life, that we might take some of that goodness into our lives.
This addition to the 30 Funerals in 30 Days Challenge is personal. My husband and I are members of Congregation Albert and we had our own experiences with Tony over the years.
Every speaker said that Tony was intimidating, gruff, brusque, grumpy, irascible, even scary. He was a mechanical genius who knew exactly what needed to be done and never hesitated to do it, or to tell others what to do. But underneath his tough exterior was a soft side, a golden heart that expressed itself through numerous small gestures that affected the clergy, staff, congregants, and students that came through the building on a daily basis.
Speakers from the temple included past Rabbi Paul Citrin, interim Rabbi Howard Kosovske, Sisterhood President Marcia Rosenstein, and Cantor Barbara Finn, who read a letter from Rabbi Joseph Black, who left earlier this year to lead a congregation in Denver.
They spoke about how Congregation Albert was Tony’s home and its members were his family. Everything he did made all of the activities at the temple possible, and he was usually the last to leave at night. While anyone who wandered into “his” kitchen ran the risk of being chased out, he was known to bring out brownies for those who sought them. He would bring healthy snacks to Cantor Finn when she was working long hours without a break. He rescued the appearance of a less-than-perfect wedding cake so it looked great in time for the reception. He even made a house call for Rabbi Citrin to help with a plumbing disaster clean-up.
Family friend Sean Warick said that “Pops” opened his home to misfit kids. He never judged them, but pointed them in the right direction. He helped anyone in need and never expected anything in return. Warick said, “When we think about what we aspire to be, we think about key people. I think about Pops – a mentor who helped me become a better man.”
In line with Jewish funeral traditions, the service included the recitation of psalms (121 – “I lift my eyes to the hills”) and the singing of Psalm 23 by the cantor. Eulogies were spoken, and toward the end, everyone stood to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish. Out of respect for Tony’s non-Jewish family, all of the prayers were said in English. The service finished with a benediction for Tony’s soul, sending his spirit on his way.
These are the words of the Mourner’s Kaddish in English:
Magnified and sanctified be God’s great name in the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom soon, in our lifetime. Let us say: Amen.
May His great name be praised to all eternity.
Hallowed and honored, extolled and exalted, adored and acclaimed be the name of the Holy One, though He is above all the praises, hymns, and songs of adoration which men can utter. Let us say: Amen.
May God grant abundant peace and life to us and to all Israel. Let us say: Amen.
May He who ordains harmony in the universe grant peace to us and to all Israel. Let us say: Amen.
May Tony Pakinkis rest in peace.