A few weeks ago, I had the honor of spending part of a Saturday morning talking to two men whom I referred to as "Mr. Jamestowns" in a previous piece in this forum: Mr. Jim Roselle and Mr. Russ Diethrick. I was sitting in the studio of Media One as a guest on their radio program, "The Times of Your Life."
Not knowing what they'd be asking me during the interview, I prepped myself by trying to fill my head with a variety of things, so I'd be ready for anything that came my way that morning.
I thought I was pretty prepared as the questions came and the discussion moved along smoothly, until they hit me with a tough one. They asked me, if I could sit down with three people, living or deceased, and share a meal, who would I invite, and that question may have caused more "dead air" than they may have wanted.
J. Paul Lombardo
My first guest was very easy, as I would have had the place closest to me reserved for my father, Joe X. I still have so many questions to ask him, and I still do ask him things, sometimes on a daily basis, and would love to sit with him once again, and just talk with him, and seek his advice, and talk about the Tribe with him.
My other two guests had me stumped because there were so many I could have asked, and I was under pressure to respond quickly. After a couple clears of my throat and a "hmm" here and there, I came up with two former baseball players, one being my childhood idol, Rocky Colavito, so I could meet him and talk about his days with the Indians, and the other being Yogi Berra, just to be able to hear him tell many of the serious stories, which he shared in one of his books, explaining about the people and experiences that were meaningful and memorable to him in his life on and off the baseball field.
Of course, after the interview was over, I thought of the many others I would like to have invited to sit with, break bread with, and talk with, so I decided to plan my own little men's get together and expand the number of guests I would invite, which would include the three already mentioned and also the following:
I would invite my son Jonathan. Jon was only 5 years old when Dad passed, and although he has some memories of his grandpa, I would love for him to be able to sit and listen to stories and experiences of his grandfather's life, and be able to ask him questions, and have the opportunity to be able to absorb some of Dad's wisdom, pride, love, dedication and sense of humor.
I'd invite my Great-Uncle Joe Lombardo to the gathering.
My Uncle Joe was also one of the wisest men I knew, and he was one of the quietest men also. He too, was a very dedicated, proud, and loving man, and his generosity to others was immeasurable.
I would love to just catch up with him and thank him again for sharing his home with us every Christmas Eve growing up, and for including my brother Lou and me when he took the Little League baseball team he sponsored (Frewsburg Pharmacy) for years, to the annual Gerry Rodeo, and I would like Jon to be there to soak up and understand more, what a great man was Uncle Joe.
I think I would like to invite any former president to this little soiree, just to be able to listen to his experiences as Commander in Chief of this country. If I had to choose one, I think I'd invite President Lincoln first, and if he couldn't make it, maybe President Eisenhower, or Kennedy.
I'd send an invitation to Robert H. Jackson, to learn even more about this local man who played a huge part in the history of our country and the world (more than my experiences at the Robert H. Jackson Center have taught me), who played an amazing role in the justice system nationally and worldwide.
I would also invite the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and listen intently to the stories of his experiences and feel his passion and dedication to civil rights, to the poor, and to all Americans.
Being a former coach in multiple sports, I'd invite Knute Rockne, Vince Lombardi, and John Wooden and try to pick their brains as much as I could to learn more about working with young people and teaching them skills and ethics that would overflow from the fields and arenas to real, everyday life including responsibilities in family, employment and civic settings.
I'd invite a military veteran, any military veteran, who stood tall in battle to defend the Constitution of the United States and its ideals, to hear his story of love of country, and dedication to the preservation and protection of freedom.
I'd add Nelson Mandela to the guest list and extend him an invitation, to be able to hear his story and how, after his release from prison, he was able to maybe not necessarily forget, but forgive, and continue to work toward a fully representative democratic government in South Africa.
And I'd like to invite Father Dennis Mende of Holy Apostles Parish, and Father Nicholas Rafael of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, both in Jamestown, whose devotion to God and all mankind is an example to everyone who knows/knew them and have been privileged to share their faith, and some conversation, with them.
And of course, I'd certainly invite the two Mr. Jamestowns, Jim Roselle and Russ Diethrick, as both their lives have included so much that can teach, advise, and entertain anyone who is in their company or presence, and I'm sure, with the guests at my gathering, they could, and would (knowing them), have interviews that would fill four months of Saturdays for "The Times of Your Life."
There are so many more I probably could invite to this meal, but my table space is limited, so I will end my guest list here.
(Don't worry about the food, though. Mom taught me how to make pasta sugu and there'll be enough to feed the lot of us.)
Not a bad gathering of people in so many areas of life who have experienced so much and would have so much to share with those around them, huh?
It would be amazing to be able to sit in a room with all of them and listen to them and soak in their stories.
What a banquet that would be!