Charlie Vascellaro, 78, of Fountain Hills passed peacefully in his sleep on Sept. 15, 2020.
Charles Frank Vascellaro, son of Sylvester Vascellaro, a plumbing and construction contractor, and his wife Pauline Antoinette (Zupanc) Vascellaro, who worked for the Internal Revenue Service, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Aug. 5, 1942.
He attended Thomas Edison Vocational High School in Jamaica, N.Y., before enrolling in the U.S. Army Reserves at Whitehall Hall Street in downtown New York City and was stationed for basic training at Fort Dix, N.J. He later graduated from the Berk Trade School and was a career-long member of the Plumbers Local Union Number One in Long Island City.
After working for his father, Sylvester’s Vascellaro Mechanical, Charlie embarked on his first solo venture as a tile seter before taking over the family business in 1969.
Around this time he moved with his family, including his first wife, my mother, Vivian, my younger brother, Christopher, and newborn sister, Stefanie, from the Howard Beach neighborhood of Queens, N.Y. to Setauket, Long Island, where my father had previously spent his childhood summers. Fishing was a family tradition and we would make frequent excursions on the Long Island Sound, all three siblings and various cousins in tow, embarking from Port Jefferson. During our final few years on Long Island pop was also co-proprietor of the Blue Goose bar and night club in Huntington, where I would clean the place with him on the weekends in exchange for a short glass or two of draft beer and pizza.
He moved with the family to Fountain Hills in June of 1978, packing up his share of the Vascellaro Mechanical plumbing business in search of greener desert pastures while New York City was on the precipice of bankruptcy in the mid-1970s, with the construction industry being hit the hardest.
My pop (I always called him pop because that’s how he referred to my grandfather, Sylvester) was 35 years old when we made the big move west, a married father of three embarking on a risky new adventure. I had no idea how young he was at the time. It didn’t take long for pop to reinvent himself first as a building contractor forming the Palo Verde Homes construction company with his long-time business partner, Richard Tortorelli. We tagged my father with the affectionate nickname “Verde,” which stuck for decades.
His first marriage ended in divorce in 1982 and he married the love of his life, Patricia (Botello), in November of 1983 where they originally met in Las Vegas, Nev. The wedding reception at the Dunes Hotel was also attended by Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra (true story).
People are often referred to and identified by their professions and while my father’s career as a plumber and building contractor certainly contributed to his personality, he was more readily identified as a “larger-than-life” character with a tremendous capacity for pleasure and a bon-vivant world traveler having visited more than 80 countries.
He was at his best when he was sharing his experiences and embellishing tall tales with us over meals at restaurants and family vacations across the country, regaling his grandchildren with stories and life lessons.
He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Patricia; sons Charlie Vascellaro of Baltimore and Christopher Vascellaro of San Diego; daughter, Stefanie Morse and husband, Walter Morse of New Jersey, who assisted in managing his health care during the final weeks of his life from her home in New Jersey. His grandson, Dylan Morse and granddaughter, Courtney Morse were the light of his life another grandson, Christopher Cullum preceded him in death in 1992. He is also survived by his sisters, Sylvia De Angelis of Florida, Paula Warren of Long Island and their families and brother-in-law, Joe Ciotta and his wife Anne Ciotta of Fountain Hills and was also preceded in death by his in-laws Ralph and Lupe Botello.
Charlie Vascellaro’s obituary was written by Charlie Vascellaro; confusing, right? We have both always gone by Charlie, not Charles. Some family members have refered to me by “Chas” or “Little Charlie” to draw a distinction. People have been getting us confused in Fountain Hills for many years since my father began his letter-writing campaigns for the editorial pages of The Times while I was still contributing annual spring training baseball stories. I began to ask for clarification in my bio, lest we be mixed up.
The last time I saw my pop I couldn’t see him; he was sitting on a chair behind a heavy metal screen door. I had stopped by to say goodbye before heading back to my home in Baltimore on or around my May 22 birthday, after an extended spring visit. Due to the COVID-19 virus my father did not want me to enter the house. It was understandable, as his immune system was down and he was suffering from a variety of maladies. I stood outside and talked to him through the screen door. It was sort of like going to confession (although we had long since confessed our sins to each other).
He cast a long and a looming shadow on his chosen hometown of Fountain Hills these past 42 years.
Plans for gathering of a life celebration are incomplete due to the current pandemic. In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests any donations be made to the Leukemia Foundation or Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in memory of grandson Christopher.