It was evident at Frank Luisi’s wake that the East Rockaway resident and Army veteran had touched the hearts of hundreds of people.
Luisi died on Dec. 23 at the age of 96, of asbestos poisoning and old age. He lived a long and eventful life that started Nov. 19, 1926.
Page after page of names in the guestbook at his wake made his impact clear. “We were astounded by how many people showed up that day,” said his daughter Denise White. “When you go into a funeral home, you write into a book, and we had seven pages, front and back, filled up with notes.”
Along with those notes, White sent 100 acknowledgement cards to thank people for coming, and she had to order 100 more.
“This woman who I worked with for the wake said, ‘I couldn’t imagine how many people were in that church,’” White said. “It makes you realize what kind of person Frank was.”
Before moving to East Rockaway later in life, Luisi went to St. Michael’s, in Brooklyn, and then attended Brooklyn Technical High School.
When he was 18, he and his wife, Helen, were married — at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, because Frank was in the Army. The young couple kicked off a lineage that is still growing today.
“While he was in the Army, my dad would box,” White said. “He actually won the Golden Gloves.” According to White, Helen gave Frank an ultimatum, which was “boxing or me,” and Frank chose her.
After they settled down as a newly married couple, Frank went to work for the American Can Company as a mechanic, working on ACC’s big machines. Frank and Helen moved to East Rockaway in 1963, and Frank became a construction inspector for roads in Nassau County.
In his free time, Frank played baseball. “His name was well known in Brooklyn as he was a great baseball player,” White said. “He loved baseball, and he’d go across the street from his house to play in a park. My mom would yell at him to come eat dinner, and he’d always be late.”
Along with baseball, Frank loved to travel with Helen. They visited Greece, Hawaii, Italy and other locations around the world.
Frank and Helen were the proud parents of Jean, Denise, Frank Jr. and Michele, and they had 14 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.
Mike White, Frank’s grandson, said his earliest memory of his grandfather was of him always carrying Tic Tacs in his pocket. “You would hear him walking around because of the Tic Tacs,” Mike recalled. “He would always have Tic Tacs ready to give to his grandkids.”
A tradition that Mike shared with his grandfather was playing Wiffle ball. “Wiffle ball on Father’s Day was a big deal,” Mike said. “My grandfather played into his 70s, maybe later.”
Mike describes his grandfather as a “dynamic individual.”
“We went up to Foxwoods and partied with my grandfather when he was 93,” Mike said. “He had a shirt that said ‘I’m 93 and still shuffling with a full deck.’”
Mike believed his grandfather was the definition of a man.
“Fulfillment to him meant putting food on his table and a roof over his kids’ head,” he said.
Mike vividly remembers his grandfather’s selflessness.
“When you spoke to my grandfather, it was all about you,” he said. “He had a share of old stories if you asked him, but he always wanted to know how you’re doing, how’s your business, how’s your boyfriend doing, and how’s your new job. He would always make it about you.”
Denise recalls the acts of selflessness from as long as she could remember. “My birthday is around Christmas, and when I was a young girl, he’d say, ‘It’s all about what you want to do.’
“My father taught me and my siblings manners as well as to treat people the way you want them to treat you,” she said. “He instilled that in us and we passed that down to our kids and grandkids.”
Frank was a volunteer fireman for the East Rockaway Fire Department. He had an active role in the community and met many people through this job.