Dear Dad…Here’s what you missed.

Thirty years has gone by since you left us for another world. Thirty years and not one day has passed that I haven’t thought of you, or asked myself, “What would my dad do?”. When I reflected this morning on all that has transpired over the years, I am sad that you have missed so much, but also joyful that you and Mom created and nurtured such strong human beings. Just a recap though of what you’ve missed….

You missed our mother fall apart and then pick herself back up so that she could be an outstanding mom, grandmother and friend. She is truly an inspiration to me and the love of my children’s lives.

I feel fortunate that you knew Derek and approved of him as my future husband. I feel cheated though that only one of my parents was there to walk me down the aisle. Mom did a great job, but secretly, I wished it was you. We missed a father/daughter dance, but you twirled me around so many times in our living room as little girl, I’ll let that suffice.

You missed Neal and Pam’s wedding which was a blast, but I know he too had a hole in his heart that day. We feel blessed that you knew and loved, Pam. She has been an amazing partner in most of Neal’s crimes:-)

You didn’t get to meet Claire, Robert’s wife. Such a fun human being who brings Robert great joy…and Dad, she’s a Mets fan:-) And then there is the newest adult addition to our family, Anika. The best possible match for George…kind, considerate and devilishly fun! I would have liked to have seen you in a car with Anika driving though….wow!

You missed Nicholas and all his brilliant moments, wonderful debater and caring individual, but you would have loved to have seen him heading off to Syracuse looking so much like Neal it’s scary.

You missed Noah and his sweet heart. His ability to wrap you around his finger within minutes and a wit that is fascinating to see grow.

You missed Isabella with the fiery personality, the love of friends and chatter, and a deep and unwavering love for family. She is also the one to go to for family gossip….she’s an insider:-)

You missed Coda. He would have kept you in stitches with his wit and charm, but seems to be the only one who has that music ability….I’m sure he gets that from me.

And then Charlotte. Our most recent addition to the Matarazzo clan. She’s absolutely adorable, very quick to figure things out and has completely got Robert snowed. That makes me chuckle.

Most importantly to me, you missed my two boys. You missed the fun of me telling Mom that she was going to be a grandmother, and you a grandfather. You missed Derek and I obsessing about about the things we needed for our first child and wondering if we would be good parents.

You missed Jeffrey.

You missed his HUGE blue eyes and his infectious smile and laugh. You missed his ability to dance and sing at a really early age and his love of trying to take things apart and put them back together. I know you witnessed all of this because he spoke to you often. I was always telling him about Grandpa Neal and then one day when Jeffrey was about two and a half years old, he was chatting with someone in the kitchen. When I asked who he was talking to he replied, “Grandpa Neal”. I know you were there.

You missed Jeffrey in amazing productions of The Wizard of Oz, The Music Man, The Sound of Music, and Hello Dolly. No worries though, I was proud for both of us. You missed him performing with Royalaires for three years and then heading off to Arizona State. You would love his house that he bought with Derek a few years ago. There is so much he would like to do to update it and he is handy like you. Both of you would have had a blast working on the backyard garden, ripping out walls and tile, and planning a pool area. Poor kid is only left with me:-)  He’s kind, considerate and a credit to his family…we love him so much.

You missed Adam.

This kid would have cracked you up. At first I was concerned because for the first three years of his life he was attached to my leg, but then things changed. Remember how Neal liked to push your buttons and take you right to the edge??…that’s Adam. Although I think Adam has taken it to a new level. He’s wicked smart, like Jeffrey, and is constantly finding ways to exasperate me. You would have loved watching him play travel soccer. Derek was an amazing coach and both of you would have enjoyed talking soccer and coaching.

You missed Adam interning with The Cape Cod Baseball League, a marketing company and most recently in Superior Court I of Boone County.  Adam will be graduating college this year and then will head off to law school. I know you would have loved telling people that. He has grown into a wonderful human being and we know that he will be a fabulous attorney someday.


And then you missed me. I was truly adrift when you left this world. I couldn’t figure out what it was I was to do. I finally found my first calling in teaching. I taught elementary school for 18 years and loved every minute of it…or almost every minute…who likes grading math papers??? It was extremely rewarding. I loved being an educator, and I know how much you valued education. But something really deep inside me was calling to go in another direction. It wasn’t until a fateful trip to Italy in 2000 that I understood my path.

When the plane touched down in Rome I started to cry. I wanted so badly for you to be with me on that trip. I wanted you to show me Rome, Naples, Avellino, and Bellizzi. At first I thought you weren’t there…but you were everywhere. You orchestrated nearly every move we made especially our time in Bellizzi. I couldn’t stop photographing everything I saw and I realized then that photography was the next phase of my life. It had been a passion of yours as well. You loved all things artistic….music, photography, painting, sculpture. You introduced me to Renaissance works…and now I was seeing it with my own eyes. As years passed the need to express myself with photography grew. Here we are fourteen years later and I have left teaching and am nurturing a growing photography business. You surround me everyday.

I know you missed so much, but then again I like to believe you’ve seen it all. Thank you for being my Dad and showing each of us what hard work and dedication brings. You and Mom have always been my true compass. I love you and miss you.









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October 25, 2014 - 5:52 pm

Giovanna Matarazzo Mandel - Thank you Aunt Barbara! He loved you dearly along with the rest of the Miller girls:-)

October 16, 2014 - 9:54 am

Barbara Miller Caviolo - That was beautiful Joanne. I cried all through it and I know you did too. There are many nice incidents that I remember about your Dad.
One in particular was one Saturday when I was at your house in Pequannock I was complaining about not knowing what I was going to wear to a dinner dance the following Saturday and your Dad went to the basement and brought up a lovely piece of material and he took some measurements and before I went home that night I had the dress for the dinner dance. Another time when I was baby sitting with Neal when they lived in Garfield he brought home from work a lovely suit which still had to be sewn together and he went to the sewing machine and put it together and gave it to me. What a wonderfully generous man he was. You have all done him proud and I know he is smiling. God Bless you Neal.

October 14, 2014 - 1:40 am

Colleen Grady Colvin - Beautiful tribute!

October 13, 2014 - 1:33 pm

Deane Sharp - This is a beautiful memoir. You may not remember me but my kids are Jeff, Sandy and Sue Sharp…..Sandy was in Neal’s class and we all
knew him. Joanne were you in Sue’s class?? Thanks for a lovely remembrance of your Dad. Mrs. Sharp— PTHS

October 13, 2014 - 1:14 pm

Brook Rieman - Oh man. It was really hard reading this through tears. Thinking of you Giovanna.

October 13, 2014 - 3:40 am

Donna Boniello Laterza - Joanne I sit here and read this and a movie rolls in my mind seeing it and hearing it as you post your story. Its your past all in a wonderful timeline. Your father has seen it all and has laughed and cried with you all the way through your journey and I am sure he is very proud of what his legacy left behind. Im sure he stands there watching you all still feeling proud of what he began. I feel blessed to have been able to watch part of the movie unfold and know your dad as I did, he was the closest person I knew to be just like my dad. He was a wonderful man and a person I never forget!! I love you!!!

October 12, 2014 - 11:58 pm

Sandi Casey - Well said. Can’t believe it has been 30 years but rest assured..he has seen it all..I truly believe he watches over all of you. I do think of him from time to time and always remember that day he took us ice skating in that park near your house..whenever I pass that park or I am there watching my nephews play soccer I smile thinking of him. He was taken from us much too early..such a kind caring family man in every sense of the word…xoxo

October 12, 2014 - 8:46 pm

Lisa Finamore MacGrath - JoAnn that was beautiful.

October 12, 2014 - 8:23 pm

Megan Heck Walter - What an awesome recap!! I could easily just change the names and places and it would describe my thoughts exactly. Not a moment passes that I don’t miss my Daddy and all the memories we could have made. ❤️ Very sweet letter Joanne.

October 12, 2014 - 7:53 pm

Pam Snyder Tyree - Wow! What a beautiful recap! I imagine the words just tumbled out of you. I know you have always missed your dad! I’m sorry you lost your dad so early in life, but I also know how proud he must have been all these years!