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|Rocco Ernest Porreco|
|Service: Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 11:00 a.m.|
Location: St. Raphael's Catholic Church, 1513 Dunster Road, Rockville, MD 20854
On December 25, 2015, Rocco Ernest Porreco went home to the Lord. Rocco was born in Pueblo, Colorado on September 22, 1920 to Assunta Bucci and Frank (Florindo Fanella) Porreco. He grew up in Pueblo, the second of five boys in the Porreco family. When at age six his mother died, he and his brothers were sent to the Sacred Heart Catholic Orphanage, so that his father could continue to work to support the family. Later when his father remarried, Rocco moved back home with his father and his step mother Bernice. He was an accomplished student, and his High School class valedictorian at Pueblo Catholic High. Deeply religious, he joined the seminary, studying to become a Jesuit.
At the start of World War II, his love of country and desire to join the fight for freedom moved him to leave the seminary and join Patton's Army, where he became a Combat Medic, and received multiple commendations including Silver and Bronze Stars and Purple Heart.
In 1946, at the end of World War II, his closest Army buddy introduced Rocco to Marie Daly, a nurse at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City. They were engaged one week later and they were married for 58 years until her death in 2005. They have five children.
After the completion of his PhD in Philosophy at Catholic University, Rocco worked as Intelligence Analyst for the Department of State, Philosophy professor at Catholic University, and for 32 years he taught Philosophy at Georgetown University, where he was a founder of the University's Community Action Program (GUCAP) as well as the Community Scholars Program for inner city youth and Co-Founder of the Georgetown University Employee Credit Union. He was elected Chairman of the Philosophy Department, and served as Dean of the Georgetown's Graduate and Summer Schools.
In 1990 upon his retirement he and Marie traveled to Italy, Ireland, Mexico and throughout the US and Canada. He wrote several books including "Marie was Mine". When Marie became sick, he cared for her 24/7 until her death in 2005.
Rocco described the next phase of his life, from 2005-2015 as "reinventing himself", and he did this by becoming a tireless volunteer, dedicating himself as a Eucharistic Minister, endlessly identifying additional people to add to his ministry - those unable to get to church, or the sick, visiting and comforting them, discussing religion and the inspiration that can be drawn from studying the lives of the saints. He was also a volunteer for St. Martin's Pantry, picking up and delivering food for the hungry.
Even at age 95 (picture shown is from 2015), he was robust, chopping firewood, constantly opening his home to relatives and visitors and cooking fabulous dinners (for as many as 17 at a time). He loved life, and was a natural teacher, mentor, counselor, guide and the most generous and truest of friends. If you told him you liked his hat, he'd remove it and give it to you. Up until December 13, when he broke his hip, he was a 95 year old who looked to be in his 70s who wanted nothing more than to be out and about, touching lives and doing something to make someone else happy.
Rocco is survived by five children - Susan (spouse Phil Cardinale), Catherine (spouse Richard Sutton), John, Stephen and Rocco Paul (spouse Donna); seven grandchildren - Wayne, Chris, PJ, Tina, Joey, Anthony and Nick; seven great grandchildren - Anna, Andy, Marty, Jenna, Jack, James, and Giuseppe. He will be deeply missed.
The Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at St. Raphael's Catholic Church, 1513 Dunster Road, Rockville, MD 20854 on Wednesday, December 30 at 11 a.m. He will be laid to rest with his wife Marie in Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.
A reception will be held in St. Raphael's library, following the Mass.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made in Rocco's name to either The Wounded Warrior Project, 4899 Belfort Road Ste. 300, Jacksonville, FL 32256. www.woundedwarriorproject.org. or Fisher House Foundation, Inc., 111 Rockville Pike, Suite 420, Rockville, MD 20850. www.fisherhouse.org.
Please sign the guest book.
Eulogy shared at Funeral Mass:
On behalf of Rocco Porreco, I thank our family and Pop's dear friends, who have come today to honor him - some of you have come great distances-Christine and Tina- THANK YOU. I am one of Pop's five children, my sister is Susan, my brothers John, Stephen, Rocco Paul, and I am honored to speak to you today. Also we thank Father Francisco, Monsignor Gatto, Father Jim, and Father John who visited Pop many times these past couple of weeks when Pop was in the hospital.
My father, Rocco Ernest Porreco was 95 years old. He was one of 5 boys born to Italian immigrants: Frank (Florindo) and Assunta (Susie) Porreco. His family was poor, the five boys were close in age, and his father worked for the Santa Fe Railroad; they lived in Pueblo, Colorado. When at age 6 Pop's mother died, Grandfather had to put his sons in Sacred Heart Orphanage in Pueblo. A few years later, Pop's father married Bernice, and the boys were able to go back home where they wanted to be. Pop was someone who always adjusted, and he did this as a child. He loved learning, was high school valedictorian, and after graduation, he entered the seminary. Here is a correction for those of you who have seen his obit: He did not want to become a Jesuit. He wanted to become a parish priest.
When World War II began, seeing his friends, fellows he'd grown up with, joining the fight (and many were killed or injured); Pop had to be part of the fight, and he joined the service: becoming combat medic in Patton's army. When anyone talked to Pop about being a hero, Pop said he was no hero, that you do what you have to do-still-- his commendations included Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart. Richard says "Without Rocco and men of his ilk, the greatest generation would have been merely great."
Pop met Mom in 1946, through his Army buddy, Louie Smolenski --they married about a year later in 1947 and raised a family of 5 children. He earned his PhD from Catholic U. where he also taught Philosophy, and later Pop joined the State Department as an analyst, and then he went to Georgetown University where for 32 years he taught Philosophy and held two deanships.
Growing up with brothers and my sister, I remember Pop strong and gentle, with endless energy, humor, patience, twinkling eyes and a beautiful smile. He was drawn to anyone in distress and somehow he was nominated as the guy in the neighborhood to call to fix everybody's plumbing - I don't know why, but he was always willing to give it a try and was mostly successful except for the time he dropped a gigantic wrench and broke a water supply. He had a booming voice, and a deep rumbling singing voice in church, never on key but it didn't stop him from singing the loudest. We children would break into gales of laughter and hold our noses trying to laugh silently. Pop played with us, and he'd ride us around on his red Raleigh bike, taking John and meto the creek to hunt for frogs and turtles. In summers, our parents loaded the family into Pop's 1950 light blue ford station wagon and took us to Nana's house in the Catskills - and often with our Daly cousins. At bedtime, in a makeshift upstairs dorm type bedroom, he'd read us Blackie the Crow and The Jungle Book and the Iliad and the Odyssey.
It was a routine in our house that over the dinner table, Pop had the floor, and would question us - asking us the capitals of states and countries. He was always making up rhymes and crazy but affectionate nicknames for people like cowface, eyebones, birdlegs, criss cross applesauce, WideTrack, "old horse"; and teasing my cousins that they had cooties in their booties.
As children at bedtime, kneeling, we prayed with him every night, listing the names of everyone in the family, and friends and relatives, and always "the poor souls" and asking God's blessings. Pop told me recently that he continued to pray that way (except not kneeling) and that he added so many more to the list and pictured every face as he prayed for each person.
Pop took delight in each child born into the family, his grandchildren, and great grandchildren, he loved them all.
When Mom was sick with Alzheimer's, Pop told us that he loved her even more, especially because she needed him so much. He dedicated himself to her 24/7. When she died 10 years ago Pop was full of grief --but he took action to move forward, explaining he "decided to reinvent himself." He became Eucharistic Minister at two assisted living facilities, bringing communion and the day's gospel to as many as 30 residents each Friday, and telling them about the saint of the day. He also started going to weekday Mass at St. Raphael's (weekdays) and Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Mercy. And he became a volunteer for St. Martin's food pantry, picking up and delivering thousands of pounds of food for the hungry, coordinating volunteers. He wrote four books and was working on another. He initiated weekly Skype calls some years ago, faithfully calling Father Frank (Mom's cousin) in the Philippines every Saturday night at 7PM to discuss, debate and argue about religious teachings and the life of Jesus.
If you ever visited Pop, you will agree: Pop always wanted to feed every guest, refusing to take NOT HUNGRY for an answer. Interesting because Wayne points out that Pop wrote in one of his books that "eating is what it is all about."
He was dangerous with the chain saw and came to our house to help a few years ago when we were clearing a patch in the back yard; he ended up cutting down our only cherry tree, probably because he was having such fun and forgot to look up at the tree he was cutting.
He also loved burn barrel fires and he knew the rules, but he'd wait until Richard went to the dump because Rich would have stopped him, but he knew I couldn't stop him, so he'd pour gasoline on the ground and burn a whole area because he said it needed clearing. He was a mischievous man. Chris told me that one day he observed Pop standing by a burn barrel in his own backyard, and lecturing John on fire safety, while at the same time an ember landed on Pop's hat, caught it on fire, and burned a hole in it. All the while, Pop was having fun and it was impossible to be with him and not laugh and laugh at something or other that was initiated by Pop.
Pop's mind was extraordinary and he was an encyclopedia. He knew everything. The day before he died one of the nurses was telling him where her family was from, an island in the Indian Ocean - she spelled out the name. I was standing alongside her and I attempted to pronounce it. Pop gestured "NO" and - even though he could only speak in a whisper, pronounced it perfectly.
Pop was a humble man and a great man, a brave and determined man, a down to earth man and a man with his mind on heaven. He focused on everyone else, never on himself. He listened and he saw everything. He loved hats++++, bourbon, warmed plates, good food, Italian olives, hot coffee, the religious channel, the western channel, and he had a child's sense of wonder when seeing what smart phones could do. Recently he asked me to look up old children's poems and we'd say them together and laugh about it.
He loved going out and grocery shopping and sometimes he'd overstock. My brother Stephen said it seemed like he was feeding an army. I counted as many as 9 packages of frozen Italian sausages in his freezer about 2 months ago.
He loved meeting people anywhere and everywhere and engaging them in conversations, and saying something to make them smile. On his own, he exercised daily, got up at 3am, said the rosary while watching EWTN.
He loved soft fleece vests with deep pockets, colorful outrageous socks and funny boxers. He liked dates and pomegranate juice, hard Italian cheese, Werther's hard butterscotch candies, good red wine and ice cold beer. He liked to throw the cans when he was finished.
He had quite a nice wardrobe with a blue and white seersucker suit like Andy Griffith for the summer and an Italian wool suit with turquoise suspenders and matching tie that he wore to Sunday mass the day he fell.
What do I think is the most important thing to tell you about Pop? I think it is that Pop loved everyone and he took every moment to touch lives, to be truly like Christ, to feed the hungry, visit the sick, and shine God's light everywhere he walked. I quote his friend Ruta, who states it perfectly: The love which Mr. Rocco left behind will not disappear, but in small particles like a golden dust is going to continue on, living in all of us whose lives he's touched.
We all love you, Pop!
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