Funeral Eulogy

Eulogy for Mr. Eretto

Kenneth Bonamo, Class of 1993

Staten Island Technical High School

 

On behalf of the students, faculty, and parents who make up the Staten Island Tech family, I would like to say a few words about the impact Mr. Eretto had on everyone he touched—as a teacher, a friend, and a human being.

 

As all of us know, Mr. Eretto was one of the few people whose dedication astonished and inspired everyone around him.  Every teacher, administrator, staff member, parent, and most especially every student knows Mr. Eretto in his or her own way.  He treated everyone as his equal.  He talked to the students as he talked to the teachers as he talked to the security guards and custodians—with a genuine interest in who they were, what they were doing, and how he could help them achieve their mission.  His excitement in assuming all the new responsibilities assigned to him this year along with continuing his immense successes in the things he did in the past is a testament to his ability to help anyone do anything.

 

As Mr. Bilotti reminded me yesterday, Mr. Eretto is the type of person who grows on you gradually:  the better you got to know him the more you loved him.  One of his greatest joys was taking quiet freshmen under his wing and helping them to blossom so they could fully enjoy the high school experience.  I was one of those shy freshmen.  I came from a large intermediate school and got used to being one of the many.  But my quietness was more obvious in the special small environment of Tech.  I managed to join one club in freshman year: the STEP program.  It just so happened that Mr. Eretto was taking the group to Russia.  He was also doing two plays that spring.  One of the seniors was unable to perform, and in what seemed like an accident, he asked me to replace this senior.  What I did not know is that he most likely targeted me as one of those freshmen who needed his help.  And how right he was.  I must tell you all that I would not have the ability to be standing here making this difficult speech were it not for the man in whose honor I am speaking.  Many other students would not have achieved the accomplishments they did if it were not for his guiding light.  And what affects us all equally is that many of the school’s events would never have seen the light of day were it not for his presence in our Tech family.

 

First and foremost, Mr. Eretto was a showman.  And he conveyed that quality to his students as the director of the fall musicals and spring productions since the very start of his career at Tech.  Many of the humorous stories about Mr. Eretto come from the very auditorium which will soon bear his name.  That was his auditorium, his domain, his home in the school.  That was just his AUD.  We joked about putting cots backstage for us to sleep in overnight, since many of our altogether too famous night rehearsals ended so late that it almost seemed ridiculous to leave the school since we’d be back in six or seven hours.  We all enjoyed what came to be known as his explosions.  We needed them to get us together and to get us motivated for the big night.  And on those big nights—the nights of the performances—Mr. Eretto beamed with pride and happiness.  Proud of his students and happy that he was able to give us all the opportunity to shine and feel that we had done something special.  And we did.  We had become part of his life, part of his legacy, as it were.

 

 

Mr. Eretto longed to fit in with his students, and he did so in a variety of ways.  One of the most memorable techniques he used in being a student was the way he washed the desks in his room.  Instead of cleaning the graffiti, he often wrote back to the anonymous student, and anticipated the next day when he could read the response.  He told me that he wanted to keep up with the new slang phrases so he could relate to us all better.  And he made fashion statements of his own.  When ripped jeans were the trend, Mr. Eretto wore his ripped shoes.  When he started the NHS Prep program, he and Mrs. Berger took us to a Chinatown restaurant.  We did have seven courses, you know.  Oh, absolutely.  He relished sitting at the table with us—where he could talk freely with the students he loved.

 

He was also involved with SERP, and it was mainly the students from those classes who told everyone what a wonderful teacher there was in room 242.  His students not only told their friends about Mr. Eretto, but they brought the news home to their parents.  Many parents visited Mr. Eretto on open school night, even though it had been many moons since their children were in his classes.  Our parents must have known what a wonderful man Mr. Eretto was, for they let us spend so much time with him—in class, during rehearsals, and in other areas of the world.  And they were right on the mark.  It is because of those experiences that we can take memories of him with us and use them to encourage ourselves to live what we learned from him.

 

Mr. Eretto’s father said to me last night that one of the best ways to make his son proud is to follow his example.  And that is exactly what we all must to do make something of what he has left us with.  We must be willing to contribute in ways we didn’t think we could before.  We must do it selflessly like he did.  We must find humor in everything.  That is what we all remember Mr. Eretto for—his humor.  His laugh.  His loud, booming laugh.  He laughed at us and with us on stage.  He shared our laughter in class.  When we were away from our families in Europe, he made it easier for us by giving us something to laugh at—usually himself.  In the summer of ’92, he and Mrs. Schwartz took a group of us to Europe.  While in Italy, we usually split the group in two—the shoppers went with Mrs. Schwartz, and the eaters (I was one of them) went with Mr. Eretto.  And as we were walking the streets of Rome, Venice, and Florence, he gave us one important command.  He said, “When you guys walk with me, we can stop at all the shops on one side of the street, but you can’t let me go across the street, because then it will just be too much for me to handle.”  Yesterday, Mr. Bilotti related the Bratwurst story to me.  He remembered when they were in Germany and enjoyed more than their share of German sausages.  As he said, “Mr. Eretto enjoyed the gourmet life.”  And that he did.  He enjoyed everything in life.  And that is what we all should do as we pass through these years.

 

 

 

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