The people you meet at Ralph’s Ices, Staten Island
Last summer, a time that seems a lifetime ago, My family went for our traditional July 4 trip to visit my parents on Staten Island. It was a beautiful summer night. The moon was out and full. After dinner we went for a walk at South Beach. The boardwalk and the pier were crowded with people enjoying the ocean. Back then, everyone loved how close they were to the ocean.
After our walk we enjoyed a rite of summer on Staten Island: a trip to Ralph’s Italian Ices. The one across from the Shop Rite on Hylan Blvd. No sit down place here, you order your ices at the window, and eat them in the parking lot.
Behind us on line was a couple who were friends with my parents, actually neighbors who lived just blocks away on Staten Island’s Fox Beach. My mom knew the woman, who was a receptionist at a dental office where my mom was a dental heigyentist. My dad knew the man because they umpired men’s league baseball in the summer together on Staten Island. My husband and I were introduced, we said hello politely, and then went back on our own to enjoy our lemon and watermelon ices.
I had forgotten that encounter until last Saturday night. My parents have lived on Staten Island since 1970. Dad has retired from over 30 years teaching high school and coaching at Tottenville High School. Mom has retired from over 30 years of working at a pediatric dentist practice on Staten Island. That means they run into people they know, who they taught, coached, cleaned teeth, on Staten Island EVERYWHERE.
This Saturday night, mom called me from Sandy-ravaged Staten Island. Our conversations are terse and tense. She sounds tired, stressed about the loss of their car, their roof, the damage to all their possessions in their basement. But still, mom knew they were the lucky ones.
That night, mom called me to tell me they were headed to a double wake. She asked me if I remembered meeting this nice couple in the parking lot of Ralph’s ices. That man, the one my parents casually introduced us to back in July at Ralphs? That man was John Filipowicz, who drowned in his basement with his 20-year-old son when they went to get more flashlights and candles.
Every connection means something, even it’s a brief and casual introduction in a parking lot on a summer’s night. I hung up from my mom and dissolved into tears, thankful that it was just a car and all the belongings in our basement that we lost.
Their story was published here in the Staten Island Advance.
Rest in peace, John JOHN FILIPOWICZ and JOHN FILIPOWICZ JR, two victims of Sandy.