My earliest memory of him was when he asked, “Wade, what’s that updock on your back?”
“What’s up doc,” I replied innocently. That joke delighted everyone but me. You see, I had buck teeth back then and used to imitate Bugs Bunny with that phrase. But when people seemed to be laughing at me, not with me, I stopped. Classic Uncle Pete, so clever and funny!
He was always Uncle Pete to my brother Bill and me and also to my two boys, Wade and Ward. We adored and respected him, and not only because he was the single most entertaining, funny guy we ever knew.
God put him on this earth to tickle people’s funny bones, and he was very faithful to that calling, even when he couldn’t attract an audience. I remember him wearing that costume of the guy he invented named Father Pitt or Penn or such. It was so clever, but sadly, folks just didn’t get it.
It was also because he was such an engaging romantic and lover. I’ll never forget the look of urgency on his face when he ran around Niagara Falls on a mission of love. We ran with him, searching for a letter he had written and hidden there years before. Why was it so romantic! He wrote it to the love of his life years before he ever met and fell in love with Maria. A rock slide buried that letter, but never the passion that drove him to show authentic love to many around him—so like his mama, my Grandma, who showed us such unconditional love when we needed it most.
Funny thing about love. It’s not really a single thing, but, like the rainbow, has many colors and dimensions. Uncle Pete explored most of them, whether it was with his nephews, his students, his family of origin, with the family he and Maria built together or, later in his life, with Jesus.
Have you ever felt very close to someone because they loved someone you also loved? When Uncle Pete and Maria became personally acquainted with Jesus, I felt our relationship took a quantum leap forward. Did he have failures in that relationship as with others? He must have. Haven’t we all? Even St. Peter failed the Lord. Didn’t he deny him three times? Yet the Lord forgave and used him still. I remember how crushed Uncle Pete was when I failed the Lord. I’m not sure he ever got over that.
But now we can rejoice that il professore, Peter Iole, is done with the troubles of the world. I wonder if he isn’t still doing his thing, entertaining and tickling funny bones of that great audience above—the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and all the saints who have marched into glory with him.
“Oh, Lord, I want to be in that number.” Amen
So, if you’ll pardon the expression, “knock ‘em dead,” Uncle Pete and thank you. You made us laugh. You shared our joys and sorrows. You taught us some very important things about love.