Growing up in Warwick in the 1960s is a story of small town life in the swirl of national change. When I look back I remember a place that was full of families, friends, and home town activities that dotted the calendar – there was the 1967 Centennial Celebration as well as the normal things like Little League, scouting, park programs and parades. It was a simpler time and a much, much smaller community. To a greater extent it was a community of many young families and it seemed that we all knew each other.
I knew Charlie as Mr. Papaceno. He seemed a lot like my dad – he worked long hours and was involved with the community. He was dedicated to his family. He worked at the Grand Union and my dad had the pharmacy down the street. Our families went to the same church and gathered at the same events and although our families were not close, there existed the odd but compelling broad familial bond that is part of living in the same place.
When I returned to Warwick as an adult and eventually became Mayor, I grew to know Charlie as a peer, sometimes a critic but someone who I always admired whether I agreed with him or not. That relationship continued, and I appreciated his candor and insight when we’d meet on the street or he’d stop into Village Hall. I did most of the listening and grew to know that the experience he shared was something that was immeasurable to me as a tenderfoot.
The one thing I admired most about Charlie was his commitment to his health. Charlie dealt with a heart condition most of his adult life – to be able to live to 91 is a testament to his focus and ability to take on life’s challenges. He was an avid walker and the dedication to that activity I believe resulted in a longer life. He was an example to all of us on the importance of exercise and a healthy regime and its positive results.
One of last times I saw Charlie was at a meeting we set up to discuss his work as the head of the Finance Committee for the Village’s Centennial. This was to give us some help as we were organizing the Sesquicentennial. He was so pleased to pass on the information and we learned so much from him that afternoon. At that moment we were all transported back to the heady fun of the summer of 1967. I relish the memory of that day.
A family has a special bond and the care that his children gave him was a tribute to devotion and gratitude between father and daughter, father and sons. So, we say goodbye to a hardworking dedicated man, a husband, father, veteran, and an active involved citizen. He was loved and will be missed by many. I know I will miss his perspective, his strength of purpose and his candor – he represents a time in my life when I grew to know the true meaning of Community and I’m grateful for his guidance and insight toward that knowledge.