Pinky Pie

A fourth generation & Me

Posted on: May 17, 2011

One night when I was a kid, my parents and I arrived one Sunday night at Kris’ restaurant, a family favorite for its wiener schnitzel and other German specialties.

“Oh, Mr. Hessel, we have your reservation.”

My parents clearly were puzzled. And then it was clear when our good friends, Bart and Bertie Passanante, arrived. They used our last name whenever they went to restaurants other than Italian. Passanante was just too hard to spell.

This lovely memory came back when we were in New York City ten days ago, visiting their daughter, Jean Passanante, her husband Jack Shannon and their daughter Ruth. When we went out to dinner at an incredible Italian restaurant and I mean incredible, Jean casually mentioned the reservation was under the name Passanante.

Ruth aptly noted earlier in the weekend about her friendship with our son Michael “as the fourth generation” between our families. They had run into each other once or twice when they were very young. But a year ago when Michael was considering a grad school in New York, they got together along with their then significant others. Naturally, the friendship endured via Facebook.

The generations of friendship began in an apartment house on Cates in St. Louis, where three of our parents – Bertie, Bart and Milton lived with their families. Bart and Bertie, coming from Jewish and Italian Catholic families, were not supposed to date each other.

Grandma Helen Hessel used to report to Lena Rich when Bart and Bertie went out. I don’t think Bertie ever forgave her. On the other hand, my dad used to pick up Bertie for dates, handing her off to Bart. I’m really proud of that.

Jean and I were friends through high school, although we have not seen each other much in recent years except for funerals. Sigh.

So we took action, going to New York City by way of Washington, D.C. We wanted to do stuff in the city, where I had not been since junior high school. But the truth be known, I was really interested in that connection between our families.

That’s why our Mother’s Day toasting of our mothers with hot fudge sundaes had so much impact. OK, we also love hot fudge sundaes so much so that we are willing to toast anyone at any time. But on Mother’s Day we clanged our cups of sundaes together

Bart, who we called Uncle Bart, was a surgeon who patched up us kids when we had our various injuries – concussions for my brother Andy and dislocated kneecaps for me. My parents called him with all sorts of questions about ailments, which he was happy to answer.

I’ve missed having that opportunity, a reason that when a friend, a physician assistant, has answered questions among our friends, I’ve called her Uncle Carol.

We all need an Uncle Bart and Aunt Bertie in our lives, who dispensed so much wisdom and patched us up as needed.

If there is any up there – and who knows if there is – I’m sure they were all smiling down on New York City ten days ago that we were connected once again. I’m thinking we really should get together again in NYC sooner than 40 years.


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