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May 18th 1943
June 7th 2012
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You can view the whole memorial service including the slideshow on Youtube at:
You can view the slideshow tribute at:
Mike Pendola’s Eulogy
There are few people on this earth who are larger than life. People who defy description. Stories from lives like these sound more like tall tales than plain old living. These people are legends and it’s not necessary to exaggerate their charisma, their escapades and exploits, their trials or their significance to those whose lives they’ve touched. Mike Pendola is the legend we will miss most.
Dad defied most things. He defied authority: his teachers, his employers, and sometimes the law… Dad even defied his short stature. He was a little guy with a big attitude. When I was in school, I ended up in the classrooms of a couple of his former teachers. My father’s wise counsel to me was, “If they ask if you’re my kid, deny it!”
I knew some of these things that daunting day when Tony brought me home to “meet the parents.” Understand that I have major fear of man issues – and I’m not just talking about worrying what people think about me – I mean I’m really scared of people. Here I was, sixteen, going to meet my boyfriend’s dad: a man I knew had gotten so angry when his dog pooped on the floor that he had literally jumped up and down. A man I knew had broken his nose… REPEATEDLY – in actual fist fights.
So, I did what Mike would do. I sold myself. I talked garlic. I professed a deep love for garlic. I even said I thought chewing gum should come in garlic flavor. And he fell in love with me right there on the spot.
We cooked a lot together after that. We tried to outdo each other. We chopped a lot of garlic. I remember after Tony and I were married showing up at their house in Cary for dinner and my eyes actually started watering before we opened the front door. His signature dish was garlic chicken. Do you know that Tony believed a clove of garlic meant the entire bulb. “That’s the way my dad always did it,” he told me when I asked him to chop one clove and he deposited about a quarter cup in the skillet. The day Mike died, Jonah grieved for a bit. Jonah and Mike were profoundly close. Like his grandfather, Jonah didn’t say much of anything. Around dinner time, he came into the kitchen and with a frantic look on his face asked, “You do know how to make garlic chicken, don’t you?”
Genetically, Dad was maybe half Italian. In life he was 100% WOP. When Emma was born, she had this crazy head of sticky-up black hair like duck down. Dad couldn’t stop talking about how dark she was. He was completely captivated by this Italian-looking baby. He had this look of pure puffed-up pride on his face and announced HE was going to call her Rosa Bella. My mother-in-law, who is notoriously ornery, said with perfectly straight face, “Ya know hair like that always falls out and comes back in blond, right?” He looked at her like she’d shot his puppy. He called her Rosa Bella or sometimes Emma Bella for the next fourteen years and was proud of her every moment.
Dad was an amazing grandpa. He taught Jonah so much that when Jonah had to write a paper in the eighth grade about his real-life hero, he didn’t spend hours staring at a blank computer screen wondering what on earth to write like always, he told us right away he had his topic. He still procrastinated, but he picked his topic quickly.
Mike never procrastinated – ever. The only thing he put off was dying – supposedly he knocked at death’s door for almost forty years, though he was so absolutely full of life no one really ever believed he’d get around to it. Everything else I’ve ever known him to do got done quickly. From Tony I learned not to worry – tomorrow will take care of itself. From Mike I learned that if tomorrow brings a bad guy, we can always shoot him.
Mike loved to shoot. Some of you know I run a children’s consignment sale. Mike came in one day looking for a jogging stroller – a bit of a surprise. He didn’t jog. He didn’t stroll. Turns out he wanted to convert the stroller into some sort of 3-gun shooting cart.
Dad was never afraid to re-invent things. Mostly, he re-invented himself. I’d retold stories for years: “Oh yeah, my dad owned a pizza parlor when I was little. He was in the Army AND the Navy. He was a welder AND a dental technician. He was a fireman AND a policeman and private detective. He never finished school, but he TAUGHT college courses. He started in fire protection refilling extinguishers and ended up writing NFPA fire code as one of the top experts in bulk Halon in the world.
He’s a doctor, a lawyer, an Indian chief – whatever.” Last August, I spent an entire afternoon alone with Mike. We joined Karen and Mike in Mexico for a vacation and somehow I lucked into a remarkable afternoon alone with Mikey – no kids, no Tony, no Karen. We laid in hammocks at the pool and he told me story after story after story about his adventures. Everything I’d ever heard was true and more and he spilled it all in one lazy afternoon I will treasure forever. No one has ever lived life more fully than Mike did.
Mike Pendola’s Eulogy - part 2 of 2
My parents had two major moves in their lifetime. We moved to NC in 1983 for an incredible job opportunity. As it turned out, the South was such a calming influence, that it mellowed the guy who railed at the good ole boys that were building our house. Eventually, he adopted the laid back culture and relaxed.
As a rising sophomore in High School, I was not excited about that move. But NC turned out to be a fantastic place that afforded ME much more opportunity as well. Because my Dad’s educational experience didn’t go so well, he always stressed the importance of education to me. He even taught me the Pythagorean Theorem long before I learned it in school, because he was studying it. Believe it or not, when he was in high school, the idiotic guidance counselors told him he would never amount to much so he should take as many shop classes as he could get.
With the demise of Halon and with us graduated and married, they had to move again. This time to the West Coast. Mike quickly leapfrogged his boss to become District Manager for the western part of the US. A good airport in Boise meant they could move from the pricey Cupertino area. After a few years there, however, Jonah came around and they desperately wanted to live nearby. So they up and left lucrative jobs and their house and moved back here. Family and health were their top priorities.
My Dad’s life was tragic from the beginning, but he never talked about it. He was funny and happy and positive and full of adventure. Few knew that his little sister Marilyn got spinal meningitis as a baby and spent the next eighteen years in a crib. That his father died of heart disease at the age of 41 when Dad was only 15-years-old. That his little brother Tony was the last seventeen-year-
old killed in Viet Nam. After his death the US government pulled all troops under the age of 18 out. That at 22-years-old, he rushed a child from a burning car to an ambulance, but the boy, skin peeling off in his fingers, died in his arms. That he fathered two babies who died the day they were born. That he survived a heart attack at 29, two open-heart surgeries and a stroke – mostly in the first half of his life. That he lost a 16 year-old niece to cancer and a 12 year-old great-nephew to drowning.
He did not curse God for his afflictions. Instead he cherished every good gift. He was a faithful husband. A loving father. An adoring grandpa. Perhaps he might not have become these things had his path been easier. He didn’t always gush like grandma did, but his chest almost visibly filled with pride when there was a great catch in center field, a badge earned, a dove downed or even a fish caught – no matter how guppy-like. He was at every baseball game, every soccer match, every recital, every lacrosse match, even at every awards ceremony – and they can be snoozers.
My Dad usually didn’t express his love verbally. Truth is, he didn’t need to. You knew! But he was faithful to write a heartfelt note on Mom’s birthday card every year. One year he even annotated the card’s message with, “This is true!” We all got such a kick out of it, that we kept the phrase going and never let him forget it.
I’m not much for sentimental greeting cards, but I found this one for his birthday last month and it was perfect.
“Dad, you’ve always been the kind of man who would rather do than say. But all that doing says a lot…It says that your family comes first. That you’d do anything for our happiness. That you’re a good man and a great dad. And that pretty much says it all.” This is true!
from Tina Pendola on PJStar site:
July 05, 2012
Karen, Tony,Beth, Jonah, Emma,Lilly & Sam
Please know that my heart and spirit are with you even though I can't be. As you know Mike made me promise not to travel if I ill health. He will be missed.
Peoria Journal Star guestbook entries saved here as a lasting memorial
July 04, 2012
Dear Karen, Tina, Tony, Beth, Jonah, Emma, Lily, Sam, and family,
We send our prayers and heart felt condolences for Mike's passing. May he rest in Peace.
I recall many years ago speaking with him when he worked at Getz here in Peoria and laughs we shared. The many times we shared growing up and attending the family reunions is a very vivid memory.
May God be with you during this difficult time and Bless you always.
Joe, Kim, Shannon, Erin, Joshua, and Justin
~ Joe Benko, Bartonville, Illinois
July 02, 2012
Tina and family so sorry for your lose.
We love ya,
Paula and Lenoard Erlichman
July 02, 2012
Karen and family, we were so sorry to hear of Mike's passing. He was a great and caring person. Whenever we saw Mike, he always had a smile on his face, even when he wasn't feeling well. He was a great neighbor and we will miss him terribly. May God continue to comfort you and your family.
~ Melvin & Joyce Mayo, Fuquay Varina, North Carolina
July 01, 2012
Karen and Tony Sorry for your loss. Mike was a great guy. Carole and I still remember our "crazy eight" card games at Covington Apts (Mike and I never cheated ) He was blessed with warmness and a great since of humor. May the angels lead him into paradise and the Lord comfort you.
~ Mike & Carole Bresko, East Peoria, Illinois
I went to Woodruff High School with Mike my freshman year 1960-61. I was 14 years old, Mike was 17 and a Junior
I can remember how funny he was, and the great sense of humor he had He had many friends while he was in high school at Woodruff High in Peoria, IL area.
I am sure he made many more friends through his journey in life.
I will be praying for the family through this difficult time and ask God to give you the strength needed.
Your friend from high school,
Karen, So sorry to see of Mike's passing in the paper. He was way too young. I so remember the good times we had at Prudential and always wondered what became of you. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
by Jonah Pendola
My Grandpa Mike has greatly affected my life. He moved with my grandma from Idaho to North Carolina when I was born to be close by while I grew up. For a while we lived with them. Because he is retired and I am home schooled, we do things together a lot.
One fun thing about spending time with Grandpa is he gives me lots of "toys." Through his many gifts, he's helped me to develop a strong appreciation for the finer things in life. Shotguns, fishing poles, a bow, and a hunting license are just a few of the treats Grandpa has given me. Most of the things are for having fun with him.
Another great part about spending time with my grandpa is that he has taught me many things. I have learned about hunting and fishing from him. He has also coached me on how to shoot, maneuver the boat, and even drive the car! Although he teaches me like I am an apprentice, he treats me like a friend.
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