July 31st, 2013
Funeral for a Door and Window Man
I buried my oldest brother, Gabe Milanese Jr., this week.
In the door and window and business, we measure width and height along with dollars and cents every day. We can also measure a man by his size and worth, but that is not how we will be remembered most …
Our dad started his remodeling business when Gabe was born 56 years ago and they grew up together. Gabe was the president of Milanese Remodeling for the last 25 years. He was involved in every door and window innovation since the fledgling remodeling industry began.
He started off installing anodized aluminum storm doors and triple-track storm windows. He sold the first replacement doors and windows in the 1970s and helped them evolve into today’s offerings. He solved problems for many clients who became friends and loved him.
You may ask, “How could a customer love a door and window salesman?”
Since the very first “Tin Men,” we have not been best known for being lovable, but more than a thousand people formed a line that stretched around the block of the funeral home to pay their respects to Gabe. Hundreds more attended his burial mass and walked with him to his grave. Over the last few days so many people have told me they loved Gabe because of how he treated them in his business life …
There was the mother of a serviceman returning from war whose furniture wouldn’t fit through the door. She told me how Gabe immediately came to her rescue. He personally came out to her home, removed the door, moved the furniture into the family room and reinstalled the door all by himself. He wouldn’t accept payment. Instead, he asked her to thank her son for serving our country.
There was the 92-year-old woman who was a past client and gardening enthusiast. She told me how Gabe stopped by and pulled all the weeds from her front yard while he talked with her as she rocked in her chair on her front porch, just because they both shared a love of flowers and she couldn’t take care of hers anymore.
There was a successful businessperson. He told me he learned how to treat employees from his first boss, my brother Gabe.
There were city councilmen, county commissioners, state representatives, judges and U.S. congressmen. They told me about Gabe’s selfless efforts to make government serve people better.
There were owners of manufacturing companies. They told me they were grateful for his loyalty, integrity and persistence.
So, in the end, Gabe made his own choices in life … Gabe chose to be a nice guy. And that choice made him a great man who was beloved by many.
Gabe chose to be a great son who honored his mother and his father every day with love and obedience. They taught him the difference between right and wrong and he chose to be polite, kind, courteous and always do his best.
Gabe chose to be a great brother who befriended, protected and set a good example, a brother who reached out his hand to help, even after it was slapped away.
Gabe chose to be a great husband who celebrated 31 years of marriage and 33 years of working side by side every day devoted to the woman he adored.
Gabe chose to be a great father who allowed his children the freedom to be themselves. He protected and provided for them. The only discipline they received was of love and caring for their best. He showed them the world and, more importantly, he showed them how to behave in a world that can be cruel.
Gabe chose to enjoy life and embrace hobbies and interests that were fulfilling to him and good for others.
Gabe chose to be a hard-working and honest businessman who treated employees, clients, colleagues and all he dealt with honestly, fairly and respectfully.
Gabe chose to be slow to anger, quick to forgive and very patient with others.
Gabe chose to be a true leader who learns how with to get people to want to do what he wanted them to, but he was never afraid to get dirty and pitch in himself—wherever he was needed and without waiting to be asked.
Gabe chose to be a great business partner who treated employees, clients, colleagues and all he dealt with honestly, fairly and respectfully.
Gabe left this world without a single outstanding service call for his work.
Gabe left this world owing no one anything.
Gabe left a family and a community who will miss him dearly.
Gabe lived a life we could all be proud of.
That is the way to measure a man.
Here is a link to the obituary of Gabriel P. Milanese Jr:
If you knew Gabe and would like to write a few words about him, or if you’d like to read what others have written about Gabe here is another link.
Editor’s note: The Milanese family has started the Gabe Milanese Jr. Foundation whose intent is to continue to sponsor “Team Gabe” to help find a cure for brain tumors. Its first attempt last year raised more than $12,000. The company will also will offer a scholarship to help a young person graduating from our local high school who intends to pursue a career in business.