I’ve written countless obituaries, but precious few of people I knew. So the words don’t come easy here, as I embrace the warm memory of a man who was nothing but kind and open-hearted to me.
If you lived in North Bergen back in the day, you knew Affuso’s Dugout. And if you knew “the Dugout,” you knew its ever-smiling, joke-cracking proprietor, Ralph “Chick” Affuso.
Chick was everything about my hometown, the “old” North Bergen — lunchpail, do-what-you-gotta-do, wouldja-get-a-load-o’-this-guy? material.
He never asked for anything yet always was the one to say “I got it.” Never looked for trouble, but God forbid you messed with him or his loved ones. Didn’t command respect as much as he earned it.
A stand-up guy.
It’s what set the mood and the atmosphere at Affuso’s, a neighborhood joint where you could enjoy a reasonably priced meal, watch the ballgame, shoot the shit. Chick made his business an anchor, a safe harbor, a place where working-class stiffs and hot shots alike could find an evening’s peace.
Chick knew good food and good people, neither of which he was never long without. And his laugh — maddon! From way down in his belly, up through the ceiling.
As he moved through life, becoming a bus inspector for the township and, later, retiring to the Jersey Shore, Chick looked out for his amazing wife, June, tolerating her Giants football fever, slipping in the zingers with just the right timing, making her smile. He embraced his family, becoming the kind of grandfather the kids flocked to. Loving. Open. Accepting. Safe.
In a world that needs to keep its old shoes — warm, comfortable, dependable — we just lost one. At 75, it was way too early, and far too painful.
My heart goes out to you, June, as it does to your beautiful Dianna; to you, Janet, and that big mush of a nephew of mine, Michael; to Alex and the rest of the Ivanov brood; to Ralphie and his family; and to those Affusos I never met.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, ATTENTION Laura Danbeck or Patricia Hauser, Grateful Patient Program, 10 Plum St. Suite 910 New Brunswick NJ 08901.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.