For years the Music Director of the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (like his dad Buster before him), Mirando’s two favorite places in the world were his perch atop the two-ton Giglio tower every July, where he served as emcee; and the altar at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, where his prized trumpet – a gift from his mother as a young boy – graced the 10 a.m. musical liturgy every Sunday.
For the faithful who returned to that altar again Monday for Sarge’s funeral, it was perhaps the musical portions of the mass that resonated strongest and proved most poignant. Numbers like “The Marine’s Hymn” or the anthem of the Feast itself, “O Giglio e Paradiso,” a testament to the many allegiances and affiliations Sarge held most sacred. But as was especially fitting, the piece that seemed most to bring the congregation to tears – tears of sadness and tears of celebration – was a particularly soulful “Ave Maria,” with a brilliant trumpet solo by longtime friend Joseph Speruta, himself an up and coming OLMC icon at this point, as well.
What makes “Ave Maria” (which means “Hail, Mary”) most fitting is that it’s hard to find anyone more dedicated “Ad Mariam” than Sarge. “Our Lady,” he called her with reverence, whenever his faith, his parish, became a part of the conversation (which, of course, was quite often). In fact, Sarge even had one of the more well-known license plates in the neighborhood, OLMC 7-16, commemorating the feast day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel – July 16th. What a badge of honor for him to be behind the wheel of that Caddie!
Sarge’s other love? Music, of course. Particularly his aforementioned trumpet. Whether up on the altar at Mt. Carmel, atop the Giglio, or at any number of law enforcement or charity functions that sought his talents, Sarge absolutely loved to play. And he did so with a grace and an elegance highly reminiscent of any of our favorites from the Big Band and jazz eras.
Those who knew Sarge well have no doubt witnessed many times his blowing a beloved kiss skyward to his mother after playing, a gesture of eternal gratitude for the timeless gift she’d given him. Would it be such a stretch for the rest of us to blow such a kiss skyward as well, for the timeless gift she also bestowed upon us? That gift being Sarge, of course.
As bold and as brassy as the music he loved so much, you’d also be hard-pressed to find anyone sweeter or kinder. Forgive the expression, but Sarge was never one “to blow his own horn.” It’s definitely going to be up to the rest of us to make sure we do.
If I might be somewhat subjective here for a moment – if only because I’ve no doubt that our family’s stories are as representative of Sarge’s generosity as are anyone’s – but we D’Arienzo’s had a tremendous tremendous soft spot in our hearts for Sarge, who always managed to make some of the more important moments in our lives even that much more special. When my brother got married, Sarge and Danny Vecchiano and the Giglio band led the wedding procession from the church to the hotel ballroom through the streets of Lower Manhattan in such a way that passersby kept asking what was the name of the movie we were making! Because Sarge always managed to add a little dash of Hollywood to everything he did. And speaking of Hollywood, when I staged a reading of a screenplay in memory of my Uncle Johnny – in the D’Arienzo Funeral Home, no less – it was Sarge who played taps at the precise moment of his passing in the film. It was beautiful, it was haunting...it was unforgettable.
There’s this musical notion called “grace notes” – the notes you play beyond those which are actually required. Seems to me this might be a metaphor for how Sarge Mirando lived his life, spreading love and good will to any and all who came his way. Grace notes.
“Faithfulness and love are Sarge’s legacy,” noted Monsignor Joseph Calise in eulogizing Sarge on Monday. “That’s the melody that will linger on.”
Indeed it will. And nobody played it better, or with more class.