View photo gallery remembering, “The Family of Three”
By Chuck Wiser, I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels
I guess when you get in the second half of seven decades, age wise, these things happen all too often, and should not be surprising. I write about or mention “The Family of Three” quite often, and sadly, will do it again today. A second patriarch of the family has now joined his heavenly brother Tom Geyer and the only matriarch, Tom’s wife Deanna (Deannie), to have left the earthly side of this family I will write about, joined together in not only friendship, but undying love for over 55 years.
Lawrence (Larry-LJ) Muscato, passed away this past Friday following a sudden and quickly deteriorating illness. This isn’t an obituary, so I will forego his birth and matrimonial family statistics and stay on track with my, and our, history of this simply amazing individual. Larry’s story cannot be told without tying it in with the underlying family bond that LJ helped to cement and nurture. The idea of being a family is not a stranger to Larry as he was one of nearly a dozen siblings.
Larry, more familiarly known as “LJ,” and I met in the late 60’s as we were both employed at Air Preheater (APCO) in Wellsville. We were both in the drafting department where LJ was a Drafting Group Supervisor, given his already achieved college degree. I was also a Draftsman in another group. Our “friends” relationship was born when we joined Tom Geyer (RIP) on an APCO bowling team for Friday night bowling in a Bowl-o-Var (Bolivar) bowling league. LJ, whose bowling skill surpassed many others, was eventually recruited to another team and Tom and I were left to rebuild our bowling team. We added Dave Sykora and Don Peterson and became known as the Keglers. Our Friday night bowling ritual extrapolated to visiting the Bolivar Hotel bar for a little more libation following our bowling activities. Since I lived in Scio and LJ lived on Homestead Road, just off Rte. 417 west of Allentown we often travelled in tandem as we journeyed home after bowling. One winter’s evening as I followed behind LJ, he made the pull off to his road driving his Subaru and did a complete 360 spin around. He came out of the spin and continued down his road unscathed. That wasn’t his only driving adventure that I was involved in as I got a late-night call one other night several years later wanting to know if I could drive over to the Rte. 417 “Summit”, west of the Long Vue in Wellsville to follow him home as some of his car lights weren’t all working properly after a scrape with some guide rails, and he needed someone to follow behind him to block unwanted views from someone approaching from behind.
One of the offshoots of bowling in a league is the “end of year” bowling banquet where trophies and other bowling awards are presented. LJ won way more than his share of individual bowling awards, including a perfect 300 game. I might add that he also managed the coveted golfing “Hole in One”. Our annual banquets for several years were held at Penn Valley Resort in Genesee, PA. As a side note, Penn Valley was owned at that time by Ed Clancy who had previous connections with the Buffalo Bills at one time. Some of our visits there allowed us to watch as Bills players began their early season work outs there.
It was at these banquets that the wives of LJ, Tom Geyer, and me got to meet each other and the three pair of friends gradually blossomed into a very close familial relationship. This close knit “family of friends” affectionately became what is now known as “The Family of Three”. Not every adventure was shared by all three. Early on, Tom Geyer and I teamed up with another APCO cohort named Dave Smith, on a Canada fishing trip and ironically LJ, who later became an excellent “angler” was not a part of that particular adventure highlighted by my amazing one-handed catch of something that flew out of my mouth when I laughed at something said by one or the other. Once LJ caught the fishing bug, he left us in the dust fishing expedition wise. His annual fishing trips to Canada, and Rice Lake, became legendary and he would regale us with his fishing stories around the campfires back on the home front.
That “Home front” soon expanded to summertime activities at various campgrounds. I’m not exactly sure whose idea it was to begin with our camping excursions, but it started at the Stony Brook State Park campground. My wife and I borrowed my parent’s pop-up camper and LJ and his family brought their huge tent. Once bitten by the summertime camping pastime it didn’t take us long to acquire campers and place them on adjacent lots at the Deer Run Campground on Jones Road in Andover. LJ and his family were certainly glad to upgrade from the tent. The “G Loop” section of the campground, AKA the “G String” that we “took over,” was unfinished in its infancy and we spent many a weekend’s clearing brush and cutting trees developing those sites. The Geyer’s didn’t take long to follow our trail and expanded the size of the sites to include their camper. I think I am safe in speaking for the whole “family”, as those camping days were some of the best experiences we would ever have together. LJ was the smart one of the bunch in that he owned the pick-up truck. That truck was used for a lot of “heavy hauling” in the day. I was the lucky one, as LJ had the truck.
Larry was the kind of guy that would never say no to a request for help whether to party, or work. I remember one March day, when I needed to do some repair to the truck that I had eventually had upgraded to. The phone call to LJ saying I needed some help with my truck was responded to with the always ready, “Sure, I’ll be right over.” Did I mention that the temperature was somewhere around south of 40 degrees. Between Tom, LJ, and me we had three speeds at which we worked. Tom was the snail, being slow and methodical. I was the half fast worker and LJ was like the “Roadrunner,” Beep Beep! The next day as I was driving to Alfred for my classes, I could feel one of the wheels wobbling. I pulled over to the side of the road and discovered that the lug nuts on LJ’s work side of the truck had not been fully tightened.
On another occasion where we worked together LJ was fixing the roof on a section of his house and asked me to help. How could I say no? LJ had helped me re-roof my house shortly before that, so I owed him. Now, I’m not afraid of heights, but it takes me awhile for my nerves to calm down to be able to become un-petrified after getting up on the ladder. This particular time I did what I could but was pretty useless and left early. It bears mentioning here that LJ was a decades long volunteer fireman with the Allentown Fire Department and so was no stranger to working off a ladder. As I understand it, LJ had to get one of his brothers to help him finish the job. It seems that the brother took a tumble off a lower section of the roof. Landing, uninjured, in a shrub at ground level. I had met LJ’s entire family over the years and know which brother was helping him, but someone might share this with him, so I’d better not say which one it was. I had met LJ’s mother many years ago when LJ was helping me something or other that required me being in the area of his hometown. It may have been him helping me move my daughter into the dorms at Fredonia when she attended college there. In any event I met his mother, and she was the sweetest lady you could ever know. It was easy to see where LJ got his personality and friendliness from.
All three couples being relatively close to each other in age, raised offspring that were also close together in age. This family dynamic not only made life-long friends of the parents, but so too, the children. The Geyer’s had two children, Stacie, and Mike. The Wiser’s had three children Todd, Kristin and Shawn. The Muscato’s also had three children, Stephanie, Melissa and Samantha, all lovely daughters as evidenced in the photo that accompanies this memory story.
Normally it is my job to make my wife laugh by one of my misadventures. LJ was helping me cut down a tree in my front yard. The way we would get a limb to fall the way we wanted was to tie a hammer on a rope for weight so we could toss it over a limb, secure it, and pull the limb, falling where we intended. When readying one limb to be handled in that fashion, LJ tossed the hammer over a limb while I was on the ladder and it swung around and hit me in a place that is impolite to grab when in pain. It most likely hurt both him and my wife more, as they fell to the ground laughing.
Since I did not have the pleasure of an audience to read this story about Tom Geyer at the time of its happening, and since he is the elder patriarch of the Family of Three, I will tell a story/memory about him. Anyone reading this article that knows LJ or Me, very likely had known Tom as well. The old saying is that “you can’t pick your family members, but you can pick your friends.” Well, I got two “first round quality” picks in LJ and Tom. Tom and his wife Deannie lived on East State Street in Wellsville before moving to Scio. A friend had given Tom a piano. The friend lived a little further east, up the hill from Tom. Our (his) plan was to roll the piano down the sidewalk to his house. Sounded like a good idea, it was all downhill. Nope, if you’re anticipating the outcome, it did not roll, unaided, down the hill. Nor, did it easily get pushed down the hill as its casters were too small and the pitted sidewalk wasn’t conducive to smooth rolling. Always the thinker, Tom said “I have a pair of the old metal roller skates and maybe we could put them under the piano and get it down the sidewalk that way. Well, it worked! Those skates were never useable as skates again, but they did allow us to get the piano down the sidewalk and into the house.
There isn’t any doubt that LJ has a heavenly home now, and his divine relationship was evident many, many years ago when plans for a sledding party at the Muscato residence in Allentown were nearly aborted due to the weather. The day before the planned party was warm and sunny and there wasn’t a trace of snow on the ground. Overnight, a snowstorm rolled in and we got about 8 inches of snow. The party went on.
I could not buy as many “column inches” as it would take for me to tell all of the things that LJ helped me do, or the memories we created and shared over the many years. He would go to a Bills football game with me in the middle of a snow storm; He would sit with me commiserating as the Bills lost 4 consecutive Super Bowls; He would console me when my mother passed away; He treated my wife as if she was a sister or sister in law and my children as if they were his own; He shared his own family with us as if they were our own. My son’s and daughter consider Stephanie, Melissa, and Samantha as their own sisters.
If LJ is reading this from his lofty, heavenly place, he is undoubtedly thinking: “Hey, at least Wiser hasn’t told any short jokes yet.” LJ was, shall we say, height challenged. It wasn’t bad enough that we often kidded him about it, but you could always see the look of consternation on his face when he slipped up and said something like: “I’ll be with you shortly.” It only seemed right that either Tom or I would pop back in and say something like “You have no choice. Everything you do is done shortly.” LJ may have been short physically, but he was far from that in stature. The size of his heart more than made up for any lack of height. I, and most who knew him, looked up to him. I do not know any other individual that has worked their way into the hearts of others as easily as did LJ. His work with the Lions Club in Wellsville, and with the Fire Department in Allentown are merely a few reflections of the community service that he devoted his adult life to, that he was noted for, and “recognized for” with awards, all rightfully earned.
I will end these written words with this poem I wrote several years ago and am blessed that he and Tom both did get to read those words which describe our Family of Three.
Photo Gallery Of Lawrence James Muscato and The Family of Three
The “Mad Hatter Three”. Larry and Tom look good in hats. I look funny in a hat anyway
Note: In honor of Larry, and Tom and since this is about them, I reversed the order of the most current pictures of the three of us, but do not have matching pictures of the beautiful ladies.
The Mother’s and Father’s of the Family of Three
Larry and three lovely ladies, his Daughters, by his side
The Parents Celebrating LJ and Robin’s daughter Stephanie’s Wedding
The Whole Clan, at a traditional Family Christmas Celebration at Geyer’s House