Remembering Uncle Angelo

Mar 31, 2022 by Mike Magluilo
Angelo Santangelo. Uncle Angelo. Ang. Angelo. He was the only grown-up I didn’t have to call Mister Something. If my name was Angelo Santangelo, I’d want to hear it all the time, too. 

I got locked out of the house one day. The bus dropped me off early, and my parents weren’t home. I was young enough to be scared, so I walked to a neighbor’s for help. I explained my problem to the mom and her teenage daughter. The mom asked if there was anyone she could call.

Faced with one phone call to save myself, I could think of only one name. “Call Angelo Santangelo,” I said.

They laughed.

“No, that’s his real name.”

They were Irish, so they didn’t believe such a name was possible. Sure enough, when she got Angelo on the phone, he set her straight. He then showed up ten minutes later and saved me from a night alone on the streets of La Grange Park. 

Angelo Santangelo. He had the best job in the world. He ran the projector room at the movie theater and would let his son Anthony and me in without tickets. I’m not talking about one show. I’m talking about having all day to roam the theater and watch as many movies as we wanted and eat as much buttered popcorn as our stomachs could hold. Forget about Netflix---this was the original binge watching. These were the days before my cheap parents relented to technological progress and bought a VCR. And it didn’t matter what the movies were rated. We watched everything. Every Saturday evening I went home with red eyes, frayed nerves, new swear words and nightmares. I remember watching To Live and Die in LA when I was twelve. That movie changed my life.

Angelo Santangelo. He had a dog named Luke he didn’t let in the house. He had an SUV back when they were called trucks. He had a pool in his backyard, and by the middle of the summer he had such a deep tan I can’t believe it wasn’t skin cancer that killed him. 

Angelo Santangelo. He owned the only gun I ever saw growing up. One time in high school I asked him to take me hunting. He took me on my first and only hunting trip. I spent all day walking through a field, itching and sneezing, and couldn’t hit a thing. On our way back to his truck, we saw a bird resting on a fence post. I raised the shotgun nice and fast and shot that bird dead before he had a chance to escape. Angelo turned to me and said, “That’s not really how we do it. But you finally got one.” I’ve never forgotten the lesson he taught me that day about fair play.

Angelo Santangelo. He had the name of a movie star and a heart of gold. He was as kind and gentle as my own father…but Ang was way cooler. He was one of my favorite uncles, and we weren’t even related. He was named after a saint and an angel and just to make the point, his parents added a second angel. He earned his name in how he lived on earth, and I hope God treats him accordingly in heaven.