Editor's Note: The Little Neck Patch received the following tribute to Thomas Agnelli, a Douglaston resident who recently passed away in Woohaven, Queens.The tribute was written by Tom's sister, Lauren Agnelli, and appears in its original form below.
Obituary for Thomas Agnelli: Son, Brother, Musician, Poet – and Believer
Last week a 57-year-old man who grew up in Douglaston, Thomas Agnelli, was found dead in his Woodhaven, NY, apartment. He lived alone as part of the Venture House outpatient program that gave dignity and autonomy to persons with mental health issues. He is survived by two sisters and one brother: Lauren Agnelli of Chester, Connecticut; Carrie McKenna of Old Bethpage, New York; Mark Agnelli of Fort Worth, Florida. Thomas Agnelli is also survived by five nieces and two nephews – Samantha, Emmarose, Hannah, Olivia, Georgia, Charlie and Brandon.
I’m his oldest sister, Lauren. I wrote the following eulogy for him:
Our brother, Tom – or Tommy – had a thing for being understood. He was a talented guy, with words and music, being the product of a writer, Bernard Agnelli, and a musician, Barbara. But he also struggled his whole life with chemical imbalances that resulted in Schizo-Affective Disorder. He craved love, then pushed it away. He couldn’t help himself.
At any rate, because or in spite of this, Tom had a burning desire to be UNDERSTOOD.
Just after our mother, Barbara, passed away in 1997, we noticed Tommy started writing poetry. In addition to jamming on the electric guitar (playing the blues and rock), this new verbal form of expression, poetry, was planted in Tom and just blossomed.
More than anything, these poems are so expressive, so eloquent, so revealing. (AND they’re compact – like all good poetry.) Our brother was a multifaceted talent in so many ways – and as changeable as a summer’s day: sunny, suddenly cloudy, chance of showers, frequent thunderstorms -- then sunny again.
Tom’s faith is his God was touching and complete:
(Tom Agnelli’s poem, BELIEF)
He is God when you don’t believe,
Bright as the sun and hard to be,
Do you shout to one who isn’t there
Call me anew when you’re back again.
Finding the edge off during wonder
Thought it might come back as rain again,
My heart raised on a cross of word,
He wanted to express himself as
Jesus is tomorrow
A passion meant to change
From grief, loss and strife
To a crossing of the age.
I too have had my changes,
Deep, personal and alive,
With a passion slowly growing
To a dawn fit to size.
The times we have had,
With the Lord and our means,
We have sailed through the storm
Been baptized in our streams.
And how about this one, also by Tom Agnelli?
Sighs and byes and apple pies,
Lines and blinds and sorry minds,
If your truths turn black,
And you want to attack,
You might find,
You want to unwind.
They say we’re precious gold,.
And our lives will unfold
And will make the scene someday,.
If we re what we say.
Hey are you lonely
Haven’t got a friend?
Bettina’s got something,
And it never seems to end.
You go through all your problems,
You know it hurts me so,
But maybe it’s just my issues,
And I wish they’d let you go.
Tom Agnelli could be smart, funny, interesting – and demanding, unreasoning, stubborn – but as his friend, Frank, always said, he had this deep down optimism and would always bounce back.
But towards the end, Tommy’s physical health got to the point of no return. His confusion and anger about life – and his ambivalence about being alive – finally hit the tipping point.
Here’s the last poem I’ll read – but there are so many more, so many good ones. . .
By Tom Agnelli
I laugh I cry
It’s too painful,
To say goodbye
I look around
I say a prayer
It’s hard to know that
You’re not there.
And yet there’s Heaven
In the sky
And I know where
my spirit lies
A part of me
Wants to be,
Let me let go
Set me free
Tommy, we hear you. We understand. We love you.
--by Lauren Agnelli, August 5, 2011, read at Saint Anastasia’s Church funeral mass