South Plainfield Side Pockets Caro and Vanderhelm have Shirts Retired
Thursday, October 17, 2013 • 6:00am
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - In an emotional ceremony at the South Plainfield Senior Center, two former Side Pocket Billiard players from the Senior Center had their pool shirts retired. Lenny Caro and Peter Vanderhelm, both of whom have recently passed away, had their shirts retired in the pool room among family, friends, teammates and prior to the match against Woodbridge.
Lenny Caro and Peter Vanderhelm were original members of the Side Pockets. The pool team was started by the Senior Center’s Tree Olano back in October 2011. The team’s uniform was sponsored by ProCare of South Plainfield. Lenny Caro is the father of Cathy Scarpitto of ProCare.
The ceremony was a celebration of these two wonderful men and their love of family, friendship and pool. Peter Vanderhelm’s wife Chris, and Lenny Caro’s daughters Cathy and Roseanne were both in attendance. After the ceremony refreshments were had by all, and the Side Pockets took on Woodbridge.
The day, however, was about Lenny and Peter. Cathy Scarpitto talked about what a great family man her father was, and how after her mother passed, the Senior Center and pool brought enjoyment back to his life.
Senior Center Director Tree Olano said “when Peter approached me about establishing a pool team, I knew it was something we needed to do. The guys love the camaraderie and the game. Peter Vanderhelm and Lenny Caro were really good men.”
Below is Cathy Scarpitto’s eulogy from the ceremony:
First of all I would like to thank you all for having us today. My Dad I am sure is very happy and so honored to be thought of so wonderfully.
Lenny as you know him was a man with simple pleasures and a big heart. A man of few words but deep emotions.
When thinking of what to say today, I thought that there would be no better way to honor him than to tell you what you meant to him. My Dad was the type of man who didn’t need to tell people how much they meant to him, he just showed it.
Being the ultimate family man, my Dad spent most of his time with his family. One of his greatest pleasures however was playing pool. When I was young he played weekly with my Uncle at the local Knights of Columbus in Dunellen. He lost his pool partner 25 years ago and I don’t remember him picking up a pool stick until he joined South Plainfield Seniors.
After our Mother passed away almost three years ago, his children tried to fill the void. It helped, but he still needed something more. Then he found you.
I still remember his first day. I anxiously awaited him coming home to see how his day went. He was so pleased he made his first friend, Norm. Norm knew everybody he said. And he followed by saying – It’s amazing – you never know how many other people are in the same situation as you.
He found companionship. He was with friends who understood what he was going through.
Months passed and little by little he became more involved and his world began to open up. Side Pockets started competing and his competitive nature came to life. He started staying longer as little Betty Bellek encouraged him to stay for Bingo. One day he even took a road trip to the Elks and dnjoyed more pool and a few beers. His family was amazed – he was living large and having fun the best he could.
In April after being hospitalized and very sick, I ran out to the store for a few minutes and came home and he was gone. I almost posted a silver alert until Tree Olano texted me that he was at the Senior Center, his second home.
We cannot thank you enough for the kindness, the companionship, the love that you all showed to him. It made him feel young and alive until his last days. With Tree looking out for him, it was like having another sister watching over him. So side Pockets continue to play, to win, he would like that.