We are very sad this week. Phil Mulé, who was the best landlord in the universe and a kind of second father to us - we were never more proud than on the day he introduced us to someone on the block as "the son I never had" (there were a lot of us fortunate guys) - passed away at the age of 85.
We were privileged to meet him decades ago via his daughter, our friend Nina, who started Brooklyn College with us in 1969. We spent many happy times in his company and that of his wife Diana, equally beloved, who passed away two years ago, and their family.
Our sadness is great, but it's also sweet. This morning we went to his sendoff: a beautiful service at the Devoe Street Baptist Church, to which he and his wife devoted so much of their lives - they met there in 1938 in Sunday school - and we heard ministers past and present speak with deep affection and from long experience with Phil. They knew him well enough to say he was "outspoken" and "opinionated" but as one said, he always spoke from a position of grace and concern.
We were really touched by the eulogy given by his granddaughter Amy, and with the family's kind permission, we're reprinting the text version here:
Although no one in my family has ever had trouble speaking, today, we find ourselves at a loss for words. How can we describe the man who was at once father, grandfather, uncle, brother and friend? How can we express the joy, support, affection and boundless love he gave us all? How can we say how much his life touched us and how much better we were for having him in it? There aren’t enough words, enough prayers and enough love to express it, but, in his own persevering spirit, I’m going to try.
His first priority was always his family, not only those who were related by blood, but all of those who laughed, shared and most importantly, ate with us. Holidays were always particularly interesting for me as a child. I never knew who would be breaking bread with us, but it made for wonderful dinner conversations, always ending with Grandpa’s “Bella manjada!” At the center of it all were Grandpa Phil and Grandma Diana, always ready to welcome you to their home or stopping for dinner at our house on their way home from everywhere.
My favorite story about Grandpa is how, when I was first born, he would show up at my mother’s door.
“Dad,” she’d say, “what’re you doing here?”
“I was in the neighborhood.”
“Where were you?”
“Jamaica?! It’s not even close.”
“It’s in Queens, it’s all the same, where’s the baby?”
Brooklyn and Mattituck, these were the west and east of their expansive world. Every time we rang the bell on Conselyea Street, Grandpa would greet us with a warm, hearty, “We don’t want any!”
Even through the protests of “Grandpa, it’s us!” he’d already be laughing and opening the door, always ready with a hug for his favorite grandchildren. During the many summers we spent at “Camp Grandma” in Mattituck, he was always willing to give us a ride in the “flivver,” his beloved red Fiat convertible, letting us sit on the trunk and ride with the wind. We all remember him going to get bread or the newspaper and coming back hours later. Always, there was someone to say hello to, someone who needed his attention. He was, after all, the "Mayor of Sigsbee Road."
One of the places he was most devoted to was his spiritual home, the Devoe Street Baptist Church (known to us as the First Italian Baptist Church). This church meant a lot to him, especially after Grandma was gone. He wanted the best for everyone here, to make sure the parsonage would be rebuilt and that his daughters and “sons” would have a good place to continue their spiritual lives.
Giving the best of himself was always natural for him and never more so than his time in the Navy. In 2008, Grandpa, Joseph, Nina, Aunt Paul, Mom and Dad made a trip to Maui. While there, they attempted to find Grandpa’s old base, Puunene. Although finding the base proved difficult, in the end, they found it and Grandpa was able to relive the memories of where he grew up, served his country and enjoyed being a young man in the South Pacific. It was a special moment for him and he was so glad he made the trip to his nephew’s favorite place.
These stories are just a small part of the many ways he touched us. Our memories will keep Grandpa Phil with us, filling us with his love and affection. He would be deeply moved to see everyone here today and would have made sure to talk to absolutely everyone. His legacy is in the people he touched, the lives that he helped and the love that he spread. Although he is gone, we will continue to feel the blessings of his love every day of our lives.
As Grandpa would say, “It’s been a bit of heaven.”
(This was taken at Phil's surprise 60th birthday party on September 30, 1984 - a night of much celebration that we were privileged to be there for.)
After the service at church, he was buried next to his wife, parents and in-laws at Linden Hill Cemetery and then we all returned to Williamsburg for a feast that Phil Mulé would have loved at Cono & Sons O'Pescatore.
The house seemed very odd without him when we returned. We mourn with his sister Pauline (Aunt Paul), daughters Nina and Linda, grandchildren Amy and Thomas, son-in-law Peter, nephew Joseph, niece Petrina, his other relatives and the many friends and neighbors whom he and Diana made part of their extended family. We will miss him very much.
Contributions in memory of Felix (Phil) Mulé may be made to the Devoe Street Baptist Church, 140 Devoe Street, Brooklyn NY 11211 Memo: "Phil & Diana Mulé Memorial Fund"