ᴊᴏʜɴsᴛᴏɴ, ʀ.ɪ. (ᴡᴘʀɪ) – ᴠɪᴄᴛᴏʀ ᴄᴏʟᴇʟʟᴀ ᴡᴇᴀʀs ʜɪs ʜᴇᴀʀᴛ ᴏɴ ʜɪs sʟᴇᴇᴠᴇ.
The 96-year-old has been afforded the golden opportunity that comes with being a nonagenarian: ᴛʜᴇ ғʀᴇᴇᴅᴏᴍ ᴛᴏ ʙᴇ ᴡʜᴏʟᴇʜᴇᴀʀᴛᴇᴅʟʏ ᴀɴᴅ ᴜɴᴀʙᴀsʜᴇᴅʟʏ ᴀᴜᴛʜᴇɴᴛɪᴄ.
It was only fitting that on a drive around his Johnston neighborhood Wednesday, ғʀᴀɴᴋ sɪɴᴀᴛʀᴀ’s “ᴍʏ ᴡᴀʏ” sᴛᴀʀᴛᴇᴅ ᴘʟᴀʏɪɴɢ ᴏɴ ʜɪs ᴄᴀʀ ʀᴀᴅɪᴏ. ᴄᴏʟᴇʟʟᴀ’s ғɪɴɢᴇʀᴛɪᴘs sᴇɪᴢᴇᴅ ᴛʜᴇ ᴠᴏʟᴜᴍᴇ ɴᴏʙ ᴀɴᴅ ᴄʀᴀɴᴋᴇᴅ ᴜᴘ ᴛʜᴇ sᴏᴜɴᴅ sᴏ ᴏʟ’ ʙʟᴜᴇ ᴇʏᴇs’ voice boomed inside the cab of his sedan.
ᴄᴏʟᴇʟʟᴀ ᴛᴀᴋᴇs sʜᴏʀᴛ ᴅʀɪᴠᴇs ᴀʀᴏᴜɴᴅ ʜɪs ᴊᴏʜɴsᴛᴏɴ ɴᴇɪɢʜʙᴏʀʜᴏᴏᴅ.
“ɪ sɪɴɢ ᴀʟᴏɴɢ sᴏᴍᴇᴛɪᴍᴇs,” ᴄᴏʟᴇʟʟᴀ sᴀɪᴅ.
ʙᴏʀɴ ɪɴ 𝟷𝟿𝟸𝟹 Colella now leads what he describes as a simple life. He makes trips to the bakery for fresh bread, dines at a familiar restaurant each week, ʟɪsᴛᴇɴs ᴛᴏ ʜɪs ғᴀᴠᴏʀɪᴛᴇ ᴍᴜsɪᴄ (sɪɴᴀᴛʀᴀ ᴀɴᴅ ᴇʟʟᴀ ғɪᴛᴢɢᴇʀᴀʟᴅ ᴀʀᴇ ʜᴇʟᴅ ɪɴ ᴘᴀʀᴛɪᴄᴜʟᴀʀʟʏ ʜɪɢʜ ᴇsᴛᴇᴇᴍ) and follows his beloved Yankees.
He cooks and cleans, too, and makes sure his home is spic and span. ᴡʜᴇɴ ʜᴇ ʜᴀs ᴛᴏ ʟᴇᴀᴠᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ᴄᴏᴍғᴏʀᴛ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ ᴍᴏᴅᴇsᴛ ʜᴏᴜsᴇ ʜɪs ғᴀᴍɪʟʏ ʙᴜɪʟᴛ, he plans it carefully, driving short distances and only after 10 a.m. when traffic has decreased.
One of his regular routines includes taking his son, Richard, 64, to bimonthly blood tests to monitor the cancer he’s been fighting. Richard uses two canes to walk, and moves slowly and deliberately.
“ɪ ғᴇᴇʟ ʜᴜʀᴛ,” ᴠɪᴄᴛᴏʀ sᴀɪᴅ ᴛʜʀᴏᴜɢʜ ᴛᴇᴀʀs ᴅᴜʀɪɴɢ ᴀ ʀᴇᴄᴇɴᴛ ɪɴᴛᴇʀᴠɪᴇᴡ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴇʏᴇᴡɪᴛɴᴇss ɴᴇᴡs. “ɪ ғᴇᴇʟ sᴏʀʀʏ ғᴏʀ ʜɪᴍ.”
Colella’s son, Richard, ɪs ʙᴀᴛᴛʟɪɴɢ ᴄᴀɴᴄᴇʀ.
The elder Colella doesn’t hide his emotion. ɪᴛ’s ʟɪᴋᴇʟʏ ᴡʜʏ ʜɪs ʀᴇᴄᴇɴᴛ ᴀᴘᴘᴇᴀʀᴀɴᴄᴇ ʙᴇғᴏʀᴇ ᴘʀᴏᴠɪᴅᴇɴᴄᴇ ᴍᴜɴɪᴄɪᴘᴀʟ ᴄᴏᴜʀᴛ ᴊᴜᴅɢᴇ ғʀᴀɴᴋ ᴄᴀᴘʀɪᴏ became a viral sensation after it aired on Caprio’s syndicated television show, “ᴄᴀᴜɢʜᴛ ɪɴ ᴘʀᴏᴠɪᴅᴇɴᴄᴇ.”
ᴄᴏʟᴇʟʟᴀ ᴇɴᴅᴇᴅ ᴜᴘ ɪɴ ᴄᴏᴜʀᴛ ᴀғᴛᴇʀ ᴏɴᴇ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴏsᴇ ᴛʀɪᴘs ᴡɪᴛʜ ʀɪᴄʜᴀʀᴅ. ɴᴀᴠɪɢᴀᴛɪɴɢ ᴛʜᴇ ʙᴀᴄᴋ ʀᴏᴀᴅs ᴏғ ᴘʀᴏᴠɪᴅᴇɴᴄᴇ, Colella triggered a school zone speed camera. He was going five to six miles an hour over the posted limit of 25. He got a citation in the mail.
“ɪ ʀᴇᴀᴅ ᴛʜᴇ ᴅᴀʀɴ ᴛʜɪɴɢ ᴀɴᴅ ɪ sᴀɪᴅ, ‘ᴡʜᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ʜᴇᴄᴋ ɪs ᴛʜɪs?’ ɪᴛ sᴀɪᴅ, ‘ʏᴏᴜ ᴡᴇʀᴇ sᴘᴇᴇᴅɪɴɢ 𝟹𝟶 ᴍɪʟᴇs ᴀɴ ʜᴏᴜʀ ɪɴ ᴀ ʀᴇsᴛʀɪᴄᴛᴇᴅ ᴢᴏɴᴇ,’” ᴄᴏʟᴇʟʟᴀ sᴀɪᴅ. “ᴡʜᴇɴ ɪ ʀᴇᴀᴅ ᴛʜᴇ ʙᴏᴛᴛᴏᴍ ᴀɴᴅ ɪᴛ sᴀɪᴅ $𝟽𝟻, ɪ sᴀɪᴅ, ‘$𝟽𝟻? ɪ’ᴍ ɴᴏᴛ ɢᴏɪɴɢ ᴛᴏ ᴘᴀʏ ᴛʜᴀᴛ! ɪ’ᴍ ɢᴏɪɴɢ ᴛᴏ ᴄᴏᴜʀᴛ ᴀɴᴅ ɪ’ᴍ ɢᴏɪɴɢ ᴛᴏ ᴏʙᴊᴇᴄᴛ ᴛᴏ ɪᴛ.’”
ᴏɴ ᴛʜᴇ ᴅᴀʏ ᴏғ ʜɪs ʜᴇᴀʀɪɴɢ, ᴄᴏʟᴇʟʟᴀ ᴡᴀɪᴛᴇᴅ ғᴏʀ 𝟺𝟻 ᴍɪɴᴜᴛᴇs ғᴏʀ ᴄᴀᴘʀɪᴏ ᴛᴏ ᴄᴀʟʟ ʜɪs ɴᴀᴍᴇ. ᴛʜᴇɴ ʜᴇ ᴘʟᴇᴀᴅ ʜɪs ᴄᴀsᴇ.
“ɪ ᴅᴏɴ’ᴛ ᴅʀɪᴠᴇ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ғᴀsᴛ, ᴊᴜᴅɢᴇ,” ʜᴇ sᴀɪᴅ. “ɪ’ᴍ 𝟿𝟼 ʏᴇᴀʀs ᴏʟᴅ ᴀɴᴅ ɪ ᴅʀɪᴠᴇ sʟᴏᴡʟʏ, ᴀɴᴅ ɪ ᴏɴʟʏ ᴅʀɪᴠᴇ ᴡʜᴇɴ ɪ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴛᴏ. ɪ ᴡᴀs ɢᴏɪɴɢ ᴛᴏ ᴛʜᴇ ʙʟᴏᴏᴅ ᴡᴏʀᴋ ғᴏʀ ᴍʏ ʙᴏʏ. ʜᴇ’s ʜᴀɴᴅɪᴄᴀᴘᴘᴇᴅ.”
ᴄᴀᴘʀɪᴏ ᴀsᴋᴇᴅ, “ʏᴏᴜ ᴡᴇʀᴇ ᴛᴀᴋɪɴɢ ʏᴏᴜʀ sᴏɴ ᴛᴏ ᴛʜᴇ ᴅᴏᴄᴛᴏʀ’s ᴏғғɪᴄᴇ?”
“ɪ ᴛᴀᴋᴇ ʜɪᴍ ғᴏʀ ʙʟᴏᴏᴅ ᴡᴏʀᴋ ᴇᴠᴇʀʏ ᴛᴡᴏ ᴡᴇᴇᴋs ʙᴇᴄᴀᴜsᴇ ʜᴇ’s ɢᴏᴛ ᴄᴀɴᴄᴇʀ,” ᴄᴏʟᴇʟʟᴀ sᴀɪᴅ, ᴀɴᴅ ᴛʜᴇɴ ᴘᴀᴜsᴇᴅ. ʜᴇ sᴀᴛ sᴛᴏᴏᴘᴇᴅ, ʜᴏʟᴅɪɴɢ ᴀ ᴍɪᴄʀᴏᴘʜᴏɴᴇ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ʜᴇ ᴅɪᴅɴ’ᴛ ᴋɴᴏᴡ ᴡᴀs ʙᴇɪɴɢ ᴜsᴇᴅ ғᴏʀ ᴛʜᴇ ᴛᴇʟᴇᴠɪsɪᴏɴ sʜᴏᴡ. ʜɪs ʟɪᴘ ᴛʀᴇᴍʙʟᴇᴅ.
ᴄᴏʟᴇʟʟᴀ ᴍᴀᴋᴇs ʜɪs ᴄᴀsᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴊᴜᴅɢᴇ ғʀᴀɴᴋ ᴄᴀᴘʀɪᴏ ᴏɴ “ᴄᴀᴜɢʜᴛ ɪɴ ᴘʀᴏᴠɪᴅᴇɴᴄᴇ.”
ᴄᴀᴘʀɪᴏ, ᴛᴏᴜᴄʜᴇᴅ, ᴛᴏssᴇᴅ ᴏᴜᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ᴛɪᴄᴋᴇᴛ.
“ɪ ᴡɪsʜ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀʟʟ ᴛʜᴇ ʙᴇsᴛ,” ᴛʜᴇ ᴊᴜᴅɢᴇ sᴀɪᴅ. “ɪ ᴡɪsʜ ᴛʜᴇ ʙᴇsᴛ ғᴏʀ ʏᴏᴜʀ sᴏɴ. ᴀɴᴅ ɪ ᴡɪsʜ ʏᴏᴜ ɢᴏᴏᴅ ʜᴇᴀʟᴛʜ ᴀɴᴅ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴄᴀsᴇ ɪs ᴅɪsᴍɪssᴇᴅ. ɢᴏᴏᴅ ʟᴜᴄᴋ ᴛᴏ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀɴᴅ ɢᴏᴅ ʙʟᴇss ʏᴏᴜ.”
ᴄᴏʟᴇʟʟᴀ ᴡᴇɴᴛ ʜᴏᴍᴇ ᴀɴᴅ ᴛʜᴏᴜɢʜᴛ ᴀʙᴏᴜᴛ ɴᴏᴛʜɪɴɢ ᴍᴏʀᴇ ᴛʜᴀɴ ʜɪs ɢᴏᴏᴅ ғᴏʀᴛᴜɴᴇ — ᴜɴᴛɪʟ ʜɪs ɴᴇɪɢʜʙᴏʀ ᴀsᴋᴇᴅ ғᴏʀ ʜɪs ᴀᴜᴛᴏɢʀᴀᴘʜ.
“ʜᴇ sᴀɪᴅ, ‘ʏᴏᴜ’ʀᴇ ᴀ ᴄᴇʟᴇʙʀɪᴛʏ!’ ɪ sᴀɪᴅ, ‘ᴡʜᴀᴛ ᴅᴏ ʏᴏᴜ ᴍᴇᴀɴ ɪ’ᴍ ᴀ ᴄᴇʟᴇʙʀɪᴛʏ?’ ʜᴇ sᴀɪᴅ, ‘ᴄᴏᴜʟᴅ ɪ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴀᴜᴛᴏɢʀᴀᴘʜ?’ ɪ ᴛʜᴏᴜɢʜᴛ ʜᴇ ᴡᴀs ʙᴜsᴛɪɴɢ ᴍᴇ!” ᴄᴏʟᴇʟʟᴀ ʀᴇᴄᴀʟʟᴇᴅ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴀ sᴍɪʟᴇ.
ᴛʜᴇɴ ᴄᴏʟᴇʟʟᴀ’s ᴘʜᴏɴᴇ sᴛᴀʀᴛᴇᴅ ʀɪɴɢɪɴɢ. ғᴀᴍɪʟʏ ᴀɴᴅ ғʀɪᴇɴᴅs ʜᴀᴅ sᴇᴇɴ ʜɪᴍ ᴏɴ ᴛᴇʟᴇᴠɪsɪᴏɴ ᴏʀ ᴏɴʟɪɴᴇ, ᴡʜᴇʀᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ᴠɪᴅᴇᴏ ᴡᴀs ʙᴇɪɴɢ ᴠɪᴇᴡᴇᴅ ᴀɴᴅ sʜᴀʀᴇᴅ ʙʏ ᴍɪʟʟɪᴏɴs ᴏғ ᴘᴇᴏᴘʟᴇ ᴀᴄʀᴏss ᴛʜᴇ ɢʟᴏʙᴇ.
His story about caring for his sick son, ᴇᴠᴇɴ ᴀᴛ ʜɪs ᴀᴅᴠᴀɴᴄᴇᴅ ᴀɢᴇ, ᴘᴜʟʟᴇᴅ ᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ʜᴇᴀʀᴛ sᴛʀɪɴɢs ᴏғ sᴛʀᴀɴɢᴇʀs ɴᴇᴀʀ ᴀɴᴅ ғᴀʀ. For Colella, the passage of time doesn’t mean a father stops taking care of his children.
“They took care of me,” ʜᴇ sᴀɪᴅ, ᴡɪᴘɪɴɢ ᴀᴡᴀʏ ᴛᴇᴀʀs. “One hand washes the other..”