Orlando Fragasse was his real name, and he was my friend. “Peach” or “Peaches” is what everyone called him though, on account of his big peachy-looking cheeks, a nickname he picked up in childhood and stuck, to the point that even his own children would use it.
We met on my first bookselling trip to Holmes County, and Peach’s place, the creaky but cozy home a stone’s throw from the New Philadelphia courthouse, is were I stayed, most nights, on every Ohio Amish visit since.
I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed Peach’s hospitality. His home was open to loved ones and strangers alike, and there always seemed to be someone stopping by for a visit. I never had to worry about a place to stay; a phone call the week before to mention I’d be up would do, show up anytime, he would tell me. There would probably be some heavenly rice or spaghetti-and-meatballs waiting. Peach didn’t want you hungry.
The spaghetti dinners Peach put on were legendary, both the ones for family on Sunday, and for the church, which he stayed active in even in later years, when he was getting around with a cane and didn’t hear so well.
Peach was known all about, which became obvious whenever we went out to breakfast, to Dee’s or Michael’s or one of the other joints around town, where someone would always be coming up to say hello. Breakfasts out were something like our informal tradition. One of my favorites–and I think his–was a drive out to Boyd and Wurthmann’s in Berlin in the middle of Amish Country. It was a glorious summer day and his smile seemed even a little bigger than usual.
Living all his life next door to Holmes County, Peach had a lot of respect for the Amish. And he even had a little Amish in him, with his seven children who had all settled within walking distance of his home in the New Philly/Dover area. My Amish friends would chuckle when they heard about this friend of mine with an Amish-sized family living in New Philly.
A stroke last year slowed him down a bit, and I didn’t know what I’d find visiting him again last summer. Peach was in his usual good spirits though, pointing me at the fridge and getting me to sit down and chew the fat for awhile, as he so enjoyed (and as did I). He wondered if he would make it to 90, like no one in his family had. He seemed a little doubtful. I tried to get him thinking about 100, but it wasn’t to be.
Peach did finish his 9 decades though, this past February. He died peacefully Tuesday before the usual lunchtime visit from his youngest, Suzi. You don’t want the old people in your life to die, but that’s what they do. That fact doesn’t make you miss them any less.
Rest in peace, Peach.
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Hmm, the kind of friend we all want to have and should all aspire to be. Isn’t it strange how, although we think about friends and loved ones regularly, when they finally pass away, memories of them just flood our hearts and minds? I’ve often wondered if this is something that the deceased purposefully leave behind to remind and comfort us.
What a great story and what a great man. I am sure he will be sorely missed near and far. Sorry for your loss Erik and my prayers are with you, his family and his many friends. Sounds like he threw a pretty wide loop and caught just a great many friends and admirers over the years. I guess we can’t ask for much more than that. Rest in peace, Peach.
You know in life we are lucky if we have a friend like Peaches. There aren’t many like that anymore. I never knew the man, but he sounds very special to you. It is hard to lose our friends especially when you get my age. As a friend of mine told me when one of my brothers passed away-Remember the good times !!!
Very nicely said, Erik. We are blessed by our mentors.
Peach 1922 – 2012
What a great story! Thank you for sharing about your friend and how he made a difference in your life and the lives of those around him. Now he has also made a difference in my life. When all is said and done, that is an important part of our journey here. I also would like to give my agreement to what has been said before. I am sorry for your loss, Erik, but am grateful you have good memories to carry you onward. May the Great Comforter be with you during your time of gieving and transition as you step forward with faith.
Thank you all for these kind thoughts. Peach was a keeper. I just feel bad for all his kids, grandkids and greats, who had Peach as a part of their everyday lives for many years.
We saw each other a lot less frequently, but it’s amazing how you can take to someone even when you’re getting together only sporadically.
He and I saw each other once or twice a year since we met in ’05. I lived with him for longer spells a couple of times, including for a month when I was doing interviews for my book. Driving back to Peach’s place always felt like coming home at the end of a long day. I will always remember the baby-blue house with the pepper and tomato patch out back. Got to count those blessings.
Our sweet Peach
I knew Peach for many years and grew to love and respect him. His life was in a very special category that few achieve. I don’t think Peach or his life could have been described better than you have done. God’s love to you in your loss and thank you for sharing the life of such a loving and good man.
Thanks for your thoughts, S. Jenkins.
I’m so sorry, Erik. As sad as it is, I really enjoyed your little homage to him. Sounds like the kind of person we all want to be, not just in our older years, but while we’re still “young”. You were sure blessed to have met him and have him in your life, and I’m sure he felt the same way about you, as shown by his willingness to always have you stay with him. Thanks for sharing ~
comment on Peach 1922-2012
Thank you for sharing the memories of Peach, Erik–how blessed you are to have those nice memories of him. Sorry for your loss, and for his family’s loss.
Very nice tribute to your friend ” Peaches” As others have said to few people today are friends like Peaches was to others.
Glad you were touched so much by someone so special.
Wish I could have met this man, and learned much from him.
Sorry to hear about your friend, Erik. I understand. Right now my mom has been in the nursing home for 2 years due to a stroke to where she has a feeding tube in her stomach. She recently had a heart attack in the hospital while my sister and I watched. Now, the doctors say there is nothing they can do since she is 81 and not a candidate for surgery so she is back in the nursing home getting worse. We are hurting too. God bless us all!!!
Sorry to hear of the parting of a dear friend. Reading about Peach made me want to be like him. I have the reputation of being busy and am trying hard to change that. He sounds like a wonderful friend and one I would love to have. May the wonderful memories keep you smiling and ease the ‘missing someone’ part.
What an inspiration!
I hope I can grow to be more and more like you friend, Erik. Thanks for sharing!
I’m so sorry to hear about your dear friend’s death. You were blessed to have him in your life, and I’m sure that your memories will keep him alive in your mind. Peace be with you, and thank you for your sharing spirit!
Erik, thank you for thinking of us here in the Amish America community as people you’d want to share your loss with. It’s so amazing how friends can become as close as, if not closer than, blood. God bless all who are hurting in this loss of such a good man.
Glad to share Carolyn…Peach really was a part of my Amish experience; I’m sure it will seem strange him not being around when I next go to visit Ohio. But your, and for that matter everyone else’s comments here are just very kind and not surprising knowing the people who read and comment on this site…if people would like to say a prayer then his family could probably use some now.
Peach was actually the last of 15 siblings to go, he had lost 3 brothers as babies and another just recently. I guess we could say Peach had an Amish-sized family, but came from a double-Amish-size family 🙂
What a wonderful person Peach was. He left a lot of dear friends because he was one. I wish we could all be more like Peach. May he rest in peace.
A True Friend and Mentor
So sorry about your loss, Erik. Your memories of Peach will carry on in your heart and soul, forever. He sounds like a wonderful person, a true inspiration! God Bless You, Erik!
So sorry, Erik, to hear of the passing of your very dear friend. Your story about him was very touching and brought tears to my eyes. Sounds like someone we would all like to aspire to. And how nice that God granted his wish to reach 90 before taking him home.
A "Peach" of a friend...
…we should all be so lucky to have someone like Peach in our lives. I am very sorry for your loss, Erik. Reading your memorial to him, I could feel his warmth & kindness, and general “good guy” vibes. I’ve known a few (very few) people like him, always opening their arms to include you in their lives and make you a part of their family…unpretentious…the kind of people we wish we could clone, the kind of people who, as others here have also said, make you want to be more like them. That’s a true tribute to a life that touched so many others in such positive ways.
Rest in peace, Peach. Remember all those good times, Erik. My deepest sympathy to you, his family, and everyone who had the good fortune to know him.
Sorry for your loss Erik, or I should say our loss. We didn’t know him, but it is obvious that he is the type of person we all want in our lives, and in our world. I’m sure he inspired others by being the way he was. I doubt if any of us personally knew Mahatma Gandhi, or Martin Luther King…..even if we don’t know people personally, they still inspire us to be better human beings.
I have written down your statement, “You don’t want the old people in your life to die, but that’s what they do. That fact doesn’t make you miss them any less”. What a nice way of putting it.
My deepest condolences on your loss. May you and his family find a peace and comfort during these difficult moments. He sounded so wonderful. Your last sentences are so true. We lose our ‘older’ loved ones because that is life..but it sure don’t hurt any less knowing this fact of life. Miss my dad beyond words…lost him 2 years ago and my heart just aches for just one more visit with him.
We miss him so :-(
Beautiful tribute to a good friend and wonderful man. He was a friend to all.
Thanks, Erik, for a great tribute to a great man.
I couldn’t have asked for a better father-in-law. We will remember him well.
Erik, I’m sorry for your loss of such a dear friend. I know you are richer for having him in your life, and you will continue to reap blessings from this special relationship for the rest of your life.
I, too, lost someone very special to me last week. My 92 year old aunt passed away, and I just returned from Kansas and attending her memorial service. I come from a very large family. There were over 130 ‘close’ family members there, along with extended family and many from their small community. After 2 days of family dinners and lots of laughter, along with some tears, I am exhausted, but happy. Aunt Sarah blessed all of us with her wisdom, funny stories, and generous hospitality — along with delicious food (made with plenty of butter and cream!).
I thank God for the special friends and family given each of us!
Thank you Erik
This is from Mary Jo…(Peaches daughter who works for the Mayor). I would like you to know that you brought a special joy to our father. We realize you are feeling his loss along with each of us. Peach always smiled from ear to ear when you were with him. He was so very proud of you and spoke so well of you! I will always remember the day you both stopped in at my work to see me after eating breakfast at Michael’s. A smile never left either of your faces during that time – he enjoyed your visits immensely!
Also, please know that your friendship and kind words about Peach mean the world to each of us. You have provided us comfort as we struggle with the realization that he is no longer seated at the table in the corner in his kitchen as we stop to check on him or to visit with him. No longer will he be there to wave “see you” or to blow a kiss as he always did when we left.
I received my last wave and kiss the night before dad died. He stopped the next morning with Patsy for coffee, toast, and to do his daily crossword puzzle. Then he sprung off for morning mass. He was feeling great! After church he went on to Trudy’s for a short visit. As you know, he was not one to rest too much as he was getting ready for Suzi’s daily lunch stop, but died peacefully just before she arrived.
We, his “flock”, all know that he thought so very much of you and the others he welcomed to come and stay with him throughout the years. He recognized and appreciated the hard work ethic of each young man or woman as you each worked very hard at selling books, campaigning for a candidate for office, or even writing a book!
Erik, you were very special to our dad and also to us. You were so kind to make sure to keep in touch a few times each year before returning to Poland, or taking off to do more research for your book, or by spending time visiting or staying over with Peach. Not too many young people today set the time aside to connect with an older individual…what a shame as they have so much to share and offer!
Please know he surely considered you an extension of our flock…as each of us do! You will always have a place to stay when in the area – just connect with any one of us. I would like to visit with you one day and share the events of the last few months of my father’s special life if you would like. His earthly journey has ended, but his legacy lives on in each one of us. Please take care -we love you!
Mary Jo, it is so special to hear this from you…it brought a smile to my face thinking about your dad running around with the enthusiasm of a 20-year-old in an 89-year old body 🙂 He really was something with his active lifestyle and keeping up with the family. I am sure you all miss him very, very much…that’s a hole you won’t ever fill but hopefully won’t hurt as much over time. It goes without saying he loved you a lot and you him.
Rest assured I will be in touch and we will get together in Ohio! I’m sad thinking about it, but looking forward just the same. My love to you all too.
Oh my Eric… where to begin? When the book club started coming to my dads I was kinda scared? I am so thankful that part of his life happened! Silly me.. who would hurt my dad? He so much admired all your hard work, because he was such a hard worker himself job, garden, canning, painting for extra money for us. He was so devoted to church & family & friends… everyone was his friend! How did he do all that & still have time to take us on hikes, fling kites & lots of time spent at our park! He amazed me & I knew as a young girl I was soooo blessed to have a great set of parents who loved us 7 kids sooo much! I use to cry thinking about the day they would leave us to be with God. After mom I tried to be there for him as much as I could.. thank god for my 6 sibs! I just wish I could have been there a few minutes sooner to catch him, but that was not what God wanted. I guess he didnt need me to cuz God caught him & carried him to heaven to be with mom & all of Gods family. I want you to know he loved you & thought the world of you! Oh my did he enjoy all of you guys! Please keep in touch & like Mary said, you will always have a place to stay! X O’s & :)’s
Suzi your dad inviting us to stay was just a great example of what he was all about…just a huge heart. You didn’t catch him that day, but you caught him a whole lot of other days… I really think the way you all stayed close as a family, geographically and emotionally, is something special. I’m just grateful you all let me into your Fragasse clan and we had the times we did. Last few days I have been going over old memories, like the time Peach took me to Mooney Warther’s carving exhibit, or at church or just sitting around the table, which are probably my favorite memories. I just caught a slice of the tail end of his life, but there is a lot to remember.
Adrian and Przemek say hello and send along their best–your dad was warmly remembered by them…lots of love from Poland. And see you in New Philly hopefully soon 🙂