Vincent Bianchi, whom I knew as Uncle Kip, and who was also my godfather, died May 24. He lived in Stafford, NY with his wife, Bonnie, and he and was known throughout the world by fishing enthusiasts--more on that later.
Uncle Kip was a magical, larger-than-life figure during my childhood. He was my cool uncle, the one with all the best toys, the most awesome pets, the gnarliest personality. In fact, he was a larger-than-life figure to a great many people, as I'm finding out every day. He let me fire weapons most people never even get to see firsthand; he collected knives and gave me most of the pocketknives I own. When he showed up with a gift, I knew it was going to be fantastic.
My mom's brother, Uncle Kip was my only first uncle on her side. In fact, on her side, most of my great uncles have all passed; I have one left. For the first half of my life, Kip was closer to me than the vast majority of my other extended family members. When his children and I were young, we got together every Christmas eve for great food and a gift exchange. By the time I was old enough to drive, I'd often drive my grandmother out to Stafford to see her son and to hang out, ride Kip's ATVs, shoot a few tracer rounds into the woods, and chill with my cousins Vincent (aka "Hooch") and Rhonda.
After the rigors of adulthood and parenthood took hold, I didn't see Kip as much as I used to. Everyone was busy; there was no time. The Christmas tradition faded away. We failed to connect.
I regret that now, because his death brought on the realization of how much he meant to me.
A couple years ago, Kip was diagnosed with two forms of cancer. With the help of the outstanding doctors at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, he beat one and the other went into remission, but the battle weakened him severely. When the other cancer came back--returned with a fury--there wasn't anything anyone could do. He died at home, his final words being: "I knew a lot of people."
And that he did. After retiring from a painting company he created from the ground up, he pursued with passion his hobby of fishing. He created his own brand of lures, all handmade, called the Glitter Bitch, he participated strongly in the muskie fishing community in the Niagara River area, and he even appeared on fishing shows on ESPN. He also loved animals and owned a number of birds (including Bomba, the coolest parrot ever) and became active in breeding and showing dogs.
I miss Uncle Kip dearly. I offer my love and support to all who remember him fondly, including Bonnie, Hooch, Rhonda, my mom Janice, Kip's grandchildren Nick and Bianca, the kennel and fishing communities, and everyone whose lives he touched.
He knew a lot of people.