Gary W. Hilburger

Requiem for a Friend, Poet, and United States Marine

Salvatore J. Parlato, Jr
Salvatore J. Parlato, Jr
Attached [below] is the Bio of a fellow Poet named Sal Parlato, who passed away shortly after a stroke, but at least had the opportunity to share with of wife of 50 years this milestone of devotion and love. Her name is Dolores. Sal was a gifted and selfless contributor to all he met and cared deeply about the suffering of others. He was, and had the heart and soul of, a United States Marine.

I first learned of his passing from Frank Judge, president of our Rochester Poets and immediately set about the sacred and solemn task of paying tribute to this selfless pioneer of work for those with physical restrictions at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and the list goes on.

But he was a man of great humor and wit, and because he bore in silence is own affliction, was able, even for the briefest of moments, to see life through the eyes of fellow men – and the do something about it.

Sal and I spent a summer days together for the past few years when Frank would bring us together. I had read a WWII tribute to my late Dad and his two older brothers that mentioned a place where mom and dad met, The Dellwood Ballroom. Sal knew the place and commented to me about his memories of stories he had heard also.

You danced at the Dellwood.
You told me she was lovely.
You were dapper.
I saw the picture on your dresser.
When you went to work at Curtiss-Wright
the day after Pearl Harbor,
they had 50-caliber machine guns on the roof.

Author’s Note: From “A Healing of Spirits”, a piece I wrote last summer in 2007 for the summer gathering, but, most important, to provide our older children with what must be to them a priceless story about my childhood and gratitude for my own father’s role and for the sacred duty of his older brothers during the war.

So, when it was my turn to serve, the link was forged, not just in retrospect of my own family, but for a Marine named Sal Parlato.

The first poem I wrote fulfilled its sacred and somber intent, but was hardly the stuff that would provide a grieving wife and the close gathering of friends and family with a celebration of spirit and the warmth of memory of a man’s selfless and inspiring spirit.


The wind at my window
where blossoms in sweet fragrance once grew
bears on soft breath
fragments of frail beauty
lost in autumn’s pale hue.

Branches now barren and stark,
once moist in mornings of dew
bid dear friend in sorrow adieu,
taken in mere moment of time
in shadow of darkness and frost
a poet, a vintner, a master
of both vineyard and vine,
a sonnet whose line
in sorrow forever now lost
in this, our brittle winter,
upon the winters of time.

Semper Fi Buddy

The second is below, but requires a short, but happier introduction.

I had given the two poems to the Funeral Director to discuss with Dolores as to what would be her wish for such and if so, which of the two would be preferred. She chose the latter.

When the time came for prayer, the Director made a brief introduction and I was to begin to read. Before I did, I sensed something might help provide some brief moment of enjoyment to the moment, which went thus:

“Frank had posted another poem I wrote yesterday on the Democrat and Chronicle website, but it is a bit too somber. Besides, with his being a Marine and I being a Sailor in the US Navy, Sal would probably take one look at yesterday’s poem and say, ‘stuff it, Hilburger’ “ The sacrament of laughter blessed the room, lifting the veil for but a brief moment. It is said that after one passes, that there is a brief stay of the spirit to comfort the bereaved. If this is so, I hope that I will learn someday from Sal that he laughed too.

A Poet and United States Marine

His labors long of day
in blissful dusk now end.
So we raise our glass
in thanks and praise
for his voice, his verse and pen.

For one could do no worse
than quench the noble thirst
to uplift the lives of embattled mortal men.
For we know not if, or when,
so great a gift of a guy named Sal
might come and stay,
or pass this way again.

Semper Fi, Buddy


It’s with great sadness that we report the death of Sal Parlato, a long-time Rochester Poets member and supporter.

Early last week Sal and his wife Dolores returned from a trip to Germany, where they had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a cruise of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Last Wednesday morning (the 12th), Sal suffered a stroke. He had been in intensive care at Highland Hospital ever since, and
passed away yesterday (Tuesday) morning.

Sal was former ESL teacher and Deaf Educator. He was the first Director of Instructional Media at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. While there, he served as one of the nonverbal-film consultants to the World Health Organization, and later managed their national program for evaluating and purchasing video/films for federal captioning.

He authored a reader/text on American life, language, and landmarks and was widely published in reference works, including 3 volumes on film: books made into film, award-winning educational films, and a directory of non-narrated 16 mm films.

As a change of pace during his early years of retirement, he wrote “A Marine Corps Boot”, which he called “a serio-comic novel,” based on his Korean Era experiences as a Marine recruit.

Within the past year, he also turned his hand to journalism with a series on iconic American figures such as the Berrigan brothers for the Messenger Post newspapers. Sal spoke at length about the Berrigans and their influence on American political dissent and on him when he was our featured reader at The Peace Storefront last November. Earlier this year, Sal had published a volume of poetry, “Having a Bad Hear Day” from FootHills Publishing.

Sal had a great sense of humor, a quick wit, and was an inveterate punster. In his last communications to me before leaving for Germany, he wrote: “I’m brushing up on my HS German, ‘Ja wohl’… Already mailed in our Obama votes, and will be ‘over there’ for the election results, hoping to celebrate with Riesling or Mosel or two… Ciao, Big Guy
––Cpl. Sal USMC”

I wish to offer my apology for what, now in retrospect of a night or two of reflection, crossed a boundary of a family’s private grief in the Poem for Sal Parlato

To have provided support to Sal’s wife and family was, despite what turned out to be a comforting moment in written tribute and in light of a new day, an entirely private matter

I suppose if one were to briefly consider the enduring bonds of military service, there might be a surge of emotion and pride in paying tribute to a fellow warrior, but I forgot for a moment why Sal and I both served – to protect the freedoms and the “pursuit of happiness” even more poignant, in these difficult and personal hours.

Gary Hilburger
November 25, 2008

Dear Gary,

Once again, I thank you for the touching and worthy tribute to Sal – the poem you read the morning of his funeral. Dolores sent it to us, his siblings. Sal certainly loved his poet-friends and, I’m sure, drew much inspiration from them.


Rosalie Parlato Krajci
Elmira, NY
November 24, 2008

Dear Rosalie

Thank you for sharing that these few words have brought comfort to you and your family

But we each owe the much larger debt to Sal, in a way that so many other things would not have happened without what he meant to you and your family.

This is the time of year when Frank Capra’s film with Jimmy Stewart brings the words of the Angel Clarence to mind, about all that might not have been, should your brother never have been born. Sometimes, like now, it is far better to think of Clarence and Capra and see the greater picture.

I’d like to say that I wish for a bell to ring now, like it did in the movie, but maybe in a way his memory will be our bell for a very long time

With sincere thanks and wishes for the blessings his memory still brings.

“May God Bless us all, every one!”

Gary (and Linda) Hilburger
November 24, 2008