MERIDEN — One of Ronald Evilia’s earliest memories was seeing his brother Walter from his window at Newington Hospital where he was being treated for polio in 1952.
It was a long stay and Walter Evilia had changed. After his discharge, he walked with a heavy brace, and one foot was smaller than the other. A local shoemaker fashioned an insert that could fit into regular shoes, and Evilia was committed to walking without the brace.
“He was a pretty determined fellow,” Ronald Evilia said during his brother’s eulogy. “Walter was very successful, but there was more to him.”
Walter Evilia, who would eventually go on to become a business owner, Meriden mayor, and state representative, died suddenly last week at age 77. About 100 people attended a funeral service Tuesday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.
Among those attending were his daughter Marna Tompkins, brother, grandchildren, family and friends. including City Councilor Walter Shamock, Joseph CarabettaJr., and Edward Siebert. Former City Councilor Tony Tomassetti served as pallbearer.
Ronald Evilia shared the story of how determination helped his brother overcome polio and achieve success.
Evilia was 12 when he was stricken with polio and the years following his illness were tumultuous, his brother said. At age 16, Walter and a friend took his father’s car and drove southwest. They ran out of gas in Texas and were picked up by the Texas Rangers. Evilia’s father went and got the pair.
The next two years were just as tumultuous and then he met MaryellenPascucci, who later became his wife.
“All those little things disappeared,” Ronald Evilia said.
Walter Evilia went on to become a successful accountant, business owner, politician, friend, restaurateur, father and grandfather. Walter and Maryellen had two daughters, Marna and Marisa, and nine grandchidlren.
When his father Alexander died in 1997, Walter took care of his mother Ida. Maryellen, who co-founded Sans Souci Restaurant with him, died in 2003.
“He was quiet after Maryellen died,” Ronald Evilia said.
His mother Ida died two years ago, and daughter Marisa died last summer after a long illness.
“Something no parent should have to face,” Ronald Evilia said.
Ronald Evilia asked those in attendance to recall all that Evilia achieved.
“Remember what he accomplished, but know it was never easy,” he said. “I wished he had a few years of easy retirement but that wasn’t meant to be.”
Evilia’s granddaughter Mia Thompkins called her grandfather “one of the smartest men” she knew. He inspired his family to reach for their dreams and for “making my mom the strong business woman she is,” she said.
“No one will ever replace you,” Mia added.