Rocky and his wife, Julita, were married for 55 years, until her death in 1993 following complications from heart surgery.
So he spent his time at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in the Roslindale section of metro Boston. Every hour it was open. Every day. All year. He celebrated the anniversary of their first kiss there each September.
“She is part of me, so here I am whole,” he told the Boston Globe in a story in 2000. “Being here makes me feel better. Not good, but better. I do it for Julita, and for myself.”
“On cold days Rocky wears a patched and faded green parka. He owns other coats, but Julita knew this one best, so he will not change. He greets Julita — ‘I am here!’ Then he unfolds a blue beach chair — he leaves it every night against her headstone — placing it on a piece of plywood to keep it from sinking into the soft earth. Then Rocky relaxes, reading, writing, and reflecting. For exercise and to keep warm, he walks around nearby headstones engraved Cicciu, St. Clair, Doyle, Galvin, and Daley.
“He rarely eats or drinks, in part out of respect but also so he does not need a bathroom. On special occasions he toasts Julita with sparkling cider; he will do so Dec. 20, her birthday. Some days he brings a cassette player. On one tape they sing together, a Spanish lullaby. Rocky’s strong tenor is answered by Julita’s sweet soprano. Hearing Julita’s voice brings a smile to his face, a mist to his clear blue eyes.
“When dark comes, Rocky prays. He sprinkles crumbs on the grave, so chipmunks will keep Julita company after he has gone. Sadness returning, he says goodbye. He rubs her name on the red granite stone. The ritual has left an indelible mark.”
Strangers brought him meals, warm clothes, and helped decorate Julita’s grave.
Rocky introduced two people who had separately befriended him at the cemetery. They got married.
He stayed by her graveside for 12 years, until his son was killed in a car crash in 2005.
“I think he had a realization at that point that we need to let go and we need to continue to live,” his daughter tells the paper.
“People only die when nobody remembers,” he told the Globe in 2000, explaining why he did what he did.
He was 97 when he died last week, leaving behind plenty of friends who won’t forget him.
He’ll be buried to the left of his wife, because that’s the way they took their walks together.