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Susan Eberle: Burned restaurant was a home first

When I heard that fire had destroyed the structure housing Carmine’s Restaurant, I surprised myself by crying. That building was my first home, built by my father, Albert Joseph Eberle, in 1952. The newspaper article about the fire explained that once the blaze spread to the attic in the old wood-frame building, it was lost. My memories of both my father and the house welled up with love and pride.

My father was born and raised in Williamsville, the son of a builder, Joseph, who is credited with many of the beautiful old homes in the village. Dad went to Bishop Neumann High School, which was located in what is now Saints Peter & Paul School on Main Street. He met my mother there and they graduated in June 1941.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, my father enlisted in the Air Corps. However, his eardrum burst in the decompression chamber during pilot training, leaving him deaf in that ear. He was honorably discharged, but like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” he always remained somewhat mortified that he had not seen active duty.

My father became a carpenter, “same as St. Joseph,” he often said. He was a volunteer firefighter for Hutchinson Hose, a church usher and he never missed the beer tent at Old Home Days.

My parents were living in a Williamsville apartment with their first baby, a girl, when my father decided to build a house for their expected large family. He chose a lot on Transit Road near Sheridan Drive in Clarence. At that time, from Sheridan Drive to Main Street and for a mile east of Transit Road, the land was all woods and fields. A riding stable off Main Street had trails throughout the property. Dad thought all the land Eastern Hills Mall now occupies would become a residential development and his house full of children would be the first of many.

So he built our wood-frame house by himself. It was a lovely three-bedroom home with a big fireplace gracing a large living room. He moved his family in and another baby girl arrived, followed by two more daughters. Ours was a happy home.

However, the anticipated residential development did not happen. My parents felt we were too isolated, so we moved to the Harris Hill neighborhood in 1960. The new house brought the proverbial new baby, this time the only son.

Yet, my father still owned the “old house” on Transit, renting it for many years because I do not think he could bear to sell it.

As a carpenter building commercial structures, he was a big, strong man with a gruff exterior housing a kind heart. Dad was a true gentleman – the first union carpenter in Buffalo who agreed to have a woman partner on the construction site. She told us at his funeral in 1994 how respectful he had been to her on the job, never allowing any swearing or demeaning remarks to be made in her presence.

He lived according to his motto: “If you can’t say anything nice about a person, don’t say anything at all.” We adored him.

When Dad finally decided to sell the “old house,” it was to the Jacobbi family, which ran the Charlesgate Restaurant and then Carmine’s. My father, a member of the Greatest Generation, loved God, his family, his community and the house he built. His was a wonderful life.