By Michael Tessler
In the face of great loss, we often grapple with the inexplicable question of how someone so full of life could ever truly be gone. These past few days, I have wrestled with this question, trying to reconcile the vibrant spirit of Dom Famularo with the solemn reality of his passing on Sept. 27 at the age of 70.
Undoubtedly, there will be countless tributes to the legacy of this marvel of a man. I’m sharing with you just one experience on how he changed the trajectory of my life.
I first had the privilege of meeting Mr. Famularo when I was just a fourth-grader. His son and I became fast friends. His eldest son proudly declared his dad was famous. Turns out, he was telling the truth!
Mr. Famularo was one of the greatest drummers of our time, described as the “global ambassador of drumming” who traveled the world teaching his craft. His students and admirers included famous names from nearly every genre of music and hailed from every habitable continent.
He was more than a musician. He was a motivational speaker, an entrepreneur, and a public servant. His generosity knew no bounds, touching the lives of countless individuals.
He was a world-traveler, a man who often knew more about a place than the locals who called it home. He was a student of history, who somehow found time to be well-read on subjects that spanned all eras of history.
For years, I’ve had the good fortune to consider myself an honorary Famularo. Their cousins felt like my cousins, and we shared countless family gatherings and experiences that bound us together.
There was a time when I moved back to New York, feeling lost in life. I had no place to live, no job, no college degree, and no clear direction. It was Dom and his incredible wife Charmaine who took me in, offering me a bed and ensuring I had something to eat.
It was Mr. Famularo who inadvertently kickstarted my film career. One morning while I was moping in their kitchen, ready to throw in the towel on a fruitless job hunt, he gave me a pep talk and suggested I peruse the Classifieds in the Port Times Record. It was there that I found my job selling advertisements that would eventually lead to my work on TBR News Media’s first feature film.
Those were tough days, filled with long hours and a juggling act of night classes at a community college, full-time work, and a part-time job at a pawn shop on the weekends. Yet, every morning as I quietly had breakfast and sipped on coffee, Dom would come downstairs, as if ready for battle, energized and full of life, exclaiming, “MIKEY BOY! IT IS A BEAUTIFUL MORNING!”
Living with Dom answered the question, “Is he really like this ALL the time?” The answer was an unequivocal yes. Dom’s magic lay in his ability to light up a room with his presence, to make everyone feel like they were the most important person in the world. Quick-witted, smart, and full of innuendo, he had the remarkable ability to make even those who were upset with him burst into laughter and be in awe of his charm.
Despite being a famous musician with a massive international fanbase, Dom Famularo gave himself wholeheartedly to this community. He somehow found time to serve on committees, becoming an expert on matters as mundane as metered parking. Even in his final months, he found the strength to go to Village Hall and confront a bully. He was a public servant, a true advocate for his community, a relentless voice for reason, kindness, and doing what is right.
But Dom’s secret power was not his public speaking ability, his magnificent drumming, nor his uncanny ability to make you feel like the most important person in the world. Of all the things to admire about Dom Famularo, it was his family that shone the brightest.
Dom’s parents were remarkable, a testament to the greatest generation. He and his siblings carried forward their legacy. I’d never seen such a close-knit and special family before. His pride and joy were his three boys. Each unique, kind, brilliant, generous, and, like their father, hysterical.
Of all his great achievements, none rivals marrying Charmaine. He would be the first to admit that she was his better half. In addition to raising three incredible boys, she managed to build Dom’s drumming empire, and has always been his secret weapon. Her strength, her heart, and her remarkable resilience never stops leaving me in awe.
Our last conversation was at the beginning of summer. Somehow, despite a ferocious battle with cancer, he found the energy to greet me with that same familiar “MIKEY BOY!” that I had heard countless times before. I will treasure that conversation forever.
Mr. Famularo, you gave me a home when I had none. You gave me a purpose when I was lost. You believed in me before I believed in myself. You spent your life hoping to leave a mark, to make a difference, to live relentlessly — you did more than that. You’ve inspired countless others to do the same. You are magnificent, the embodiment of magic, and more than anything you are loved now and forever.
So I’ve found the answer to my question. Dom’s mantle is not one that any single individual will ever be able to carry, but between all of us who knew him and have loved him — we will ensure his light will never diminish. As we find a way to move onward, Dom moves upward. Serving now as a great North Star, reminding us just how bright we can shine…if only we’re willing to share our light.