Like The Son He Didn't Have

To all you fans who identified "Uncle Lou" in Everything Dies to be the Uncle Louie I wrote about -- you are absolutely right. Everything Dies was a tribute to the family Peter had lost, as well as the worry that eventually, his mom would die too. But, just like the song says, it's to be expected.
Some of the family, 1980s at Sister Nancy's House in Long Island

Warped Sense Of Humor:
Back in the 50s and 60s, for most families, the economy sucked, and if you had kids, it was hard living. Instead of today where everyone has a camera (even kids under 10 yo), back then, it was a rare occasion to have your photo taken. Most people didn't own cameras and if they did, it was a luxury to develop film. If you took photos it was a special occasion or the photo was a group shot. For the most part, when Peter was growing up, Uncle Louie was in few photos, as he was the one behind the camera, taking the photos. (But I promise, when I get my hands on the photo of him & Aunt Dee from July 4,1976 in full costume, I will post it)

Since Uncle Louie and Aunt Dee had a child later in life, they were always the Santa Clauses of the family. They were always bringing necessities to the family and dollar gifts, toys, food, and anything they found that they knew everyone in the family wanted and needed. Christmas was always saved because Aunt Dee and Uncle Louie made it great for everyone (kids, adults, pets).

When Peter was born, Uncle Louie considered him a son. Since Louie had grown up being one of two brothers surrounded by so many sisters, he understood that Peter too was surrounded by too many women. Uncle Louie became the "go to guy" to share Pete's warped sense of humor with.

Every Sunday night, when the family gathered at Aunt Patty and Uncle George's house, Pete would ask Uncle Louie if he could go up to the attic to play. Excitedly, like two naughty little boys, they descend the attic stairs to dig through the goodies. There was always odd items to pick through: A full drum set; bongo drums; guitars; an organ; keyboard; accordian; Christmas decorations; a pile of 78 records featuring Big Crosby, John Wayne; a multitude of records featuring The Who, Donna Summer, Beatles; a harp; homemade spoons; a saw to play; weird wooden fish and other things that would interest a curious boy.  

According to Peter's first cousin, Katie and Uncle Louie's only child:
When Pete first started playing in a band, some of the attic treasures made their way to Pete's hands for the background, costumes or gimmicks. It was amazing what came home from the docks at Todds.  To me,  I always seen my Dad as the BJ Honeycut (from MASH) of the group, very quiet and laid back but the mind was always working on some devious plan or joke (just ask Uncle Robert, as  he was the usual victim). I wish my Dad could have been around to see Pete's full potential and his accomplishments. At the same time, it's scary to think about what it would have been like if Dad and Pete teamed up on some of Pete's visions. 

Would have been amazing !

 Typical photo of the Ratajczyk siblings. L to R, oldest through youngest.
West Islip beach, NY
1980s (look at Pete's shorts !)


  1. Love these photos. Miss the family.

  2. I always took comfort in "Everything Dies". The song was like a hymn for a sad soul desperately trying to understand why things around him must end if they are so good and wonderful. It helped me through a dear friend's suicide. In fact when I hurt after Peter's death, it was also his own words that helped me accept his passing.

    My better half was also raised around mostly women. He's very kind, gentle and thoughtful as a direct result. I can only imagine Peter having the same personality.

    I love these stories. Thank you so much.

    Those shorts. Woowoo. ;)

  3. Great read and great pictures....Very lovely!
    Such a beautiful family!! Thank you for sharing :)

  4. So glad the family had cameras, seeing the photos of Peter when he was young has been great. Really good photo of the girls and Peter. So many females in the families! Love Peters short shorts.
    Ah old photos..... always showing our bad hair and bad fashion.

  5. *look at Pete's shorts!*

    I find it impossible to look at anything else!

  6. what a joy to read, thanks so much for this post. What a wonderful family you have, on can feel the love, the caring, the closeness in every story and event you recount. That attic sounds positively heavenly and I can see why Uncle Lou would be such a favourite with Peter and all the kids. The pictures are amazing and yes, even though I was born in the late 70's, we faced a similar scenario to what you described here in Portugal. I have precious few pics of myself as a kid and yes, all connected or take at special days or holidays. The Ratajczyk sibling line-up is awesome!

  7. Thanks for another great story. You have a remarkable family. All these memories are a treasure. It's so special that you take the time to share them with us. So thanks again.

  8. i always love these stories always full of wit,charm,and love,but i look forward to the oictures as well.the pictures show PETERS vulnerable side,the side none of us got to see aside from family and friends...it is him at his most human times.i grew up without family love like that always made to go to my room or to go outside and stay all day in the heat alone with no friends when we were growing up in tennessee.thats when my love for music began,id take my lil transistor radio and it would bring huey lewis,duran duran,zz top and all the other music i first started listening to.im glad to wake and read these stories of family love,it warms my heart.thank you,and yeah those shorts of PETERS are a bit short lol i remember those too!
    -erik hernandez-

  9. So it was Uncle Louie who brought this beautifully dark and twisted man to fruition(hopefully spelled right), GOD BLESS YA LOUIE!! Btw, the sisters look smokin hot in this pic! Peter could've went without the daisy dukes look though, lol. Great story and pictures, thanks as always!

  10. My husband grew up around women - his mother and 3 sisters - with no male figure to look up to except his grandfather, who passed when he was 16. My husband is the gentlest, kindest man ever. I consider myself so lucky to have him in my life.

    As far as the pictures, I used to HATE the line up pictures - lol. Those pics do bring back memories from that point in time, so they serve their purpose.

    Wish you didn't say to look at Pete's shorts...that was the first thing I saw in the pic and cannot look at anything else- lol.

  11. Why do people look at things like the shorts of Peter???? ;-)))) I cannot understand ;-)))) But seriously, I hadn`t look at the shorts if you had not wrote that. I have looked Peter and his family and thought "what a nice picture" - after looking at the shorts I`m thinking "what a damn short shorts" ;-)))

    Many dear Greetings from Jana

  12. I had an aunt Josie who had a home full of little goodies, we'd always pick one out when we were little kids. When she passed, I inherited lots of her pictures, little goodies. I cherish them.

    Thank goodness for the good souls
    That make life better
    If it wasn't for good souls
    Life would not matter
    (from song Good Souls by Starsailor)

    Peter you were a good soul. We miss you. Thank you family for sharing once again. These stories bring a lot of memories back for me too being from New York. You take care now.

  13. Peter was so handsome all his life. With all you sisters around, yea he needed a guy around too; he had dad he had uncle Lou. He had his friends. Josh, Kenny, Johnny when I see them play on youtube I'm touched by the closeness of these guys. The music was perfection. That bass guitar wailing that music. Thank you for the heartwarming stories.

  14. I wish I could have had a sense of family. I was a mistake and my much-older siblings tormented me when I was growing up. It's always with a sense of wonder that I read about families where there is so much love.

  15. Wonderful story and picture !

    Once again i love the way the family is so close and that each member has a talent of his/her own. Uncle Lou and Pete seemed to be getting along so well, it's precious. i have a very small famiy where some people didn't get along so i'm always amazed at those stories

  16. Thank you for this beautiful post again. So I got it right - when I was reading about the secret attic stash the lyrics of 'Everything dies' ran through my mind - Uncle Louie must have been also a great personality & I am always amazed how much support runs in your family - it's special. Also I find so much comfort in this song - it has helped me to deal with losses. The line-up pic is great again - you all look lovely & it's really hard to NOT look at Pete's shorts ;-)
    It is always fun to see old pics and thinking OMG my hair, my dress etc. ;-)
    @Nerine Dorman: it's sad to hear you say that you were a mistake. I really hope you have at least now in your life some good people around you and that they care and love you. Have hearfelt hug!
    Much love & respect to all of you & take good care of yourself