“I’m not a religious man,” he says. “But I thank the blessed mother that my sons took after my wife. And my daughters! If they were boys, they’d be doing 40 to 60 somewhere!” That’s a compliment—he means they’re tough. One of his daughters is, in fact, a federal prosecutor.
Framed photos of his family are all over the house; his eldest great-grandchild is a freshman in high school. “I never saw them,” he says of his great-grandchildren. “They were born when I was in prison.”
“I feel bad for my dad, because regardless of what he did in his life, no one should go blind,” says Frank. “My son ... would love to have him come to a football game … but there’s no way he could sit in the stands and watch him … when I grew up, he was always at every football game, every practice.”
The family doesn’t see Natale the way the rest of the world might.” I don’t picture him as this big mob guy,” says Frank. “I understand that, but here when you sit down and say hello and have a glass of wine, he’s my dad.”
Natale says that he doesn’t talk too much with neighbors. He figures once he starts chatting, they’ll eventually ask questions that he doesn’t want to answer. He says that now that he’s retired, so to speak, he’s reflecting on his life. “I’m not too proud of anything we did,” he says. “But hey, my life was my life.”
Does he ever think about the people he murdered?
“I can’t feel any way about them, because I’d have no life,” he says. “We didn’t go out and pick somebody who was selling apples or in the candy store or shoot at somebody and a kid gets killed. These guys were bad men … I only took the life of men who wanted to take my life. And that’s it. I can’t say any more.”
At 77, Natale has given half his life to the streets and the other half to the system—and feels let down by both. He has his beloved wife. He has his family. For as long as his eyesight allows, he will work on his memoirs and run in the park. It is a race against time and light.
“Every night I go to sleep. I dream all night,” he says. “The last dream is that I’m in prison again. Every night.”
PW's Summer Guide 2015