SCHENECTADY — Dave Buicko and his father, Frank, used to drive around the Mohawk Harbor development every Saturday morning and watch as the old industrial site slowly evolved into the home of Rivers Casino and Resort.
The weekly drives stopped when Frank’s health deteriorated recently. The 93-year-old has Parkinson’s Disease and had one of his legs amputated about a month ago, Dave said.
On Monday, surrounded by family, Frank got to see the finished product.
Dave rolled his father in a wheelchair up to the side of the craps table. The dealer took Frank’s bet and handed him the dice. Frank cradled them in his right hand, gave them a shake and tossed them along the felt.
A few rolls later, the pit broke out in applause.
“I’ve got goosebumps right now,” Dave Buicko said. “He’s been watching this thing since it evolved. To be a part of this thing … I think this kept him alive.”
Dave Buicko, CEO of the Galesi Group, was joined by his two sons and sister for the occasion. With the casino opening to the public Wednesday, the ceremonial dice toss served as a break from chaotic preparations.
“It keeps you grounded,” Dave Buicko said.
Frank grew up in Rome, New York, and would often play street craps, Dave said. If his father won, he’d get a new pair of sneakers, while if he lost, the family ate TV dinners, he joked.
While Frank’s appearance Monday was short, he has a permanent spot in the casino on the wall of Dukes Chophouse. There, hanging next to one of the booths, is a wedding photo of Frank and his late wife, Betty.
Frank spoke briefly Monday, calling it an honor to perform the ceremonial dice toss and remarking that the casino was a beautiful place.
“I think it gave him a new lease on life,” Dave said. “He’s made it through a lot of hardships physically, but he’s here with us today, and he’s going to remember this for a long time.”