On Sunday night, December 27th,
we all went to bed as usual. It had been a wonderful holiday weekend. There were Christmas presents to open, a
family dinner complete with mom’s good china and silver. The biggest hit of the
weekend was probably the new pool table which resided in the basement. The
basement that Dad had been converting from the typical Victorian cellar, complete with octopus furnace and coal
bin to a rec room for all of us.
was usual in our house, lights were out by 10:30 pm. Sometime after midnight,
mom woke me up whispering “Donna, can you get up? I think Dad is having a heart
attack.” As I went downstairs and into their bedroom, I could hear what sounded
like very heavy snoring. Later I would learn that it was the last air escaping
from his lungs.
the days before 911, you dialed the operator to get to emergency services, I
think it was the fire department that provided these services. I will never
forget that they wanted to know who to send the bill to before they would
contact the ambulance. The next call was to our family doctor, who came to the
house immediately. Dr. Cahill was both a family friend and our physician and it
was his unfortunate duty to pronounce my dad’s death. I am not sure, but I
think he also called the undertaker for mom and meet with the emergency personnel.
all, but some of the other kids were awakened by the comings and goings. They
mostly hung out on the stairs which were just outside of mom and dad’s bedroom.
When the undertaker came to remove dad’s body, it was determined that mom would
go to the funeral parlor later that day to make the arrangements for his wake
and funeral. When the undertaker was ready to move the body, mom asked me to
take the kids upstairs, so they wouldn’t need to watch that.
funeral arrangements were made at the funeral home one ½ block from our house,
which was fortunate since nobody, but dad was a driver then. The
little I remember of the wake, or visitation, was that I surprised at how many
people knew my dad. Of course, his
mother and sister as well as my mother’s brothers and sisters were there but
there were so many others. Sure, I knew he had friends but even some of his
high school classmates came to honor him. The
people in our community were so generous and giving that I am sure we had
donated food in half the freezers in town. The church was packed on the day of
the funeral, complete with a large contingent of Adrian Dominican nuns. Leaving
the church after the funeral, I saw them with their white habits and black veils
and cloaks standing towards the rear of the church. My thought at the time was “They
look like a herd of penguins”. Inappropriate I know, but such is the mind of a seventeen-year-old.
have written this for my younger siblings because I know that they have
different memories of this event that was such a major event in our lives. Dad’s
death and our individual reactions to it, no doubt had large part in shaping
the people we are today. Let me say that I couldn’t be prouder of each and
every one of them and the outstanding people they are.