His Life

His Testament

  The night before we were going to take him off of life support, there were several churches that got together on their own to have a prayer service for him.  Many wrote down things that they wanted to say, or even spoke at the service.  Some of the speakers were also his professors from Duquesne University and his spiritual colleagues.

   Once the viewings and the funeral came, we were in awe.  At least I was.  Hundreds of people came; each had a story about how he touched their lives.  The entire medical staff who handled him from UPMC Presby even attended the funeral (including his very prestigious doctor).  Even in the short time he knew them, he had touched them.  That's just who he was.

   I remember maybe a week or so before he passed, I was sick.  He called me from the hospital to make sure I was okay.  HE called ME.  Another example of who he was.

    My uncle (my dad's younger brother and best friend) had come in for the last week my dad was alive and for the services.  Uncle Gus was supposed to come in to visit anyway. A group of golf buddies had planned an outing on April 25th.  When my dad went back into the hospital, it was clear he wasn't going to be able to go.  He told them that, since he couldn't go, he hoped it snowed.  Monday, April 25th, came- the day before his funeral service.  Sure enough, without any warning, the snow started to fall. If this doesn't make you believe, nothing will. I BELIEVE. I will see him again... He will be golfing where it doesn't snow, and I will be driving the cart, just as I did as his little girl.

The Second Heart Attack

   In July 2004, my dad was appointed to Oakmont UMC. He and my mother moved from Uniontown, PA to Oakmont, PA.  In September, he was having some complications, so my mom took him to St. Margaret's Hospital.  He was checked out and released, only to pass out in the car while leaving the hospital.  My mom took him back in and he was admitted.  He then had his second heart attack, which destroyed the left half of his heart.  If he hadn't already been in the hospital, it would have been fatal.  The doctors installed an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assistance Device) that would keep him alive while awaiting a heart transplant.  It exited his abdomen, and was connected to a battery that had to be charged.  It made a loud, clicking noise (we teased him that he wouldn't be able to sneak up on anyone).  It was scary to know that, if the battery wasn't charged in time, that would be it.  

   Needless to say, a lot is blurred.  Over the next 7 months, our family went through many, many 24-48 hour waiting periods- due to infection where the "heart pump" exited, etc.  He was in and out of the hospital a lot.  However, he was cleared to drive in January 2005 (which was uncommon for his situation). He had a slight stroke that landed him in the hospital again.  They worked to clear him for his transplant. He was given the okay, but by the next morning, he had another stroke.  In 24 hours, his body went from clear to full of blood clots.  One went straight to the left side of his brain, destroying it. 

   We were faced with our last 24-48 hour waiting period.  We decided that quality of life was more important than quantity.  My dad was a thinker. It would not have been right to keep him alive, unable to communicate.  We disconnected his life support and his LVAD on April 22, 2005.  He continued to hold on.  I tell people that his death is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  That may seem weird to some, but unless you've watched a man whom you cared about more than words can express take his last breath, you wouldn't understand.  He fought.  For us.  My mother leaned in & whispered, "It's okay, Tom. We'll be fine. You can let go."  That's all he was waiting for.  He took his last breath right after that.

The First Heart Attack

He first became ill in April 1999, when he had a heart attack.  He was given a clot buster, which later caused his heart to stop and also bleeding on the brain.  He was life-flighted to Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA.  After a while, he was sent to Health South Rehab in Monroeville, PA to learn to walk again.  He returned home (Uniontown, PA)  in June 1999.  He continued to have some issues with brain seizures over the next year.  

    After all of that, he went on to achieve a doctorate in 2001.


   He was not a person who you could sum up with just one word.  He was an avid golfer, a scholar, a pastor, a father, a husband, a brother, an uncle, a son, a Marine...just a few of the things.  He had the most infectious laugh. He had a way of remembering people and making them feel important that made him an excellent pastor.