It is with a very heavy heart that I write this article.
At precisely 10:00 pm on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, Renee’s father and my father-in-law, Richard Compasso, passed. He went into the hospital for surgery on his neck a week earlier, needing to relieve discs and bone spurs that were pressing on his spine. After that surgery he was doing fine, was up and walking, and was to be discharged from the hospital on Thursday, July 25, 2013. Unfortunately, at approximately 3:03 am on Thursday, July 25, 2013, during a routine bed check by hospital staff, he was found not breathing. He was resuscitated, slipped into a coma and never regained consciousness. Repeated scans and tests showed that only the most primitive brain functions remained. He would never be himself again.
As per the wishes in his living will, Rich as he was known to his friends and Poppy to his children, grandchildren and loved ones, was removed from life support on Monday, July 29, 2013. He was kept comfortable until his passing to make sure he was suffering no pain. His children all by his side when he took his final breathe. He will be laid to rest today with a military ceremony in Yonkers, New York.
I write this article to honor Pop, as I took to calling him in recent years. I would like everyone to know about the good man that I knew and how he will be missed.
Any story of Pop has to start with the fact that he was a very proud veteran who served in the Army during the Korean War. He was injured during the War, spending several months recovering in an Army hospital and becoming disabled. He was severely burned, his hearing was never the same and he had limited use of his arms due to shoulder injuries. Unfortunately, he was not awarded a Purple Heart, which is something that bothered me more and more as years went on, but was a topic he never complained about.
Recently, Renee and her brother and sister embarked upon efforts to get him awarded a Purple Heart. Via letter dated July 1, 2013, the Army explained to Pop that the records of his injury did not show that he was injured as the result of direct enemy action. Truthfully, based on the research we did, the records from the Korean War showed very little, so it was hardly surprising, I suppose, that the Army couldn’t confirm his entitlement to a Purple Heart. But he was a hero in our minds and an extremely proud American. I will always believe he should have been awarded a Purple Heart.
The letter did go on to explain that he was, however, entitled to the Korean Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star and the Republic of Korea-Korean War Service Medal. Sadly, due to delay in receiving the letter it was not received until he had lost brain function, so he never knew he qualified for these two medals. He would have been so proud!
The other tale that absolutely needs to be told is his love of wrestling! He would watch wrestling every night of the week (yes, it is on that often). For Christmas one year I bought him DVDs featuring some of the greats from when I was a kid watching wrestling. When he visited, which was often, we would watch the current wrestling shows and periodically put in a DVD of the Road Warriors or Ric Flair from years ago. I will miss that time with him very much and regret that I didn’t make more time watching it with him over the years. Once I commented to Renee: “He knows it’s fake, right?” Every night seemed the same story line, but he loved it and it was time spent with him. While I made time once or twice a week, I should have made more time. His mother lived to nearly 103 years old, so I guess I just thought I had a lot more time to spend with him.
We did have some great times together, and recently had one of the best nights you could imagine. Renee had the idea of throwing him a surprise birthday party for this 82nd birthday. He was staying with us at the time. We invited family and friends over, put out a surf and turf spread for dinner, wine and birthday cake. There were gifts to be sure, but the special surprise was that we hired a comedian to put on a private show for us. Pop loved comedy. I don’t think he has ever smiled so much! It was a blast! It turned out better than we could have imagined, and of course we ended the night watching wrestling. A perfect birthday, at least by Poppy standards. Family, food, fun and wrestling! It just didn’t get any better than that for him.
Having these happy memories really helps down the road, but also makes the loss all the more painful at the same time.
As many readers know, I lost my mother in May 2012. That was the hardest thing I have ever endured, so I know what Renee is going through and what she will be dealing with when we lay him to rest at 1pm today. Not a day goes by without me remembering my mom and wishing I could have one more conversation with her, or sit with her again. While it does get easier there are many difficult moments. The things I miss the most are talking to mom and sitting quietly by her side, as we would watch TV. We always talked multiple times on Sundays during football season — she was a big fan.
It is the little moments, like Sunday chats and watching wrestling, that define our relationship with loved ones more than anything else, and those are the moments that we so take for granted. Yet those are the moments that we miss most because they were special. Special not because they were monumental, but special because they were ordinary. Another person you care deeply about enjoying themselves and wanting you to be a part of that enjoyment. It doesn’t get any more complicated than that.
I don’t have any particular wisdom over and beyond others who have suffered the loss of a loved one, but when I lost my mother I wrote about it and received many heartfelt e-mails and letters. We all walk in the same shoes in many regards. Life is too short and too fragile. We never know whether there will be a tomorrow for us or for those we love deeply.
If you have lost someone close to you, then you understand the pain, the sorrow, the regrets. But even still life goes on and we fall back into familiar patterns, taking what we have and who we love for granted. When it is too late to do anything about it is when we realize.
There is an old saying about no one ever regretting that they didn’t spend more time at the office on their deathbed. There should be a corollary: No one ever thinks they should have spent more time in the office when they see a loved one dying or lay them to rest. We all have busy lives, hectic schedules and billable requirements. But it is OK to smell the roses every once in a while and share it with those we love. It is good for the soul.
I loved Pop a lot. He was a very, very good man. He had his faults and failings like we all do, but he had a lot of love in his heart and a lot of wisdom to share. I think he knew what he meant to me, but I didn’t go that extra step to remove all doubt, and that is my regret.
Rest in peace Pop. I’m sure our paths will cross again. I love you and will miss you very, very much.
NOTE: To the extent anyone might be inclined to send flowers, we suggest in lieu of flowers a small donation be made to the Wounded Warrior Project in memory of Richard Benjamin Compasso, Sr.
Join the Discussion
26 comments so far.
Renee C QuinnOctober 1, 2013 04:57 pm
Thank you for taking the time to post that you knew my dad. I miss him so much. As you know, with the loss of your husband, some days are much harder than others. I just listened to a few of his voicemails yesterday. I am also saddened because several of my friends have lost parents since my father passed and my husband lost his mother last year. I suppose we are at that age where we lose our parents but it still really stinks. Whether you know it’s coming or it is completely unexpected like this. I am very sorry for you loss, yet it makes me happy though to know that he was there to make you smile and that he impacted your life enough that you sought out information on him and took the time to say hello. God Bless you for doing that. You made me smile today and I know he is smiling down on us as well.
Libbi RockOctober 1, 2013 09:51 am
Dear Gene and Renee,
You don’t know me but I knew your dad. I work at the Centerpointe Food Pantry where he came every monday. He always made me smile. I would run into him occasionally at walmart and we would have wonderful conversations. I remember him telling me he was going in for surgery and how he was nervous about it but he had a positive outlook. He was one of the highlights of my day. Especially after my husband died in May, he would try to cheer me up. I wondered after I didn’t see him for a few weeks at the pantry what had happened. I finally looked him up and found out. I will miss him and his smile. God bless you.
Renee C QuinnAugust 10, 2013 02:39 am
Thank you for taking the time to read the article and for posting your comments. This has been a very difficult time for my family. Loosing someone you love is always difficult, but in our case, it came as a complete shock. He had surgery and was doing very well for 2 days. Then out of nowhere slips into a coma for 6 days. I’m still sort of numb with disbelief. But luckily we did have a wonderful relationship with him. We are definitely blessed for the wonderful memories we will forever have.
Renee C. QuinnAugust 10, 2013 02:35 am
Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. This is a difficult time for us, but time will heal all wounds.
Joe AllenAugust 9, 2013 03:28 pm
Renee and Gene: I finally got the chance to read Gene’s very moving article and want to add my condolences to both of you. You’re very fortunate to have had such a close relationship and I’m sure your Dad passed knowing that he was greatly loved. I’ll keep you in my prayers. All of us who have lost parents know what you’re going through.
bamahawk43August 6, 2013 09:42 pm
Gene and Renee,
My condolences to the Compasso family on your loss of your father. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Renee C. QuinnAugust 6, 2013 08:22 pm
Thank you for taking the time to post your note here. It was difficult for me to post my updates on Facebook, particularly the one announcing his passing, but with such a large family it was necessary. Thank you for keeping up with my posts and keep us in your thoughts during the ordeal. We are so saddened by my father’s unexpected death. We will miss him very much. But with this tribute, all of the many pictures we have and all of the memories and stories my family will forever share about him will certainly keep him alive in our hearts forever!
Mary Ann (Peckham) GrantAugust 6, 2013 05:39 pm
What a beautiful tribute! Brought tears to my eyes. I don’t comment alot on facebook but I have been following the posts from Renee and my heart has been with your family.
Renee C. QuinnAugust 6, 2013 04:52 pm
Thank you for your note. It’s funny you say Jolly good Fellow, I think he looks like Santa in the picture where he is opening his Kuerig coffee pot. My dad LOVED his gadgets.
It is sad to see so many veterans, so rich with history, passing on. I can only hope they pass on their stories to their loved ones as our dad did for us.
Paul ColeAugust 6, 2013 04:46 pm
Many condolences on your loss. By all accounts Richard was a jolly good fellow, and so (I believe) say all of us!
Very sadly we are losing the people who fought in WWII and also in Korea. They are a hard act to follow.
Renee C. QuinnAugust 6, 2013 04:45 pm
Thank you so very much for taking the time to post your thoughtful words. Gene and my father were in one another’s lives for nearly 11 years. They formed quite a bond. We do have many fond memories of my dad. In particular is my memory of taking my father to the Korean War Memorial in DC. Although his girlfriend was with us, she was ill and had to stay in the car. So it was just me and my proud daddy that day. As we walked through the memorial, arm in arm, he proudly shared his memories from Korea with me, explaining what each of the statues wore and carried and what it was like for him. I could see the sheer pride on his face. I will never forget walking through the memorial with my father, during what I felt was his proudest moment of recognition. My father walked with a bit of a hunch from his war injuries, but when a little girl noticed my father’s hat, pointed and said to her father “Daddy, he was there!” my dad straighten up a bit and walk taller than I’d ever seen him walk before! It is a treasured moment in time and a memory I will cherish forever!
Gene QuinnAugust 6, 2013 04:42 pm
Thank you everyone for taking the time to read the article and for your thoughts and prayers. We are doing well all things considered. The ceremony yesterday was beautiful and moving. It was good to be surrounded by so many in the extended family, and very nice to get these messages from our friends. Lots of tears were shed, and more will be shed in the coming days. He was a special guy!
Nick GodiciAugust 6, 2013 04:23 pm
Renee and Gene,
I am very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your memories of a remarkable man who was clearly much loved and will be missed.
Renee C. QuinnAugust 6, 2013 04:04 pm
Thank you so much for your kind and tender words. We are so blessed to have this forum with which to share our thoughts and feelings on those things which so greatly impact our lives. Thank you so much for taking the time to send us your beautiful note and thank you for being a continued reader of IPWatchdog.
MaryAugust 6, 2013 11:51 am
Thank you for sharing such personal feelings with all of your readers. We can each feel so alone in such times of sorrow and to share your sense of loss, to risk being vulnerable helps all of us take pause and treasure each other while alive. I’m so sorry for your loss and wish you and all your family the strength to carry on .
Renee C. QuinnAugust 6, 2013 11:35 am
Thank you for your note. My father was a very proud veteran and we were so proud of him as well. He wore his Korea Veteran hat with such pride! It warmed my heart when others approached him to thank him for his service. Last night after I went to dinner with a bunch of my family members, while we were in the parking lot, saying our fair wells (I don’t like good byes) a gentleman stopped his vehicle whee I was standing with my baby brother, who was still in his dress greens, rolled down his window and thanked him for his service. I was so proud and happy to see someone take the time to do that. I cannot walk passed someone I know has served or is serving without doing the same.
GeoffAugust 6, 2013 11:06 am
So sorry for your loss. But a wonderful tribute to a man who sacrificed for all of us and still knew how to live life.
Renee C. QuinnAugust 6, 2013 10:52 am
Thank you so much. Your support is very much appreciated.
Renee C. QuinnAugust 6, 2013 10:51 am
Thank you for taking the time to send us this message. It’s been a very difficult and trying last two weeks. I was in FL from the day my father slipped into a coma until 2 days after he passed. Came home and left for NY for his funeral. I am exhausted but being surrounded by so many people that I love and who loved my father made it easier to bear.
I know that my father is also at peace. We laid him to rest yesterday with a beautiful and heartfelt graveside military service where my youngest brother presented my oldest sister with the the flag that was draped over his casket. I will miss my father tremendously.
MarkAugust 6, 2013 09:29 am
Renee and Gene – your Florida family is thinking about you and praying for all of you.
djw77August 6, 2013 09:28 am
Gene and Renee,
I rarely comment but I have read so much of what you have written that I feel like I know you. I am very sorry for your loss. I pray God’s graces and blessings upon you at this time.
Renee C QuinnAugust 5, 2013 11:37 pm
EG, Kelli, Barb and Steve,
Thank you so much for your heartfelt messages. Today was a very difficult day for our family, but all of my brothers and sisters, (Debby, Ricky, Anthony, Thomas, Marie, myself and Richie) along with his brother, my mother and many of our father’s grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews were together over the last 3 days to celebrate his life. He was very proud of his family and he was a very proud Veteran who was laid to rest today in a most beautiful graveside military service. We are so saddened by his unexpected loss but can find some peace knowing he passed peacefully surrounded by his 7 children! Thank you again for your kind and thoughtful words. And thank you Barb for coming to his service on Sunday. It was wonderful to see you.
SteveAugust 5, 2013 03:40 pm
Heart felt condolences to you both as well as for your entire families over the loss of a clearly wonderful human being . . . and decorated veteran.
Barbara ThomasAugust 5, 2013 12:48 pm
Beautiful words Gene Richie would be honored..
Kelli ProiaAugust 5, 2013 11:54 am
Dear Renee and Gene,
I am so sorry to hear the sad news of your father’s passing. My thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of sorrow.
EGAugust 5, 2013 08:51 am
Dear Renee and Gene,
So sorry to hear about your loss. I know how gut wrenching it can be to lose a parent who has meant so much to you. My prayers and thoughts are with you.