Health is Wealth
The loss of a friend reminds one of how fragile life truly is.
As I was preparing to write a blog for this website last week, I received unexpected and tragic personal news. My best friend had succumbed to complications from multiple myeloma (blood plasma cancer) after an eight year battle against this horrific disease. So this blog has nothing to do with WC or property casualty insurance industry. Change the channel now if that is what you expect. This column is dedicated to my friend.
I had first met Pete in 1974 during a summer job while we were both in college. We worked for Walter Kidde, a fire extinguisher manufacturer located, at the time, in Belleville, NJ, counting parts for inventory control in a hot, humid, dusty warehouse. Pete was a strapping 6’ 3” in height, blond and green eyed, lean and muscular, could play a mean game of basketball, and possessed innate common sense, maturity, and intelligence that was impressive. However, the reason we became life-long friends was based his bizarre sense of humor, his genuine caring attitude for his fellow man, his unerring ethics and morals, balanced with a burning focus to be successful.
After spending that summer of 1974 as a working team at Walter Kidde, we always stayed in contact and visited each other as much as possible. He attended Stockton State College in Pomona NJ, while I was at St. John’s University in New York. When he’d come up to visit his parents and brothers in Rutherford, NJ we would always get together. Or I’d travel down to his digs near Atlantic City to spend a few days with Pete and his roommates.
Somehow our get-togethers always involved copious amounts of beer, attempting to meet nubile women, the odd game of basketball, and hanging out at the beach in Longport, NJ and laughing our backsides off. We were young, indestructible, couldn’t rub two nickels together, and trying to figure out what we were going to do with our lives.
After working several part-time jobs simultaneously (e.g. Rustler Steakhouse chef, and the 4am shift at UPS slinging boxes onto trucks) Pete eventually wound up in the casino industry in NJ and steadily advanced through the ranks. I chose the Property/Casualty insurance industry as my vocation, and worked hard to be successful. As we each rose through management positions in our respective industries, we always stayed in contact, tried to maintain an even keel, and continued to laugh about the absurdities of the world.
Pete started running marathons and triathlons, as he was always concerned with staying in shape. When he wasn’t training for those events, he was bicycling 30 or 40 miles at a time, and playing pick-up games of basketball and softball. Everyone he met considered him a friend. Pete simply drew people to him just by being himself.
Pete was married, and so was I three years after him. I relocated to California for a career move twenty years ago, but we maintained our friendship. He visited me several times in CA, and I’d see him anytime I made it back to the east coast. When I relocated to FL, Pete made sure to visit several times over the years with his family. I always cherished those visits that allowed me to spend time with him.
Pete was being promoted at a steady pace in the casino industry. It was not due to luck or happenstance that he eventually achieved the rank of VP of Casino Operations at one of the better known properties in Atlantic City. It was due to hard work, intelligence, and ambition. But his ambition never sacrificed his outstanding integrity, ethics and morals. Pete would never use any underhanded tactics to advance his own cause. He just wasn’t wired that way.
Pete’s first marriage eventually didn’t work out after 13 years, and he remarried in 1999. He wound up having two boys (both clones of him), and his greatest joy was spending time with his sons Joey, and Jake, and his wife Tina. However, in 2004 he began feeling intense spinal pain. Tests were done, and he was eventually diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a potentially fatal disease.
This was a bad hand that Pete was dealt by fate. Through all of the treatment, he did his best to maintain an optimistic outlook. The effects of the disease and treatment took a severe physical, emotional, and mental toll on him, but Pete was not a quitter. That’s why I always knew he’d beat that cancer. No disease was going to take that iron man out!
After an initial stem cell transplant, the multiple myeloma appeared to be under control. However in the summer of 2011 it reared its ugly head again. The treating physicians recommended another stem cell transplant. This entails virtually wiping out the immune system, and is fraught with peril. A simple infection that a health person will easily defeat can easily kill a person with a severely compromised immune system.
Pete went into the hospital in mid-April for the stem cell transplant procedure. Complications set in and he had a very rough ride. Just when it seemed very bad, he rallied and made it home after almost 8 weeks in the hospital. Unfortunately, he was only home for a few days when an infection set in and he had to be re-hospitalized. I last spoke to him on June 29th, and things were starting to look up. However, the infection became worse, and Pete passed away on July 9th at the age of 56, leaving his beloved wife Tina, and sons Joey and Jake with a huge hole in their lives.
The news of Pete’s passing hit me like a sledgehammer. Sure, I knew he was sick, but he had been ill for 8 years and was still around, and I didn’t expect him to go anywhere for another two decades. Fate had other ideas.
Pete was a steadfast and loyal friend, a man of outstanding character and integrity, and an example of how to deal with adversity. All of us who had the pleasure to know him are the poorer for his exit from this world. He was buried this past Monday. I was one of the pallbearers. It was the longest walk I ever experienced, and not in a good way.
Pete’s passing made me think about life in general. Several observations:
What makes life worthwhile is friends and loved ones, and the quality time we spend with those people. New cars, houses, boats, etc. are nice, but material things are a hollow substitute for real and enduring friendships.
We more often than not probably take life for granted (e.g. If I don’t say something today about how much I treasure a person in my life, I can say it tomorrow, because they will always be around).
Money is needed to live, but good health can’t be purchased. In the choice between untold riches and good health, I’ll take the latter every time.
Time is the currency of life; waste time and you waste your life.
Finally, life is truly ephemeral. One day the clock will stop for all us, so try to live your life to the fullest despite the curves thrown at you. Complaining about those curves will not make anything better or life happier.
So, to my friend: Pete you were a truly special human being to all of us who knew you. May you rest in peace.
About the Author:
John D’Alusio has over 30 years experience in P/C insurance with executive management positions in administration, field operations, and claim technical areas. Mr. D’Alusio has had many articles published in industry periodicals, and is also a contributing author to the LexisNexis published, “Complete Guide to Medicare Secondary Payer Compliance.” He writes a monthly column for Risk & Insurance Magazine and is a quarterly columnist for AMComp Magazine.
His Risk & Insurance column is located at: