The Story of Mario
About eight years ago Eddie died and Mario made me commit to never, ever taking him out of his house. If anything happened, just let me die here he would say. In 2006, he fell. I didn’t have a key because he wouldn’t give me one. I knew he was on the floor but he didn’t want me to take him out of there. It would be war to take him out. So we found a spare wheelchair through the Veterans office. Mario took the wheelchair but wouldn’t get treated at the hospital so he healed on his own.
A couple years later, he fell again. He was bleeding from the head and I had to make the decision to break the pact of never taking him out of his home. He had been under the table for quite a while and I couldn’t live with myself if I left him there. So my brother Frank and I called an ambulance. He screamed and cried all the way – why are you taking me out. It was terrible.
The house hadn’t been touched since 1945 – seriously – it looked like you could film a Bob Hope movie there. After Mario went to the hospital, we tried to have ServPro clean it. They wouldn’t touch it it was so bad. Clearly it was way beyond what a cleaning could do. We had no idea when or if Mario would be able to come home. Turned out Mario made a remarkable recovery and couple of days later I got a call to come get him. Come get him I thought? What am I supposed to do with him? He had no insurance, he needed rehab and no one would take him because of his lack of insurance, and his house wasn’t up to code to let him back in. He was a wounded war veteran who never got assistance from anyone. We brought the situation to the Leominster Veterans Director and then it went to CDBG. CDBG and Planning officials thought it was the perfect use for CDBG funds.
The CDBG program helped fix three rooms – the kitchen, living room, and bathroom – just where Mario had been living. And Mario got to come home. For three years he stayed there until one day he passed away, at home where he wanted to be. It was a long hall for the nieces and I – a 45 year commitment to a veteran that deserved every benefit this country could offer but he asked for nothing but to be left alone in his home to live as he wanted. I’m proud to have played a role in helping Mario live out his dream.
In the end, Mario’s biggest fear came true: his name has been splashed out there for all to see. He’s been the subject of city council meetings, newspaper articles and a state investigation on the spending of funds to fix up just three rooms so he could live, and die, with dignity. The Sentinel said it best in their article after the City Council’s questioning of me over this situation.
“What we should all agree on is this: Mario and Edward Cavaioli are forgotten heroes of World War II. How shameful it is then, if we remember them only for this controversy. How shameful it is”. (Sentinel & Enterprise, May 1, 2011).