By James Anthony Ellis, Southwest Region
At 2 a.m., Tuesday, May 10, Fred Vesey, long-standing man among men in circles MDI and elsewhere, passed away with his newlywed wife Katrina by his side. Earlier that day Vesey was visited by Brad Leslie and Brendan Byrd who brought pictures and stories of a Monte Carlo fundraising night created in his honor and attended by Fred via Skype.
Tired, weary of the cancer and the treatment, Vesey left that night while holding the hand of his beloved Katrina. Upon Fred’s passing, several of the circle of men agreed to see Fred and Katrina’s vision to fruition to relocate Katrina to San Diego where her son lived … when she was ready.
That came in August. Men from the Young Men’s Ultimate Weekend, a circle Fred Vesey called home for nine years, was led by Byrd, committed to what he called “our Elder and Mentor.”
Matt Tager, DC of West Bay Division, used his connections and resources within MDI to line up support from several divisions. Specifically Tager brought Razors Edge and San Diego Men’s Division to the table. Loading the 26-foot Penske truck was led by Byrd and Von Husen from YMUW. Wetsu in Sacramento assisted at 9 a.m. on Sunday, August 7. Razors Edge met them in Concord and emptied her storage unit that afternoon. The 12-hour drive was handled by Byrd’s good friend Jason Moody who had work in San Diego and who had only met Fred on one occasion. Moody left that evening of Sunday and arrived Monday mid-day, delivering the truck to Katrina’s Ocean Beach home Tuesday morning, August 9.
That Tuesday night, team Fitness of San Diego used their team meeting to support Katrina with the unloading of the truck. Caught off guard, the team found out early that the amount of furniture and possessions was much more than a one-bedroom apartment could hold. With a pure “no problem” attitude, the team helped Katrina pick and choose what would fill the apartment, and what would be placed into storage the next day. At the helm was the committed Mike Villanueva, team leader of Fitness, who enrolled more men the next day – including Travis Webster, Art McCormack, Scott Lange and Matt Fistonich, who finished unloading the truck just in time – at 10:40 pm for an 11 pm deadline at the storage unit.
Said Villanueva, who was overjoyed to not only give of himself but to also use the Penske truck’s air horn, “It all happened the way it’s supposed to happen. It’s how community is supposed to work. We are supposed to take care of each other. And although I never met Fred, I also got a sense of the love and care between him and Katrina.”
Byrd said, “It was satisfying to say goodbye to a friend and fulfill a commitment to take care of him this way. He became a second father to me. It was good to get his wife’s life on track once he was gone. I’m sure Fred is really proud of the work we did.”
Byrd was especially impressed with the way the various men’s organizations – Sterling, MDI, YMUW – worked together without missing a beat. “It validated all the trust we model. I am very proud of what we achieved, how we interacted and the commitment of men who never met nor heard of Fred Vesey. It is a credit to all the good work we do as men caring for our community.”
Said Leslie, who knew Fred for 20 years and walked the last mile of his life with him, “It shows how at core we’re all men with big balls and big hearts who can work together. Byrd took up the sword and congrats to him on an amazing job. It was a huge job done by all, facing challenges and moving past them. Job well done … on to the next one.”
From Katrina Vesey, Upon her Relocation to San Diego. For the Men who Helped …
Please forgive me for not getting this off to you sooner, but I needed time to gather my thoughts and feelings regarding this whole experience of relocation. This also will not be a short e-mail, so please bear with me. I wouldn’t expect any of you to understand where I am coming from regarding this, but this was a highly emotional and physical move for me (I did post something recently on Facebook, but a lot of you were not on my “friends” list, so I had no way of having you see what I wrote. I have since learned that some of you are on Facebook, and I sent a “friend request”).
I feel the need to give you a little background about Fred and Katrina Vesey, after finding out that some of you men didn’t even know my husband at all, just knew of him. To lose the love of my life, so unexpectedly in May ~ turned my life completely upside down. We had so many plans, and were so excited about moving to San Diego to be close to my kids after his cancer treatments. Fred had been in telecommunications for over 30 years, and my son has his own business in fiber optics and telecommunications. Fred was so excited about being able to help John “behind the scenes” in whatever capacity was needed. We had just married in January with just our kids and grandkids present, and had so much to look forward to. We had known each other for over 35 years, were involved for 11 of those years (off and on), and our greatest joy was being husband and wife after all we had been through. After I agreed to move back home to be with Fred last year, four months later we found out he had cancer! We were pretty devastated, but we were told that Lymphoma is curable, but the worst of it all was his diagnosis of Amyloidosis (which is not curable). His specialist felt that the chemo could keep the Amyloid “at bay”, but in the midst of all of this was Fred’s congestive heart failure as well.
This was an extremely trying time for both of us. As his caretaker, I basically didn’t sleep for 9 months. Fred was not able to even sleep in a bed for the last year of his life, he lived in his recliner and wheelchair. Any time he would try to lay down, his lungs would fill with fluid and he had trouble breathing. He ended up on oxygen 24/7. This was excruciating for him and for me. Freddy handled what chemo treatments he had very well, but it was still a very slow decline. He lost his love of food, and not much of anything tasted good to him.
He was an incredible chef, and he loved my cooking, but his taste buds completely changed (which we were warned may happen). It was such a frustrating and trying time for both of us. The one gift that Fred wanted to give me more than anything, was his social security, should something happen to him. Sadly, I did not get Widow’s Benefits, due to the fact that we were not married for nine months! This was another devastating blow to me, especially after losing him.
Now, I am having to come out of retirement at 66 (I have put in my 40 years), and return to the work force. It is a very scary time for me, as I am left with less than half the income I had when Fred was here, but with the same bills to pay in addition to higher rent. I never dreamed this would be happening to me, and it surely is the last thing that Fred would have wanted. But, he would want me to get to San Diego to be close to my kids, that’s a given. The final remainder of his ashes will be spread at sea here, by my son and grandsons on a “paddle out” on their surfboards. Aside from that, I have a small special urn with Freddy here, so he will always be with me. I feel like I have done nothing but cry this last year, mainly since May 10th. I was so thankful I was with Fred when he passed, his final words were spoken to me. I know he didn’t plan on leaving so soon, and I certainly was not prepared. This has been the most painful time of my entire life, and I hope to God none of you will ever have to experience what I have.
This brings me to you men (from everywhere)!! From the time I moved home, all of these men have shown up in my life! They were there to help Fred and I when we lived in the mountains above Red Bluff. They just showed up and did everything. I was in total amazement, and not used to people coming into my home, and just taking over. I watched the love and devotion they exhibited to my husband, and the open arms and love they showed to me. I was fully embraced by all of them. I think of all the time these men devoted to us, not expecting anything in return. It didn’t take long for me to in turn have love for these men too. I have watched it all, from the time they showed up and moved us to Carmichael (to get Fred closer to his specialist in Sacramento), to the recent turn of events, in getting me moved from Carmichael and down to San Diego. One team showed up in Carmichael, another team showed up at my storage in Concord, a driver who knew the San Diego run well arrived on the scene, and then all of you appeared here to help me! How can one make sense of all of this?
The emotion that this raised in me once again is very difficult to put into words. At the time I met all of you, I was in a mode of total exhaustion, had been up for two days straight packing alone in Carmichael … the raw and real emotion of making this major move without my Fred has almost been unbearable at times. I had been in Northern California for 43 years, and I know that without him, none of this would have happened. It is because of your respect and love for Fred and what he gave to the organizations, that you were willing to make this happen, even with some of you never meeting him!
It still amazes me to watch the level of camaraderie, respect and love you men show for one another, and I clearly know how much the men’s organizations meant to my husband. You men worked tirelessly, and just rolled with all the unexpected surprises that arose (like having way too much stuff for this tiny place), and just made it happen. Jim, I appreciated you taking the lead on this from the beginning. Mike, I must say, you were so calming to me, and I was not in a good place mentally or physically. You just took the reigns, and made things happen, made decisions, and did it all with such grace and calm. I cannot thank you enough; you are truly inspirational. I realize it was very much a “team effort”, to make everything fall into place that night and next day. I am still trying to catch my breath! I am a firm believer in that there is a reason for everything that happens. You were all so gracious and kind to me, under the very worst of circumstances for me, and I cannot thank you enough for that. I look forward to eventually being about to have you over for a home-cooked meal that I CAN do!
I am truly honored to have all of you now in my corner too. I still get calls from the men in Northern California and beyond, making sure I am okay … what an extended family!! I am one lucky woman! Once again, my sincere thanks and appreciation to each and every one of you ~ you made me proud to meet you, and I know my Fred was very proud of you too! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope I have in some way, been able to convey to you how much you have touched my heart and my life. All of you are truly a blessing to me, as I am sure you are to many others in your lives! Thank you, thank you, thank you!