Posted at the request of Valeria Palmer, who can be reached at her name @earthlink.com
Raymond Duttweiler was my "honorary" cousin - I was named for his mother and called his parents Aunt and Uncle - they were dear friends of my parents.
Here's the story: Raymond was attending American University in Washington during the mid/late 1970s and had a terrible automobile accident out on the Beltway. He lost enough blood to cause him to suffer a coronary and go without oxygen to the brain for some minutes too long. When he emerged from the coma, in addition to the physical scars, he had also suffered irreparable brain injury.
His parents, Valeria and Oscar (Ozzie) Duttweiler did everything they could, and indeed, after lengthy rehabilitation and treatment, Raymond was able to speak and walk and he still could speak multiple languages, but he would never be able to take care of himself again. For another decade, Ozzie and Valeria took devoted care of Raymond.
Then Valeria died at their home on Kos in the Greek islands. Raymond's care fell squarely on Ozzie, who was then 71 and had been terribly wounded during his WWII service with the 10th Mountain Division in the Apennines. And Ozzie carried on.
I had not seen them in many years at this point, but with them spending half the year in Florida, 300 miles away, we were able to renew our ties. While Raymond would forget me between calls and visits, he always remembered the times we were together during when we were children and called me "the second Valeria" when we spoke on the telephone. The misery of his impairments was that he had lost so very much, but not enough so that he did not realize what he had lost.
Col. Duttweiler was diagnosed with Agent Orange related lymphoma about 6 years ago and had been doing well with treatment until last spring (2004). Last year he came back to the US alone to have more treatments, leaving Raymond in Rome with an old family friend. He was making excellent progress when he got a call from the friend, telling him that Raymond had suddenly been taken ill. Because he could not travel and wanted Raymond to be treated in the US, he had Raymond brought to the US, where he was put in the hospital and died on his father's 84th birthday of lymphoma that had been previously undiagnosed.(Dec. 11, 2004). Ozzie was getting better even with the grief of his son's death, when he suddenly had a severe drug reaction and died 30 days after his son's death.
Col. Duttweiler received a Silver Star and two Bronze Stars for valor in WWII - as well as a Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman's badge. I do not know the particulars of how he won those medals, although I do know he bore horrible scars to his deathbed. However, whatever acts of courage, bravery and valor he committed to earn those medals, they pale before the courage and fortitude of the last 14 years of his life, caring for Raymond alone after losing his Valeria and soldiering on year after year - surrendering only when his last duty to his son was done and Raymond no longer needed his devoted care. Their Roman friend took their ashes back to Kos, where they will be added to Valeria's grave in the Catholic cemetery near Iraklis.
We brats are often deeply blessed by the caliber of the parents we are born to.
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