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Son Remembers How Dad, Dying From Asbestos, Made Him Laugh


My dad, Eugene Clare, died of an asbestos-related lung cancer March 16, 1995, 54 years young. After spending several weeks in and out of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY, he died at home under care of the Niagara Hospice surrounded by his wife, children, and other loved ones.

Eagle Scout, senior class president, US Marine, member of Ironworkers Local #9 in Niagara Falls, NY, and father of four were only some of the things that my Dad mentioned with a great deal of pride. A quiet pride however, I typically found out the details of these accomplishments while digging through photo albums or the attic, or talking with Mom or Grandma. After some prodding, Dad would talk about these experiences.

Dad spoke to me about doing something completely different when you retire, perhaps retire early and work for yourself. Being an ironworker was dirty and dangerous work, but with a good hourly wage to provide for his family. He knew the risks well, paying with a severed finger and crushed disks in his back over the years.

When he retired to start a lawn service business after 30 years of ironwork, he realized what he dreamed of for himself and most likely thought the dangers of his trade were behind him. A new wife and a new business, beautiful old home, children grown and prospering, the future looked bright. Unfortunately the dream lasted only a couple of years, waking to one of the ugliest dangers of Iall, cancer. Dad's asbestos exposure took place while installing pollution control devices, scrubbers, on smokestacks in industrial Western New York.

Eugene Clare with his kids

I drove Dad home from Roswell four or five days before he passed away. We talked and he made me laugh. Yes, he made me laugh. When I was eighteen, he got me a summer job as a pre-apprentice ironworker, working on the construction of a local power plant. Good money for anyone and great money for a teenager, he made me promise that this was a way to help pay for some of college, not in lieu of college. Coddled from much of the danger of the job, I primarily carried tools and cleaned up debris. I did however learn to "burn" with an oxygen/acetylene torch. In the car, Dad was under oxygen and tested me by asking what color hose went to the tank. He was curious if I remembered what he had taught me. Dad got me again when took a detour before we got home to take look at Lake Ontario and the neighborhood. On the way back, he pointed out how a friend built his home on a swamp and how there was always water in his yard.

My understanding of euthanasia was shaped in those last few days. Seeing my strapping father reduced by cancer, knowing a new beginning (?) was near, I began to comprehend how individuals could end the lives of spouses, parents, children, etc. under similar circumstances. Dad fought the disease and subscribed to all of the treatments suggested, a veteran of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. He spent time the last week with his loved ones sharing his thoughts, saying goodbye. We didn't cross this topic however, and still today I do not know if my thoughts were to end his pain and suffering or ours.

I think of my Dad every day.

Brett Clare
Del Mar, California

*** POSTED APRIL 15, 1999 ***