In Their Own Words:
Spring 2018

Here’s To Making It Count,

Bill Passalacqua ’88, today an assistant commandant for Norwich, proposed to Heidi (pictured) in 1998 at the top of the Centennial Stairs. They live happily with their four children on Winch Hill Road, Northfield. When not writing and presenting, Heidi works as a registered nurse in central Vermont.

By Heidi Passalacqua P’15.

By any measure, Heidi Passalacqua is an honorary Norwich alumna. There may be no other person in the history of our family who bears the title of wife, widow twice over, daughter, and mother of Norwich graduates. Randall H. Miller ’93 & M’07 has said of her, “No matter what the universe throws at her, she marches onward with unrelenting optimism.” From the loss of her mother to alcoholism, to the death of her 25-year-old husband, Jerry DuChëne ’92 in a car accident, followed by the collapse and subsequent heart-attack death of her second husband, Art Malpere ’92, at just 27, Heidi has shown a resilience in human spirit from which all can learn. In her memoir, Here’s to Making It Count, she shares her raw story, the moments of doubt, and ultimately the hope of a young woman still capable of love. With her permission, we share these excerpts. – Jacque E. Day

After Jerry’s death
Psalm 91:11 says, “For He shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.” I was standing at the kitchen sink of our apartment, just blankly thinking, talking to myself, and talking to my [late] husband, Jerry. “I just hate having to take out the garbage. This was something you did. I hate putting away the socks you leave strewn about when you walk in the door taking off your shoes, leaving them there, taking off your tie, leaving it on the couch, socks, then shirt, then pants, oh … those got to the floor of the bedroom …” I stopped. There was a noisy chatter coming from outside the window.
“Dit dit dit dit dit dit dit.” And it stopped. I listened. “Dit dit dit dit dit dit dit.” Where was that coming from? I looked out the window. Sitting about fifteen yards from me, bright and colorfully red, was a cardinal.

“The world doesn’t stop for your grief”

Heidi’s sister-in-law, Mona Passalacqua VC’78, shared Here’s to Making It Count with a friend, Kim Inman, who was so inspired that she felt compelled to paint the cover on a rock. “To her it felt like she was giving me a part of a solid foundation, strength, and when needed, a place to hold papers down,” says Heidi, smiling.

Reverend Wick spoke at Art’s funeral, giving a scriptural insight on the appropriateness of grief. He said that it is important for family, friends, and others to support those who have suffered loss, not just in the beginning when the death is fresh, but to continue for weeks, months, years. “Wait the weeks after the funeral and drop someone a line and let them know you are thinking of them.” I had found this true with Jerry’s death; however, I have also found that people surround you, and I have been very blessed to have such fabulous friends that outpour with love and support in times of tragedy. But eventually, everyone goes on about their business and no matter how your heart is broken, the world doesn’t stop for your grief.

Where there is life, there is hope
The garden Art planted was huge. I often sat on the rock overlooking our field, listening to the quiet. The air was warm, the sun beating on my back. I could hear the sounds of birds, leaves rustling in the ever-present breeze of our hill. Listening, crying, and thinking, I felt lonely but comforted. I had a job to do … complete the garden. It’s amazing how big the garden was and how it flourished, not knowing all that had happened, not knowing its master was no longer there … both weeds and plants, as the garden had not been tilled in weeks. The tomatoes of late August could be threatened by cold and as the days grew shorter, the snow loomed. The cordless phone rang. It was Colonel C., asking if he and Bill Passalacqua could drop by.

 

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