Eyewitness to History Enjoys Special GiftPosted: October 12, 2012
Decorated veteran (and Soprano’s fan) Jim Lullio declares Samaritan “a good outfit” as he shares unforgettable experiences and a gift from a TV star who didn’t “fuhgeddaboutit.”
Like Forrest Gump in the Academy Award-winning film, James (Jim) Lullio has experienced people, places and events of 20th Century history from an “I-was-there” vantage point. On a recent afternoon, the 85-year old decorated Army veteran recounted some of those memories to members of his Samaritan hospice care team. (See “A Storied Career,” below)
He also shared his surprise and gratitude for the responsive care he has received and unexpected gifts his Samaritan team delivered from the star of his favorite TV show.
“Let’s face it,” said Jim, “When you think of hospice, you think you’re on your death bed ready to go. But, what I found out is that even though you may be on your way to go, they do a good job keeping you comfortable and enjoying life.”
Jim has lived alone with the help of his two children and four grandchildren since the 2005 passing of Erma, his wife of 51 years. He is the third member of his family to receive Samaritan’s care – all in the same downstairs living room of his well-maintained Mt. Holly home.
It was Erma’s father who first received hospice care in 1998. Then, Jim valiantly cared for Erma himself before calling for Samaritan’s support just weeks before she died. Jim’s daughter Joanne Lullio-Morris said, “We were determined to call earlier for my dad, who has advanced lung cancer and COPD so that he could get help and pain relief sooner.”
Jim had high praise for his nurse Paula McFarland, social worker Joan Ordile, chaplain Chuck Mitchell and home health Cheryl Timbers. “I was surprised by how much care they give you. They’re a good outfit.”
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Jim found beautiful ways to express his appreciation for his Samaritan care. His hospice nurse, Paula McFarland, recalls, “Jim spent a lot of his life playing the organ. When I went to visit him one week, I called ahead, as I always do, to let him know I was coming. He said to come right in when I got to the door. When I walked in, he was in the living room, where he performed a little concert for me. He played on his organ for about 25 minutes. God bless him, he had his oxygen going and everything. He said, “Paula I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but I’ve wanted to do that for you, and I’ve been waiting for a good day.” I told him he made my week.”
He was especially impressed with the team’s precision and follow-through. “They make sure I have everything I need. That gives me peace of mind. When you ask for something, they react right away. They’re not just talking out of their hat.”
Jim shared with his team what a big fan he was of the now cancelled HBO hit “The Sopranos.” A friend had once even gotten him onto the set where he watched filming in the Bada-Bing Club and met James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) and other series stars.
Quietly, Samaritan’s Dr. Marianne Holler took action to provide a special surprise. James Gandolfini had been her cousin’s college roommate. “I have made it a rule never to exploit that friendship,” she said, “but thought he might not mind just this once.” Dr. Holler was pleasantly surprised to receive a gracious response from the star whose character made famous the catch phrase ‘fuhgeddaboutit.’ “He sent a cast poster, an autographed photo, a book and an original cast script. The photo was autographed, “Jim, say hi to the boys in Brooklyn.” Gandolfini also surprised Dr. Holler with an autographed photo of her own that read, “God bless you for the work you do.”
Jim’s daughter Joanne said, “When some of my co-workers heard that my father was under Samaritan’s hospice care, they offered their condolences. But I told them I am not sad because, quite literally, Samaritan’s care and comfort had prolonged his life and quality of life. We were losing him and if we had not brought Samaritan in when we did, he wouldn’t have been here this last year.”
James Lullio passed on September 27, 2012 in his home surrounded by his family.
A Storied Career
The love and security of family is important to James (Jim) Lullio, who grew up in a Peekskill, NY orphanage and foster home. With special permission, he enlisted in the Army before his 18th birthday so he could serve his country and feel a sense of “belonging.” The Army’s 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) delivered on that wish. “I joined the 2nd Cavalry because of its proud tradition. It showed me what the Army was really like — a family of close-knit brothers.”
Some other career highlights:
- Jim was among the first members of the US Constabulary – the Army’s elite military police charged with keeping the peace as Germany transitioned from World War II combat through post-war occupation and recovery.
- In 1951, he trained with General Patton’s son on advanced tank tactics.
- His 3rd Infantry Division charged Heartbreak Ridge in Korea earning him a Bronze Star for “heroism in ground combat.”
- At the height of the Cold War, his unit patrolled the divisive Berlin wall.
- When President Kennedy delivered his famous 1963 “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech just months before his assassination, Jim’s unit joined him for lunch.
- His stateside assignments as a weapons and heavy machinery trainer often returned him to Ft. Dix where he encountered celebrity reservists such as pro football’s Rosey Grier and LA Dodgers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.
- Jim put his Cavalry training in heavy machinery to use after his retirement at the rank of E-9 Sgt. Major. Settling in Mt. Holly, he opened up New Jersey’s first truck and heavy machinery driving school which provided marketable skills to students of all races and genders (a first!) and prison inmates seeking a second chance.