Angelo Dabbiero: a gift for us all

By John Hall
The Surveyor

Angelo Dabbiero

Angelo Dabbiero

On Friday, Nov. 7, one of Berthoud’s favorite sons, Angelo Dabbiero, was laid to rest one month shy of his 20th birthday. It was an unseasonably bright and warm late fall day, befitting Angelo’s personality that brightened a room and warmed people just being in the presence of this remarkable young man. The Berthoud cemetery had as many people as I have ever seen for a service as cars overflowed onto Highway 56, giving us a glimpse of the deep feelings the community had for Angelo.

Angelo was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Rhabdomyosarcoma, at the age of 13. His life may have been short in years, but not in his zest for living it. His enormous impact on everyone he came in contact with, from his friends and family to complete strangers, to the hospital staff who came to know Angelo quite well, is a gift we can all be grateful for receiving.

One by one, family and friends shared stories about Angelo. The overriding theme, in each very personal and deeply moving narrative about this special young man, was his determination to live life to the absolute fullest. He never wanted to burden those around him as he fought through six years of illness. He strived to make other’s days just a bit better, even when his days could be incredibly painful.

One family member shared how Angelo, on a trip to Philadelphia, took multiple buses that took four hours to complete his trip just to participate in a game called Go. The game, similar to chess, is an abstract strategic thinking game and he ultimately ended up in an unsavory part of the city, playing the game with a group of Korean senior citizens who didn’t speak English. Angelo had the unique ability to create a comforting environment, a soft place to land, for those who met him. His engaging personality was so comforting to this group of Korean seniors that they left him to lock up the building they were playing in, just hours after they had met him. Angelo certainly overcame the language barrier simply by being himself, and that led to tremendous trust by these men to leave their building in his hands.

When meeting someone from another country, Angelo would ask how they greeted someone in their native language. He had a remarkable knack for remembering each foreign greeting. He felt that this was a way for others to be better engaged and feel more comfortable when meeting him.

Another family member shared a very moving tribute to Angelo about how he had started a journal while at Children’s Hospital. The journal helped other children read and share how they weren’t alone in the dealing with the challenges of fighting this insidious disease. Angelo made a point in all that he did to try and make the most of every situation and help others see the glass as half full.

Angelo had a request for his service: for everyone in attendance to take a moment and laugh. Frank Dabbiero, Angelo’s father, led all of those in attendance in a collective laugh. Frank asked everyone to think of something funny that Angelo had done. This is yet another way that Angelo, even in his absence, strives to encourage all of those to enjoy their lives.

It was shared that Angelo understood that sometimes putting yourself in uncomfortable situations gives you an opportunity to grow as a person. Angelo sought to stretch his boundaries so he could grow and truly live. He wasn’t afraid to engage in deep – and possibly controversial – discussions, so people would think and not just exist.

Angelo is a gift that keeps giving; he personified being more tolerant, being more open minded, seeking truth, and defeating injustice with thoughtfulness and acting upon those convictions. Angelo was a shining example of how to explore the tenderness of our hearts, have dogged determination, and open our minds to make the world a better place.

It is now up to us how we choose to honor the way Angelo lived and how we could possibly be a living testimony to this extraordinary young person. As we move forward in our lives, emulating just some of the characteristics Angelo displayed would be the greatest tribute we could ever give while celebrating one of Berthoud’s true gifts.

Thank you Angelo; you made a tremendous difference in countless lives – including mine – and I hope we can finish what you started.

Editor’s note: The below letter was submitted by Angelo’s father, Frank Dabbiero. It was published in the Nov. 13, Letters to the editor, but it’s really a thank you to the community.

To the editor:

Everyone tells Angelo’s mom and me that we raised a wonderful son, but the truth is, he was raised by a community. Each of his friends, family, teachers, coaches, teammates, doctors, nurses and hospital staff helped raise him. The local police department had their hands in the mix as well.
Strangers raised him. As his brother Lorenzo pointed out; even a group of elderly non-English-speaking Korean men from the heart of Philadelphia helped raise him. We all raised a wonderful son and should be very proud.

With loving gratitude,
Angelo’s dad, Frank Dabbiero