Peter Pedulla died March 13, 2014, in Burlington, Massachusetts. He was 87 years old, and had raised his family in Chelmsford — 28.9 miles from his childhood home in Somerville. His immigrant Italian parents considered this a dangerously far distance.
In some ways, his was a traditional childhood. During the Great Depression, his father worked in the garment industry, and expected that his sons would follow him there. A disciplinary leather strap hung on the back of the bathroom door in the family home.
In other ways, his childhood was not traditional. Early anxiety was misdiagnosed as a heart condition, and for years, Mr. Pedulla was treated for an illness he did not have. There were consequences. He never learned to swim — too much exertion for a cardiac patient — and, when taking the pool test for entrance to the Navy, had to be pulled out of the water with a hook. Even so, he was given a passing score, and sent on to boot camp.
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Mr. Pedulla played saxophone in a swing band with his wife during the 1940s and ’50s. Marianne and her orchestra toured local ballrooms and dance halls — “Body and Soul” was their signature tune. But he wanted to provide for his family, and it was a sign of an intentional life when he put his saxophone away and went to accounting school. That led to corporate executive jobs, which elevated them financially. After each of his four children graduated from college, they received a car. Mr. Pedulla, not usually one to spend on his own luxuries, started with a VW Bug. But after the last baccalaureate gift, he was driving a Lexus.
He did not want to die. When one of his sons tried to have that gentle, cathartic conversation meant to free the very ill, Mr. Pedulla cut him off. “I just want to get better,” he said. Five years before his death, doctors had predicted he would require dialysis for his end-stage renal disease. He rejected their prediction, and was able to fend it off by stringent diet alone. Very stringent. The great lover of Italian food was forced to give up tomato sauce.
His funeral was in the Chelmsford Church where he had been a communicant for 50 years. Though he did not want to die, he had already written his own obituary.
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