Honored for saving Lyndhurst man’s life


It may sound cliché, but life, as we know it, can change in a split second.

And for one Lyndhurst man, a DJ, it nearly did at a Community Pride event on, of all days, St. Patrick’s Day.

It was that night the man spinning the tunes, Dick Italiano, 74, collapsed at the event at Michael’s Riverside.

We’re told by Joyce DiMaggio, the wife of Commissioner Thomas DiMaggio (both were at the event) that a song had just finished playing and, without warning, Mr. Italiano collapsed to the ground.

DiMaggio says there was a bit of chaos as Mr. Italiano went down — people were screaming for help and for someone to call 911.

Because Mr. Italiano’s heart had quickly, out of nowhere, stopped beating.

Without hesitation, though, and before any calls to emergency responders were made, five people who were in attendance rushed to the 74-year-old’s aid.

Perhaps it was divine intervention since the five were all trained EMTs.

Or, perhaps it was all just good fortune that five people were in the right place at the right time.

Nicholas and Paul Haggerty Jr., of Lyndhurst, sons of Commissioner Karen Haggerty, were joined by Dominic Rotundo, Isabella Maldonado and Charles Pelle at Mr. Italiano’s side.

According to DiMaggio, they took turns giving breaths and chest compressions to the victim. Shortly thereafter, when the Lyndhurst Police Department arrived with a defibrillator, all it took was one shock to the chest — one shout of ‘clear!’ and Mr. Italiano’s fortunes changed again — he was back, he was alive … a tragedy averted.

Months later, at the behest of the DiMaggios, and Theresa Italiano, Dick’s wife, each of the five lifesavers were presented with plaques commemorating their heroic deeds and thanking them for being there to save her husband’s life on June 20 at a ceremony at the Lyndhurst Senior Center.

At the ceremony, Mrs. Italiano took time to praise the first responders in a most touching and moving speech.

There are some times when all words become totally inadequate when trying to express a feeling, an emotion, and this is one such time,” Mrs. Italiano said. What do I say to each one of you for saving my husband’s life? Thank you just doesn’t seem enough. What do I call each one of you? A hero? An angel? Again, it just doesn’t seem like enough.

If I had it within my power, I would grant each one of you a life that is worry free, pain free and care free. A living, breathing world.

Later on in the speech, Mrs. Italiano’s words really resonated with the honorees and all gathered. She admonished them all to remember what they did for her spouse in case there was ever a time they felt down, sad, or as if they weren’t an impact on the local community.

If ever in the future there comes a day, a moment, a second, when you may feel depressed — or for some reason, feel not too good about yourself — please look at it and let it remind you that because of you, because of you, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a father-in-law, a son, a brother, a friend (still) lives.”

In closing, Mrs. Italiano praised the DiMaggios for their part in ensuring the EMTs were honored.

The town of Lyndhurst and its 20,000 plus people are fortunate to have them, because you see, it’s never about them. It’s always about the other person, what would make it easier for you … what would make you happy … and what would make your life better. Joyce has worked tirelessly to have this happen for us and you. So please, both Joyce and Tom, come here. We would like to thank you officially — and present Joyce with this bouquet.”

That bouquet of flowers truly surprised DiMaggio.

I was the only one,” she said. I was shocked!

And so, too, was Dick Italiano — right back into life.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.