He stood in the room, a sentry to my father during the final minutes of his life. A muscular gentleman in a well starched uniform, a professional. Rex Sprosta spoke softly and excused himself when we attended to my father. The morning was a blur with paramedics, police and fire department personnel traipsing back and forth through the house at 5:45AM.
My father died that day and Rex Sprosta stayed with him after everyone else left. He asked about a photo on the wall and my husband Mark explained we were in the army. Later, Mark introduced us, sharing that Officer Sprosta served in the U.S. Marine Corps. We felt an immediate connection and regard for this man.
“There’s nothing better than the sight of a United States Marine,” my father used to say. Thirty four years ago, the marines evacuated him off the rooftop of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. It was the last helicopter to leave the country, so it seemed fitting to have Officer Sprosta watching over my dad one last time.
Walking down Elm Street this week, I came upon a work crew and had to go into the street to pass. The policeman directed traffic and I recognized him. I was startled to see a face that was witness to such a sad moment in my life. Officer Sprosta smiled and I shook his hand. I asked if he got a lot of calls like mine and he nodded, expressing sorrow for my loss.
There’s a lot involved with dying and I met many people in our community during the process.
The superintendent of Lakeview Cemetery, Bo Hickey, showed us a plot hidden among worn and faded headstones. Situated between a flowering hydrangea and red maple tree, the location was made available because Bo opened up old horse paths for purchase.
The cemetery is run by residents as a non-profit endeavor and Bo took time to find antiquated maps, reconciling each gravesite, a cumbersome process which took weeks. He said, “This spot has a lot of character. It’s an old New England cemetery after all.” This meant that it had trees, hills and ponds, things you won’t find in newer places where profit is the primary concern.
Every visit to Lakeview, I am moved by its serenity and beauty. Going there reminds me of the past but it’s also an affirmation of life. I suppose Bo Hickey realized this a long time ago.
Neighbors and friends I’d known just months, brought food, gifts for my children, books, flowers and plants. Sillo Construction helped build and clear accommodations for my father, refusing payment. The outpouring of concern and the love touched us.
This was one of a series of experiences I’ve had since we moved to town. As a newcomer I thought I’d share an outsider’s view. We moved from Florida last year and I had reservations about this town many dubbed as “Stepford.”
There’s something I’ve learned about New Canaan. This is a community with character. Sprosta’s sense of duty, Hickey’s doing more than a job, neighbors who take time for you.
I’m glad we came.
I’m especially glad my father, born in Boston, found his way back to his New England roots.
MyLinh Shattan is a writer and a former correspondent for the Tampa Tribune. She resides with her husband and three children in New Canaan.