Written by Genevieve Casaceli, Daughter and EBAA Education and Meetings Coordinator
Joseph Casaceli, was the sweetest and funniest man I’ve ever known. He married my mom, Susan, when they were 20 years old and over the next 16 years, they had six children: four girls and two boys. I grew up in a big family who took care of each other and supported one another through all of the ups and downs. However, my parents taught us that we shouldn’t just take care of family. Both my mom and dad continuously showed us how important it is to take care of others, especially those in need. They constantly helped our elderly neighbors, adopted grandparents in a local nursing home and demonstrated that giving means more than receiving. My father was the best example of this because in the end, he gave the ultimate gift by being an eye and tissue donor and helping so many others.
On August 6, 2007, our lives and our family changed forever. My older siblings had already moved out and had families of their own, so it was just my mom and one sister with me at home. We will never forget the Pennsylvania State Trooper ringing our doorbell to tell us my dad was gone. My dad had been traveling during the week for work and was in Glen Bernie, Maryland when he died from a blood clot in his heart that caused him to fall and hit his head on the ground. My dad had not been feeling well the weeks prior to his death but the doctors kept saying that it was Acid Reflux or something similar. While we knew he hadn’t been feeling great, the last thing we expected was for my dad to leave for work and not ever come home. He was unable to donate any of his major organs, but was able to donate his corneas, skin, and veins to help improve the lives of numerous people. After my dad’s death, Donate Life had sent us letters as well as a teddy bear wearing a t-shirt that says “HERO.” My mom asked Donate Life if they could send us a few more of these bears so that all of my siblings and I could have one, which they gladly did. I always knew that my dad was my hero, but it means so much to me that he became other peoples’ hero too.
Soon after I graduated from college in 2016, I began working at the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA). Through this organization, I have been able to play a role in supporting the eye banks and individuals who make corneal transplants possible; something that is very close to my heart, knowing my dad had given the gift of sight. My family had never been given any specifics about the recipients of my dad’s corneas, so I was hopeful that I would be able to learn more about those individuals. With the help of numerous staff, the Medical Eye Bank of Maryland was able to tell me that one of my dad’s corneas was transplanted into a 72 year old woman from California. His other cornea was transplanted into a 25 year old man from Tunisia in Africa. I was especially happy that one of his corneas went to a young man with his whole life ahead of him in Africa, a place where there is usually a waiting list for a corneal transplant. This news gave me and my family comfort knowing that even in his death; my dad was still helping others as he had always taught us to do.
More than anything in this world, my dad loved his wife and his kids. But he also loved God, airplanes, cars, and all things Italian. He was a silly yet wonderful man who loved to laugh and to make others laugh. His smile and love of life was contagious and brought a special kind of brightness to my family, his co-workers, and others that he met. My dad may be gone, but he has left a legacy with his wife, his 6 children, his 8 grandchildren, and all of the lives that were improved because of his donation.