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Legacy of Love

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My husband, Jeff Panza, is probably surprised that I nominated him. But I would say that Jeff was a caregiver to my family and me as much as my dad. The support he gave us made him a natural nominee since he was truly an unsung hero. Even before Jeff officially became part of my family, he had made the extra effort to meet and exceed their expectations. So when my father got sick and my priorities, needs, and activities rapidly shifted, it didn’t take long before Jeff served as a key element in logistics — picking up me, my sisters, meals, or other odds and ends that came up. He made sure that we had a constant flow of ginger ale, Resse’s cups, Take 5 candy bars, carrot cake, and avocado smoothies — which were staples in my dad’s post-tumor diet. But Jeff also thought beyond our requests and picked up some pizza when we didn’t have dinner, bubble tea as a treat, or cans of beer to enjoy during outdoor backyard lunches with my dad. And when we took him home under hospice care and it was hard to go elsewhere around the house while also watching my dad, Jeff researched and purchased a baby monitor for us. He had made sure my family was a priority in his schedule and drove us everywhere. This was especially notable when my dad was at home. In order to maximize my dad’s quality of life, we took him on various experiences, including biweekly bouts to Rivers Casino when his health allowed it (before his sickness he would go on a daily basis). And Jeff’s Volvo station wagon became our emergency “accessible” vehicle when requests for accessible transit never were fulfilled. Jeff helped with difficult transfers to his passenger seat to make sure we arrived at a Steelers preseason game on time and the casino before the free play expired at midnight. And possibly what I find most impressive is that Jeff has gone beyond his comfort zone and not only accompanied me on many visits to the hospital, but also went to the hospital when I couldn’t myself. In addition, he broke out of his own introverted shell by meeting and conversing with other family members and friends who visited my dad. I know that the hospital and social environments with new people are not ideal for him — so being voluntarily exposed to a combination of the two was amazing in itself! It is hard for me to describe all the things that he has done since so much. Jeff was in the shadows helping out any and every way he could: as a thoughtful “gofer” and problem solver, a driver to me and my family, a personal accessible transit for my dad, a reliable presence always looking for ways to help, and an ever-present shoulder to cry on — all without ever asking for recognition or thanks.