Author: Deb Butler

When There Are No Words

This post originally appeared as a Facebook Note here:

Today is April 1, 5 days from now will be 1 month since my nephew died. The month of March will never feel the same. Every 6th will be an anniversary. Every 23rd birthday will be the one that wasn’t reached.

My nephew died the day before his birthday. Instead of cake, there was a tray of chicken parmesan. Because when you know the family that owns the Chateau, and they love you, they feed you. Chicken parm for days, rolls for the week, pasta for a month.

How is your sister? They say to me. How is his dad? I’m grateful for the question. And yet who can do either Michelle or Gary justice with any words. How are they? Blinded. Crippled. Severed.

They need to write a bio for a memorial run. To somehow distill him into prose so a piece of him exists for those that didn’t know him. Was he a saint? Perfect? Good lord no. But his flaws were marginal. Fractional. At his age, at every age, he just sailed through so much of the drudgery that is being a kid, a teen, a young man. He sparkled.

He smelled. His room was dirty. There wasn’t a license he didn’t drop, a key he didn’t lose, a piece of equipment that got left behind. Was he careless? Actually, no. What many people didn’t know is that he had an informational processing disorder. A form of dyslexia that didn’t just affect the written word, but also lent itself to trouble decoding the world. His processor worked differently but neither he, nor we, knew until much later. Because he was a honor student that had learned to compensate for a disability that wasn’t revealed until many years.

At 12 he wore a pink shirt. “That’s SO GAY” someone said. “Dude, Gay is cool. No one cares. Besides, I look good in pink.” At 15 he could look you in the eye and shake your hand. At 18, he was still gentle – with animals and littles. At 22, he was a man. A friend not a child.

The thing that kills me… Kills all of us is that he was the kind of guy that couldn’t stand to see anyone in pain. Pain of the heart, pain in the mind. He bled for people. His priority was “what do you need” and if you said something shitty about someone or something, you’d hear a chuckle and a light chiding “Nah man, maybe he was just <this> or <that>” For a rugged guy there was a dreamer quality. Something a little introspective that always slowed you down when you were about to start a fight. A natural mediator. He could channel your angry energy and soften it and feed it back to you. Because he REALLY saw the best in people. And not a naive best, but he could sift through your soul and actually isolate the version of you that you wanted to be seen.

Joy. Who takes joy in SUCH little things. You could buy his a bakery cookie for $2 and he’d be as delighted as a drunk in Downtown Crossing finding a $20. Any gift was the best gift you ever gave him, every hug he held on till you decided to let go, not him. Every kid was to be knelt down in front of, every woman to be respected, every friend to be honored. Was he always happy? Please. Who is. But he mirrored joy back to you. Finding pleasure in everything. So the thing the wrecks me, kills me, is that of every person I know, he is…was..the last person that would ever cause anyone pain. Ever. And if he knew today, the hundreds of people that miss him, he’d be devastated. He’d give you everything he had if he thought it would save you one minute of pain, and yet the loss of him, not his things, gives us the most pain of all.
Loss. Logically we know. You’ve lost someone once, we’ve lost someone once, someone lost someone 2 minutes ago, someone will lose someone an hour from now. Logically. Logically we know grieving isn’t a linear process but a circular one. Of course we know all that. But still.

My sister asked me to write a few things about my nephew for some upcoming road races and I’ve been working on a draft in my head for like the last 3 days>

The only thing I keep thinking about is when you get on a cruise ship and the first couple of days you feel disgusting and it’s crazy and you want desperately to get off regardless of how much money you paid but you’re stuck in the middle of the ocean. And even though logically you understand what’s going on on the ship you hate it, you hate everything about it, you hate the room, you hate the people, you don’t even like yourself very much. You’re isolated in these tiny tiny rooms and everything feels off balance and nothing is normal and you’ve forgotten something and you feel displaced and everything is surreal. And after a few days you realize you learn to hold your balance on the deck and you’re able to walk upright and it kind of feels awkward but you can manage it but not exactly. And every night when you go to bed you feel like you want to vomit. And sometimes you forget for a second that you’re on a ship in the middle of the ocean and other times it’s the only thing you can think about. All the while you walk with sea legs. And you’re begging god to just get into port and walk on land again because you cant remember what it feels like to be on solid ground. Then you step off the boat and you realize that even when you step on dry land, the world is still rocking beneath you and your legs are never going to feel stable again.

Thats what life feels like.

He is in every moment of our day, every space between the moments, every breath in, then out. Every song lyric, every item in the grocery store, every face in profile.
I need to write the piece for my nephew. But today I walk with the loss of our friend, I cry tears for my sister and his father, and deeply grieve the beautiful person that left this earth.


Former Waltham Student Mourned

This article originally appeared on March 16, 2016 on the webiste.

Link to original article:

By Bill Whelan
Posted Mar. 16, 2016 at 12:59 PM


Douglas Usseglio was remembered by thousands of friends and family members at his funeral on Friday, March 11, less than a week after he died from head trauma following a fall near Franklin Pierce University campus in New Hampshire on Sunday, March 6.

The events surrounding the death of Usseglio, a star hockey player at Waltham High School and a senior at Franklin Pierce, are still unclear. What is clear, is that Usseglio touched the lives of many, and will be remembered as a loving son and brother and a loyal friend.

“He was just a lovable kid who always wanted to be around his friends,” said Michelle Usseglio, Douglas’s mother.

“He had many friends from many areas of his life. The thing that stood out to me the most was the sheer amount of young people at the wake and the funeral,” said John Maguire, Usseglio’s hockey coach at Waltham High School. “It was a testimony to his popularity and the number of people that he touched.”

Usseglio’s parents said that more than 2,200 people signed the guestbook at Usseglio’s funeral.

Maguire said that Usseglio was an all-star player and an assistant captain his senior year at Waltham. Usseglio played youth hockey in Waltham and also played a year at the Winchendon School, a private college preparatory school, before heading to Franklin Pierce University, where he played hockey his freshman year.

“He was unbelievably passionate about the sport,” Maguire said. On the ice, Usseglio was, “extremely fast, hard working, always buzzing around at every practice and every game. He’s the first guy on the ice at practice and last guy off.”

“He loved his sister more than he loved hockey,” said Gary Usseglio, Doug’s father. “He always made sure she was doing good, always calling to check up on her.”

“They were beyond close,” Michelle said. “She was 8 days old at his first hockey game. I don’t think she missed a handful of games in his life.”

Michelle remembered an episode when her daughter, Julia, was 2 years old, and was choking on something when Michelle and Usseglio were at home. Usseglio, 12 at the time, “was calmer than me,” Michelle said, as he called 911 for help.

Michelle said Julia is handling her brother’s death with unbelievable strength, but makes sure that nothing in his bedroom is touched or moved. Michelle said her son recently borrowed one of Julia’s blankets and Julia intends on leaving it in his room.

Usseglio would have turned 23 on Monday, March 7. Police said Usseglio’s body was pulled from a stream near the intersection of Bradford and Goodall streets in Rindge, New Hampshire, near the campus of Franklin Pierce, on the morning of Sunday, March 6.

Police said Usseglio was last seen Saturday night at a social gathering in a nearby home. The death appears to be accidental and there is no sign of foul play, according to Rindge police. Usseglio had a visible head injury that appeared to be consistent with a fall, police said.
Usseglio’s parents recounted the day they heard the news.

“We were both in touch with him the day before and then he just disconnected, which was odd,” Michelle said. “I got a phone call from a Waltham police officer who had babysat him when he was younger. I had just finished lunch. I think I scared the whole restaurant.”

Michelle, the officer, and Gary, all met at their home and got on the phone with Rindge Police.
“There was numbness for a few days, there still is,” Michelle said.
“When it happened, I was in shock, I don’t know what really happened. I didn’t sleep for the first five nights,” Gary said.

Michelle and Gary spoke about Usseglio’s arrest this past September for selling cocaine in Waltham. They said it filled him with regret and put him in a state of depression for months, but that he had taken ownership of his mistake and in the past month or two, had started to get his life back on track.
Gary said Usseglio was healthy, happy, and had gotten back on the ice, playing with him in a men’s hockey league. Usseglio had also been teaching his two 5-year-old cousins in Wakefield how to skate.
“His arrest only defined a moment in his life,” Michelle said.

She said Usseglio had worked hard to keep his grades up while he was still taking classes at Franklin Pierce in the fall and was doing well at home, which made his death even more unexpected.
The Usseglios still don’t know exactly what happened on the night of March 6 when Usseglio walked along the river alone.

“He was always with somebody. He was never alone. That was the weird thing to us,” Gary said. “Hopefully someday someone will step forward and really tell us the truth.”
In the days since Usseglio’s death, his parents said the outpouring of love and support from friends, family members, and even strangers, has kept them going.

Michelle said a random boy recently walked up to her at a hockey arena and told her how he followed Usseglio’s playing career and how much he meant to him.

“The amount of people that came through [the funeral] was shocking,” Gary said. “The amount of people who had their lives touched by him, people I never even met before, who said he was their best friend.”
The Usseglios have set up The Douglas Usseglio Memorial Fund through Rockland Trust, to give back to all the hockey programs that Usseglio was a part of throughout his life and there is also a GoFundMe page where people can donate to support the fund as well as the Usseglio’s funeral costs.

Douglas ‘Dougie’ Jordan Usseglio, 22, of Waltham

WALTHAM, MA – Douglas “Dougie” Jordan Usseglio, 22, of Waltham, died suddenly Sunday, March 6 as a result of head trauma sustained during a fall. He was born in Boston on March 7, 1993, the son of Gary and Michelle (Zeoli) Usseglio. He attended Waltham schools and graduated from Waltham High School in 2011, where he was a four-year Hockey and four-year Lacrosse player. He was a graduate of The Winchendon School and completing his senior year at Franklin Pierce University.

Doug grew up playing sports. Warrendale Little League owned his springs from kindergarten until sixth grade, and fall and winters he took to the ice. He was a lifelong Waltham Youth Hockey Player. Up on skates as a Waltham Tyke at the age of 4, he skated with the program for more than 12 years until high school, where his love of hockey brought him three rewarding years as a member of the Varsity team. He continued playing through his time at The Winchendon School, and skated as a freshman at Franklin Pierce, guiding them to their greatest single season accomplishment in their history, the Division Championship Game.

His passion for hockey and lacrosse where never eclipsed by his love for baseball, but the Derek Jeter years were banner ones for this proud Yankees fan born into a Red Sox family.

He adored his sister, Julia “JuJuBee.” From the time of her birth in 2002, he was her friend, companion, champion and playmate. From her kindergarten concert to her February 2016 dance competition, he never missed seeing his sister on stage. He was her reliable chauffeur, her clown-cookie conspirator, her tv hockey play-by-play commentator as well as the color commentator of her life. Two siblings have never been closer, two friends never more aligned. The rare siblings that never fought, but celebrated each other in all things. They shared an extraordinary and unbreakable bond.

Doug’s love for his sister, love for sports, and compassion for all around him stemmed from the support and affection and regard his family held for him. His grandparents adored him, his aunts, uncles, cousins and relatives enjoyed his humor, his smile, his beautiful eyes and his infectious laugh. His friends were numerous, constant and close held. His sense of humor, mischief and joy were always in the forefront. He was unfailingly kind.

He was the cherished son of Gary Usseglio and Michelle Usseglio, supported by their companions, Maureen Sullivan and James “Jimmy” Kelley, respectively; as well his sister’s father and family friend, Andrew Fournier. He was the adored brother to Julia Fournier. He was the treasured grandson of Richard and Kathleen Usseglio; Bill Zeoli and his wife Laurie; and Rosemarie Zakrzewski and her husband Walter. He was the nephew of James and Diane Usseglio; William and Kim Zeoli; Anthony and Melissa (Gluckmann) Zeoli; Deborah and Douglas Butler; Melissa (Zeoli) Dellaire and her husband, Donald; and predeceased by his aunt and godmother, Gina Usseglio. He was the best friend to his first cousins Kimberly, Meagan, and Christopher Usseglio; Nick Tanzillo; Greg, Billy, Alexa, Sabrina and Hudson Zeoli; Eleanor, Teddy and James Butler; Adam and Jenna Dellaire. Doug was predeceased by his cousin, Alyssa Usseglio. Close to him were his extended cousins Ryann, Matt and Emma Tufts and Nicole Zeoli. He is also survived by still more loving aunts, uncles, cousins and dear friends.

Family and friends will gather at the Nardone Funeral Home, 373 Main St. Watertown on Friday, March 11 at 9 a.m. followed by a Mass of Christian Burial in Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted, 920 Trapelo Road, Waltham at 10 a.m. Interment to follow at Ridgelawn Cemetary, Highland Avenue, Watertown. Visitation on Thursday from 4-8 p.m.

In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to The Douglas Usseglio Memorial Fund, c/o Rockland Trust 1290 Main St., Waltham, MA 02451