By PATRICK MEIGHAN | Nashua Telegram
Simeone was present in the memories that family and friends shared at the dedication. He was present in the hearts of loved ones, certainly.
But Simeone, who was 20 when he died one year ago Saturday from injuries he had sustained in a motorcycle accident, was also present in a way that isn’t often seen at such dedications.
Part of him – a generous, life-giving part, many said – was present in a man and woman Simeone had never met.
Both were able to attend only because they had received Jon Simeone’s kidneys donated after he died at Boston General Hospital following a four-day struggle and several operations.
Simeone hit a deer early in the morning of May 25, 2010, as he was on his way to work. The accident occurred in the northbound lanes of the F.E. Everett Turnpike north of Exit 12.
Because Simeone was wearing a helmet, family members were given time to say goodbye, Simeone’s family said in his obituary.
“Today marks the angel-versity of when I lost part of my soul. My beautiful son passed away in my arms, and I thought I’d never survive it,” Jon’s mother, Candy Simeone, said at the dedication of the Jon Simeone Memorial ATV Park, located off Lawrence Road near the town’s landfill. Nearly 100 people attended.
Jon Simeone was a fan of all-terrain vehicles since he began playing with a toy one when he was 4, his mother said.
“He rode down here all the time,” Simeone’s brother, Mike Simeone, said.
ATV riders have used the area since about 2005, said Roger Blais, president of the New Hampshire Right Riders ATV club. Trails cover about 26 acres of a larger town-owned parcel, said Blais, whose father, Richard Blais, built the park’s new kiosk.
Attending the dedication were friends and family, including Jon’s father, Scott Simeone, and his former fiance, Megan Decelle.
“I have a bunch of new sisters,” Candy Simeone said of two women she met through Compassionate Friends, a support group for parents who have lost a child.
“We’re all sisters,” Candy Simeone said, hugging Cheryl Barbarossa, of Dracut, Mass., and Lorri Geoffroy, of Merrimack, who both had also lost sons.
Gov. John Lynch spoke, praising Jon Simeone’s generosity in donating his kidneys and saying he could think of nothing more noble than living a life to make other lives better.
“I’m really honored to be here for what, as Megan said, would be a celebration of Jon’s life,” Lynch said.
Also attending were the newest members of the Simeone’s extended family.
“Thank you both for agreeing to meet us and for becoming part of our family,” Candy Simeone said to Jeanette D’Souza and Charles Zayat, who received Jon Simeone’s kidneys.
The family of an organ donor often don’t meet the recipients, Candy Simeone said.
Transplant centers are required by law to protect the confidentiality of donors and recipients. However, they can arrange for contact between families when both sides agree.
“It’s exciting. Most of the time people don’t get to meet the recipients,” she said.
“He preserved legacies. Jon saved two entire families through his kidneys,” said family friend Tanya Shenk, who spoke at the dedication.
Candy Simeone reached out to Zayat three months after the transplant, which occurred last May 29. The Simeone family met the Zayat family at their Cranston, R.I., home.
Zayat, 68, attended the dedication with his wife, Elaine, and daughter, Vicky, 39.
Zayat wouldn’t have died without receiving a kidney, but he would have lived his life attached to a dialysis machine.
The donation of the kidney has made a huge difference for him and his family, Zayat said. He said he hopes the event motivates others to become organ donors.
D’Souza, 66, attended with her husband, Antonio, and one of her three sons, Brian, who lives in Baltimore. The family took a bus from Boston on Saturday morning to attend the dedication. They had never before met the Simeone family.
The kidney his mother received means so much to the entire family, Brian D’Souza said.
“She’s always been the rock of the family,” he said.
Antonio and Jeanette D’Souza have two grandchildren, 1-year-old twins.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Jeanette D’Souza said. “I feel part of the family. I feel I’ve got a new lease on life because of Jon and his generosity.”
When Scott Simeone took his son to get his driver’s license, he explained the importance of checking a box on the application to become an organ donor.
“Cool,” Jon responded. “I’d like to become one of them.”
Scot Simeone said he was close to his son.
“He was a good machinist. He was good with his hands and a quick learner,” Scott Simeone said.
Shenk, in her speech, described in detail Jon Simeone’s sense of humor, his playfulness and his caring. Shenk, a friend and coworker of Candy Simeone, moved into the family’s home in 2005. For the first three weeks, Shenk and Candy Simeone had Jon and his brother duped that Shenk was Amish in an effort to curb their penchant for cursing, as many young men do, Shenk said.
The ruse ended when Shenk herself cursed at the dinner table one day, she said.
“I pray and hope I never lose his memories and the picture of his face in my mind,” Shenk said.
Family and friends said that Jon would have been overwhelmed by not only having a park named for him, but also with the dedication ceremony.
“It’s amazing. Jon would just flip knowing that any of us were able to pull all this off,” Candy Simeone said.
“He would have been speechless” at the outpouring of love at the dedication, Megan Decelle, his former fiance, said.