Just after Christmas, North Branford Patch asked readers who should be North Branford's 'Person of the Year' and the suggestions came in fast with many comments about good deeds and hard work.
"After learning about all the nominations, I am to glad to be a resident of North Branford for 37 years," commented Cheryl Horner. "The people are a caring and unselfish community. They will help financially, medically and donate unlimited time for their town."
Six townspeople were recommended for the honor of being named 'Person of the Year,' plus a nomination for the entire North Branford Fire Department and the whole North Branford Police Department who "put their lives on the line to protect us and keep us safe," according to Lynn Riordan.
In the end, though, the readers made it clear that Jeff DelGaudio was tops for the town in 2012. Eight readers talked about what DelGaudio's story meant to them.
"His selfless act of ... donating a substantial part of his liver to save another NB resident's life is the reason [he deserves that honor]," said Todd. "He has done what so many of us would be afraid to even consider."
Audrey Fitting agreed, noting that organ donation is something that really resonates with her family as "Close to 8 years ago, my daughter was dying from inherited Polycyctic Kidney disease, receive a donor transplant in the 11th hour, and is living her life to the fullest each day. Donor Donation is so important. I thank God for the gift of life. Any donation is a gift."
Doreen Currie, who also wrote a blog post about DelGaudio called When a Hero Comes Along, saw the process firsthand as friends of the DelGaudio family.
"He went through weeks of tests and spent months making sure he was in the peak of health before going into the OR," said Currie. "Recovery was lengthy, he had major abdominal surgery, but he made every effort to get better fast so he could motivate Joe and continue helping out his family."
Doreen's husband, Kevin Currie, credited the others nominated for their hard work, but "Jeff took on a large personal risk, months of disruption to his and his family's life, and a 12-hour surgery to boot, all to save the life of another North Branford resident. That kind of life-changing generosity comes along very rarely, and if it doesn't qualify you for person of the year then I really don't know what does."
Kevin Currie took place in the Hartford Half-Marathon earlier this year to raise money for awareness about organ donation. DelGaudio also participated in the event, completing the 5K just 11 weeks after his surgery.
Joe Sansone was the recipient of part of DelGaudio's liver with Joe's wife, Ida Sansone calling DelGaudio her "true hero."
"If not for his selfless act, my husband would not be here today," said Sansone. "I put out a plea to save my husband's life from liver failure, Jeff came forward and went through many tests and endured a life threatening surgery and a lengthy recovery. I am happy to say Joseph a fellow resident is recovering well and was able to celebrate the holidays with his family."
The nominations again proved what a giving community North Branford and how many people work so hard to give back to the town and to others.
"We do have a community that volunteers for many functions," said James Dwyer. "We have several persons in our community that are very unselfish."
Here's what some Patch readers had to say about other nominees:
James Dwyer: Fran Merola is My Choice for All of his Dedication and Hard Work for our town....different hats that he wears in this town.For example, Public Works Director, Rotary Club Past President, Corn and Potato Festival Organizer, etc. In having Fran as our Public Works Director, I have seen him get the job get done on time especially during the past hurricanes, snowstorms,and our town's Community Round Up days. He should be definitely chosen as the North Branford's Person of the Year!
Michael Franco: I believe the man of the year should be Kurt Weiss, for his dedication as the town engineer and also his dedication to the residents of the town of North Branford. He always goes the extra mile.
Cheryl Horner: I nominate Lynn Riordan of Matt's Mission. After losing her son, Matt Picciuto, from a car accident, she has committed her life to promoting safe driving in her son's name. The Matt's Mission has grown in the last three and half years. There is an annual 5k road race fundraiser and many other fundraisers throughout the year. Monies from the Matt's Mission has gone into a Matt's Picciuto Schlolarship senior year at North Branford High School, the North Branford Board of Education, the North Branford Food Bank, the purchasing of a radar for the North Branford Police Department's motorcyle, and making donations to people in need. As a North Branford resident and mother, I am proud to have Lynn Riordan as a neighbor.
Lynn Riordan: Fran Merola is a great choice - he sacrifices time away from his family for our community 365 days of the year.
Putting ones life on the line to save a friend leaves me speechless. Jeff Delgaudio would be another great choice.
May I also recommend Scott Schoonmaker ~ as a political figure, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. With class, Superintendent Schoonmaker has done a great job, another great choice.
Lastly all NBFD and NBPD who put their lives on the line to protect us and keep us safe are also very deserving.