Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Man who spent over 20 years holding vigil by his wife's grave EVERY day dies aged 97 Rocky Abalsamo lost his wife of 55 years, Julita, in 1993
She died from complications with heart surgery
The devoted widower said it made him feel better to sit by her grave at St. Joseph Cemetery in Boston
On January 22 he died, aged 97, after falling ill last year
He will be buried next to his wife
Rain, hail or shine: Rocky 'Roque' Abalsamo has sat by the grave of his wife, Julita, at St. Joseph's Cemetery in Boston since she died in 1993. On January 22 he passed away
Rocky Abalsamo is pictured here on November 26, 2000, aged 84. He died this month, aged 93
The love of his life: Julita Abalsamo died from complications with heart surgery in 1993
Rock became something of a celebrity in 2000 after The Boston Globe ran a story about his unwavering devotion to his late wife.
The story was picked up by media outlets all over the world.
The attention amused Rocky, but all he wanted was to remain close to his wife.
The pair met as teenagers in a cafe in their native Buenos Aires.
Rocky was sitting with his back to Julita when he overheard her talking with friends 'about the soul, about life, goodness,' Rocky said in the 2000 interview.
Everyday for 10 years Rocky Abalsamo went to the cemetery when it opened and would leave at closing. He rarely ate during the visits, mostly out of respect but also so he didn't need a bathroom
In 2000, at age 84, he said he had spent the seven years since his wife's death keeping vigil, arriving when the cemetery opened and heading home when it closed.
'She is part of me, so here I am whole,' he said previously.
'Being here makes me feel better. Not good, but better. I do it for Julita, and for myself.'
Each morning he would greet Julia - 'I am here!' - unfold his blue chair and unpack the belongings he would bring with him, such as photos and other tokens.
He rarely ate or drank, mostly out of respect but also so he does not need a bathroom, and would toast Julita with sparkling cider on special occasions, such as her birthday on December 20.
At night he would pray and sprinkle crumbs on the grave so that chipmunks would keep her company after he leaves.
Over time, what began as a personal act of mourning touched dozens of others who came to the cemetery.
People would bring meals, boots, hats, and scarves, and they decorated Julita’s grave with plants, ceramic angels, flags, and stuffed animals.
He told them stories and shared his wisdom about life and love.
One of Rocky’s most regular visitors was Linda Handley, a math teacher who lived across the street from St. Joseph Cemetery and walked the grounds for exercise.
Rocky Abalsamo scaled back his visits to his wife's grave in 2005, after his son died in a car crash in California
Handley noticed that a groundskeeper named John Tobin also took special care of Rocky.
One day while Handley and Rocky were talking, Tobin brought Rocky a pair of sweat pants to wear as an extra layer on cold days.
Rocky knew Tobin and Handley were middle-aged and had never married. Rocky arranged to have them visit him at the same time on the 61st anniversary of his first kiss with Julita.
Handley and Tobin married a year later, and Rocky took a few hours away from his vigil to attend.
In their wedding program, they wrote: 'We are convinced that the miracle of this day is the work of a very special person, Julita Echeverria.'
Rocky continued his daily pilgrimage until 2005, when his son was killed in a car crash in California.
Although he still visited Julita’s grave regularly, Rocky spent more time with his surviving family members.
'I think he had a realization at that point that we need to let go and we need to continue to live,' his daughter, Angela Arai, told The Globe.
His last visit was in July, before he fell ill.
Angela said her father’s vigil was often difficult for the family.
'We always had a fear that something was going to happen to him, that we would find him frozen in the winter,' she said.
'We had to let go from our fear so he could live the life he wanted to live.
'The most special thing about my father was that he lived his life his way,' she added.
'He lived one day at a time and enjoyed that day without preoccupations for tomorrow.'
As per his requests, he will be buried to Julita’s left, just as they had walked together in life, side by side.