LAKE MAGDALENE – Donald Cason Jr. called it “a good day.”
That was because his father, Donald Cason Sr., 83, had a house full of company with whom he could chat.
“He doesn’t get to do that very often anymore,” said Cason Jr., who was among those gathered inside his dad’s single-wide mobile home where he lives alone and spends the majority of each day seated in his well-worn recliner next to an electrical outlet that powers his lifeline – a faintly humming, continuously running oxygen machine.
Cason Sr., a widower since 1999, suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a condition known as life limiting due to the constriction of airways to one’s lungs.
As such, several health care professionals who regularly monitor him – all of whom are affiliated with LifePath Hospice, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Temple Terrace under the umbrella of Chapters Health System – were clustered together in his cozy little living room.
What made the day even more special was that Army Sgt. Rusty Trubey, also a LifePath Hospice chaplain, was among the guests who had come to honor Cason Sr., a National Guard veteran, for his four years of military duty.
In recognition of Veterans Day, Trubey thanked Cason Sr. for serving and presented him with a gift.
“This pin,” Trubey said, “is a small token of gratitude to you for your military service to America.”
Trubey went on to say that expressing his gratitude to veterans for the work they have done to preserve our nation’s freedom is why he volunteers his time to LifePath Hospice.
“I understand the sacrifices they make and for that I am grateful,” Trubey said.
Cason Sr. was born July 13, 1930, at his parents’ home in Sulphur Springs. He dropped out of school in the ninth-grade and worked sanding floors to help ease the financial burden of his father, who was unemployed due to tuberculosis, and his mother, whose income wasn’t enough to keep the family afloat.
At 19 he enlisted in the National Guard and at 20 married Helen, 22, who had a son of her own prior to their marriage and later gave birth to Cason Jr., now 62.
Cason Sr. subsequently took a job as a dredger for the then Henry Corp. of Tampa Bay. After 10 years, he was hired for a similar position by the Great Lakes Dredging Docks.
“That job took him all over the world,” said Cason Jr., who for a short time worked with his dad and saw for himself the massive panel of gauges and switches his father was responsible for operating in the company’s engineering chamber.
“It was pretty awe inspiring,” Cason Jr. said.
But what he admires most about his father is how he endeared himself to everyone he worked with and never feared hard work.
Over the years his dad also fought off malaria and endured a work-related double hernia. And regardless of his ongoing battle with COPD – in part due to the asbestos in his workplace and his once two-pack a day cigarette habit – his positive spirit and love of people has never waned.
“It’s nice to see my father honored and to share part of his life with other people,” said Cason Sr.’s only child.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]