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Two parents — a hero and a guiding light — fall victim to coronavirus’s cruelty

His ‘hero’ and his ‘guiding light’ die within days from COVID-19

Nicholas Guerriero and Rosemarie Moscato, neighborhood kids and young sweethearts, both died of COVID-19 within 10 days of each other earlier this month.
Nicholas Guerriero and Rosemarie Moscato, neighborhood kids and young sweethearts, both died of COVID-19 within 10 days of each other earlier this month.

Rosemarie Moscato and Nicholas Guerriero, neighborhood kids and young sweethearts, were married on July 20, 1969, a date most of us remember as the day the first moonwalkers, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, touched down on the lunar surface.

For Rosemarie and Nicholas it was historic for a smaller, but equally important, reason. They were finally husband and wife, a young couple so clearly and so deeply in love, eager to build a future together.

So that’s what they did. And, soon enough, they were parents of two children whom they worshipped — kids who without a trace of hyperbole worshipped them back.

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And now their children are staggered by what has befallen their family: Both parents have become victims of COVID-19, which ended their lives just 10 days apart in April.

“There’s a whole host of emotions," their son, Anthony Guerriero, told me. “Naturally, I’m upset. I’m angry. I’m questioning everything, including my faith. And I’m deeply religious.

Rosemarie Moscato and Nicholas Guerriero were married on July 20, 1969.
Rosemarie Moscato and Nicholas Guerriero were married on July 20, 1969.

“I feel bad that my sister [Rosanne] and I couldn’t comfort them. That upsets me. I take solace that they’re together. But it’s really difficult. We have to have a private funeral and revisit it in a couple of months, when it’s safe to go back out. My parents deserved better than that"

Yes, they did.

Stories like theirs are being told around the country and around the world these days.

Heartbreaking obituaries fill the pages of newspapers, 700-word tributes to men and women who were our neighbors, our friends — the people in the next pew over at church; the couple sitting a table away in the dining establishments we may vaguely remember as restaurants.

Rosemarie and Nicholas Guerriero used to be people like that. Generous and friendly. The kind of people whose loss deeply underlines the cruelty of a disease few saw coming.

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As a young man, Nicholas was a draftsman for an industrial engineering firm in Malden. He was later employed at the Boston office of Stone & Webster, an engineering services company in Stoughton, where he worked on cooling towers for nuclear power plants. The last decade of his work life found him at MassHighway.

“My father was a very quiet person,’’ his son recalled. “He liked to smoke cigars, and he enjoyed his pasta."

Rosemarie was not the quiet type. She was an active member of her class at Everett High School and graduated from college in 1961, collecting her degree from Salem State College.

She taught at Chandler School for Women in Boston, at St. Rose High School in Chelsea, and then at Everett High School, where her students learned to type and the fundamentals of English and business.

“They gave my sister and me the gift of unconditional love,’’ Anthony Guerriero said. “It was a warm, loving household. We never wanted for anything."

That meant lazy summer afternoons on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, where they vacationed. Or watching their son play Little League baseball. Or enjoying their daughter’s dance recitals.

In other words, the simple rituals of life: birthday parties and barbecues, bicycle rides, and Wiffle ball games. There were cheers and family snapshots when Rosanne graduated as the valedictorian of her Revere High School class in 1989, on her way to Harvard and, later, to Boston University for her master’s degree.

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“They would go to the coffee shop and meet friends," their son said. “They were really homebodies. I’d take my dad to the movies. My best day was when I introduced my parents to their grandson."

When the COVID scourge descended, the children — in a reversal of roles — delivered this edict to their parents: You’re not going anywhere.

They delivered food. They checked in constantly. They worried.

And, then in early April, the unthinkable happened.

“One day I was working from home and my father called and he said, ‘You need to come over here,’ " Anthony Guerriero said. “I came here and my father said, ‘Your mother’s not feeling well.’ "

Anthony arrived, wearing a mask, to find his mother discolored and disoriented.

“I thought she was having a diabetic stroke," her son said. “I called the ambulance. They wouldn’t allow me to go in the ambulance."

Within a day, her diagnosis came back: COVID-19. That terrifying news triggered the urgent need for Nicholas Guerriero to get to the hospital for testing himself.

“I take my father to the hospital," Anthony Guerriero said. “I was at the hospital for about five hours. My sister called to say my mother died at Mass. General. I was in the waiting room at MelroseWakefield, waiting on the status for my dad."

What followed was the unimaginable. Weeping. Disbelief. Fear.

“I didn’t know what was happening," Anthony Guerriero told me. “I couldn’t believe she had COVID. She didn’t leave the house. I don’t know how she got it. Things started to go downhill. I’m at the hospital but I also have to compose myself, because I have to worry about my dad."

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His father had a bad cough, a fever, shortness of breath. His oxygen levels kept fluctuating.

“I’m praying," Anthony said. “I’m asking, ‘Are you going to make me go through this?' I prayed to my mother now. I just cried a lot. And prayed. And worked with my sister, who is a rock."

Ten days later — on April 19 — Nicholas Guerriero died, too. It was his only son’s 50th birthday.

Both parents victims of COVID-19. He was 86. She was 80.

A celebration of life memorial Mass will be said when the crisis passes.

I asked Anthony Guerriero to reflect on his parents’ lives.

What footprints have they left behind? What will you remember? What will you forever keep close to your heart?

So many things. Big and small. Simple and profound.

“Both my parents loved the Red Sox," their son said. “My mother was always there to help people. She was a mentor to her students. My father had his vegetable garden and he loved dogs. They were good people, supportive and always kind to everyone.

“We’ve gotten an outpouring of love and support. People have told us that your parents were the kindest people. The mayor of Everett was a student of my mother and had nice comments on Facebook. That makes me feel good."

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Still, the enormity of this loss is difficult to comprehend. Impossible to calculate.

“My mother was my guiding light," Anthony Guerriero said. “My father was my hero."

Two simple sentences informed by unconditional love.

The kind of love a son learned at his father’s knee, at his mother’s elbow — two warm and loving places he would give anything right now to revisit one last time.


Thomas Farragher is a Globe columnist. He can reached at thomas.farragher@globe.com.