Spoken from the Heart: St. Mary Mercy Livonia Angileri Colleague Education and Professional Development Fund

For a young man, moving to the United States in the 1950s was a big opportunity, but Frank Angileri admits he felt lost at first.  He had taken some English courses while working toward his degree at Palermo University in Italy and while he excelled in grammar, he struggled with the spoken language. 

Frank came from a working class family and moved to Detroit with his wife, Bessie, for employment, “I came over penniless,” he says.  But, he brought his work ethic with him, willing to take on many jobs including his first at Sanders, cleaning the mixers used to make decadent swirls of frosting.  From there he stocked bags on each of the 27 floors at Hudson’s, the once-towering hub of style and prestige on Woodward and Gratiot in downtown Detroit, where he made many friends.  Finally, Frank’s native language became an asset when he began translating articles from English to Italian for a Detroit area newspaper.

Then in 1953, Frank “discovered America.”  He was offered a position in the auto industry.  Following a year at Chrysler, Frank took a role as a quality engineer for Ford Motor Company.  A position he held for 34 years, retired from, and, when he missed working, used to launch a 16-year career in quality consulting. 

Writing presentations for Henry Ford II and traveling to visit partners throughout the nation were two of Frank’s favorite roles at Ford.  All of his hard work (sometimes 7 days a week), his analytical mind, his eye for perfection and his charming ways were appreciated and respected greatly by his employer and co-workers. 

Frank was living his dream, working in a prestigious, well-paid position, owning a nice home, traveling and enjoying the love of his life.  He and Bessie traveled to Italy nine times, they took cruises, and enjoyed gourmet meals at restaurants and those that Bessie prepared herself.  He gleams with pride when talking about the time she took first place for her baked lasagna in a Redford Township cooking contest.

When Bessie became ill with dementia and needed care at St. Mary Mercy Livonia, Frank recognized that having the best trained nurses, clinicians and doctors made the experience, even such a hard one, better.  He was extremely grateful for their expertise and their care.  “Everyone needs to be treated like a human being, like they matter. The nurses and doctors were knowledgeable, thorough and kind.”

Years later, Frank also needed care at St. Mary Mercy and he says that he would never want to go to another hospital, “the people at St. Mary treat you like family.  I enjoy spending time talking with people and getting to know them.  Some of the staff even came in to spend time with me on Christmas Eve.”

Frank has chosen to make a substantial planned gift to support St. Mary Mercy Livonia, and while he has not restricted his gift, he sees ongoing training for physicians, nurses, clinicians and staff as very important – quality training is something he feels passionate about and would be proud to support.

Bessie lost her battle with dementia in 2014.  Frank shared the touching story of her last moments.  Frank held Bessie’s hand and asked her to remember him.  He asked, “who am I?” Bessie responded, “I don’t know.” “Who am I?” Frank repeated. “I don’t know,” she said.  “It’s me, Frank,” he encouraged.  Bessie looked at him and responded, “Frank,” and closed her eyes and died peacefully.

The power of words and language has been so meaningful in Frank’s life. His conviction learning English, a language he describes as “beautiful.”  Crafting words for Ford presentations and often editing for his co-workers, “me, the imported guy, editing English,” he says.  Even the time he presented to Fiat and Ford executives, translating between Italian and English.   And, the most meaningful, the last word Bessie spoke, his name.  Frank’s planned gift to St. Mary Mercy was made in gratitude for the care he and Bessie received.  “I have been so fortunate in my lifetime and I want to give back,” explains Frank – proving the language of kindness, of generosity, of love…is universal.

Sustaining excellence requires attracting and retaining the best staff who continually strengthen their knowledge and expertise to provide patients with the latest, most advanced and compassionate care.

Since this story was published, Frank Angileri has confirmed the beneficiary of his estate plans, allowing us to name the St. Mary Mercy Livonia Angileri Colleague Education and Professional Development Fund, in recognition of his vision and generosity.

To make a gift in support of St. Mary Mercy Livonia, visit: giving.stjoeshealth.org/livonia

Or, contact Colin Berens, Director of Major Gifts, at 734-655-2876 or Colin.Berens@stjoeshealth.org.

To learn how you can support Saint Joseph Mercy Health System through a legacy gift from your estate, contact Katie Elliott, Director of Planned Giving, at 734-712-3919 or Katie.Elliott@stjoeshealth.org.

(Source: “Gift of Health” Spring 2017)

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