The Fusia/Fuscŕ Family  

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Dr Joseph Francis Fusia

By Megan Fusia Wentland

 

My dad, Joseph Francis Fusia, the fourth of five boys for his parents, Donald Anthony Fusia and Aileen Larson Fusia, was born on May 29, 1927 on the kitchen table in their home on Allegheny River Boulevard , in Oakmont , PA.  

Like many in the Fusia/Fusca family, Joe had thalassemia, which was passed on to his three children.  Joe was sickly as a child and his mother warned him that if he ever got pneumonia, it would kill him because he was not strong enough to fight it. 

 

Joe was a mischievous child in school and told many stories about his run-ins with teachers.  One day, little old Miss Lulu King actually tackled him in the cloak room.  Another teacher, Miss Ekas, called him “elf ears,” because of his slightly pointy ears.

 

The home on the Boulevard, which also housed his dad’s medical office, became too small to hold the family of five rambunctious boys; so the family moved up Pennsylvania Avenue to Fourth Street, right next door to the Raymond family and Joe’s future wife, Janet.

 

In high school, Joe was athletic and played football and basketball.  He suffered a big toe injury during a football game, which caused him pain his entire life, until he finally had surgery to repair the torn ligament when he was 75 years old.

 

In 1945, during the spring of his high school senior year, Joe joined the navy to do his patriotic duty for the country during World War II.  He was on a ship docked in Charleston , SC , getting ready to head out to Europe when he became ill with catarrhal fever and had to stay in the base infirmary while his shipmates headed off to war.

 

The war ended and he was able to come home.  He started his college education at the University of Pittsburgh .  Then, with a degree in Biology, he applied to both the Pitt dental and medical schools and was accepted to the dental school.  On the first day of classes he was told that they had an opening in the medical school, and he switched to that program.

 

Joe had fallen in love with his next door neighbor sweetheart, Janet Carol Raymond.  The two wanted to marry and start their life together, but Joe’s dad refused to allow the marriage to take place until after Joe finished medical school.  On December 19, 1951, during Christmas break of his second year of med school, Joe and Janet snuck off to Cumberland Maryland to get married.  They had told their friends and families that they were going to downtown Pittsburgh to go Christmas shopping.  Joe’s buddy, Herb Flynn, asked to tag along to get his Christmas shopping done.  On the way, they told Herb their real plans, and Herb said he would go along and be their best man.  Herb kept the secret, and no one found out about the marriage until the day Joe graduated from Pitt Medical School two and a half years later.  In the meantime, Janet stayed in her house next door and came over to sit with Joe every night while he studied.

 

Joe began working with his father in the office on Allegheny River Boulevard .  After six months he decided to partner with Ted Ferguson, and the two opened a general practice office on Verona Road in Penn Hills .  Joe and Janet bought a home on Riverside Road , a couple miles from the office, and lived there for about 10 years.  This was the only time that Joe did not live in Oakmont. 

 

Joe and Janet spent a great amount of time playing with their nephews Donny (older brother Don’s son) and Tommy (older brother Tom’s son).  Both boys still look up to them as their second parents.  They started their own family, when I, Megan Elizabeth, was born January 8, 1957, the year my dad would turn 30.  Tod Joseph followed on September 13, 1958, and Tyler Andrew arrived on June 28, 1961.

 

Joe’s brother, Tom, had married Janet’s sister, Betty, so there was a double bond between the Fusia and Raymond families.  Tom and Betty’s children, Tom and Kim, were double cousins of Megan, Tod, and Tyler, sharing ancestors and genetic history on both sides of the family.  And, in the mid 1980’s, after having been transferred every few years for his job with G.C. Murphy Company, Tom arranged a final transfer to Pittsburgh and made a deal with Joe and Janet’s next door neighbor to purchase their home, bringing the Fusia/Raymond brothers and sisters together again.

 

Joe was active for years with the Kiwanis Club in Penn Hills , attending their meetings every Thursday night.  The three of us kids were treated to TV Dinners of our choice on those Kiwanis nights.  We thought that was just the neatest thing.

 

Speaking of meals, I wonder if any other family in the history of the world has had such wonderful, regular family meals. For my entire childhood, we had every meal together as a family, and I mean breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  We all had breakfast before dad headed off to work and the kids to school.  Then dad would come home for lunch every day, and we kids walked home from school for lunch.  Dinner was at 5:00 on the dot every night, and every Friday was spaghetti night. 

 

In 1965, Joe and Janet bought a new house on Fourteenth Street in Oakmont, and we moved back to the family town.  Soon after that, Joe, along with his brothers Jack and Ed, bought a vacation home on Lake Chautauqua .  We had many years of fun with our cousins at the lake.  Joe loved fishing, sailing, and boating.  That home was sold in 1983.  We really missed our fun times at Lake Chautauqua , and in 1995 I found a house to rent there, and we have spent a week every summer since then with my parents and Tyler and his family.

 

Joe’s dad was the school doctor for Oakmont.  When he retired, Joe took over the job.  He stopped in at the various Oakmont, and then Riverview (after the merge with Verona ), school buildings every day before he headed to his office in Penn Hills .  The students and teachers loved him.  He was well known and greatly respected by everyone in Oakmont.  Joe made house calls every day.  He frequently went out in the middle of the night to meet a patient at the office or at their home.  He often let us kids tag along with him to the office in the off hours.  We got to see a lot of interesting cases.  He always had good stories at the dinner table about cases he had seen that day.  When his patients called the office after hours, the recorded message gave our home phone number to call, and Joe would go in to the office at any time of day or night to sew up a laceration or to put a cast on a broken arm.

 

Joe’s parents and their son, Jack, moved back to their house on Allegheny River Boulevard after the other boys were grown and gone.  His dad continued to see patients in his home office for many years.  As his parents got older Joe stopped in every day to visit and take care of anything they needed.  On Jack’s birthday in February 1977, Joe was there to visit when his mother suffered a fatal heart attack.

 

Joe’s partner was ready to retire in 1997, and even though Joe was not yet ready for retirement, they decided to sell the practice to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. 

When I had my first son, and my dad’s first grandchild, my dad became something new:  Pa Joe.  Conor was 2 years old and heard my mom yelling for “Joe” to come to dinner.  Conor started yelling, “Joe” and the name stuck as Pa Joe. 

 

My dad was a Renaissance  man.  He was always reading and learning new things and taking on new hobbies. He was in a bowling league for years and was a member of the Elks Club.  He shot trap and skeet and had a collection of guns.  He was a game inventor (dice games Tennis Anyone, and Ready, Aim, Fire, and a card game, Bible Bridge).  He sculpted with clay, whittled wood, and could draw a great caricature.  He knew how to do card tricks and play the accordion.  He also taught himself how to play bagpipes.  After he retired, he said that he had always wanted to play the piano, so he taught himself to play.  He became interested in bells and read everything he could find about bells.  He then joined the bell choir at his church and played for a couple of years.  

 

He was a scholar of the Bible and attended Sunday School classes and Bible study groups, and was active in the Oakmont Presbyterian Church.  He could remember and tell jokes like a comedian. He became interested in shooting with a bow and arrow.  One day he set up a target in the back yard, but was afraid that if he missed the target, the errant arrow would hurt someone, or something, so we found him shooting the bow out of his second story bedroom window, down to the target in the back yard, so that if he missed, the arrows would go into the ground.  He would read books on every subject imaginable.  He could talk to anyone about any subject and was interested to listen to and learn from everyone. 

 

Joe had a lifelong love of golf.  In his retirement years he had a foursome with the 3 Toms: his brother Tom, and two friends, Tom Gregg, and Tom Locklin.  My dad always had a funny story about their adventures on the golf course.  Joe and his brother were so speedy, they could play 18 holes in under two hours.

 

My brothers and I are so lucky to have had the best parents.  We are so proud of them and respect them.  They provided everything that we would ask for.  They allowed us to do just about anything we would ask, because they had raised us to know not to ask for anything unreasonable.

 

In 1999, my mom was hospitalized with pancreatitis, and my dad spent every waking moment in the hospital watching her and making sure that she was getting the very best care.  She spent three months in the hospital and then a nursing home for a while until she came home.  He became hooked on a soap opera, The Guiding Light, while watching with my mom while she recuperated.  He watched that faithfully every day and made sure he was home from golf or whatever activity by 3:00 so that he would not miss his story.  He finally stopped watching it in 2007 when they changed the broadcast  time to 10:00 and he could just not fit it into his morning schedule.  In 2006, when my mom had open heart surgery, he again spent every moment with her at the hospital. 

 

He never missed a day of work, but my dad had his share of medical problems after he retired.  It started with cataract surgery and then surgery for a bowel obstruction.  He realized that he could survive surgery, so he finally had the toe fixed that he had injured in high school.  He was diagnosed with Polymyalgia Rheumatica, which  lead to Temporal Arteritis.  He had to take steroids to deal with those conditions, and the steroids caused him to become diabetic.

 

Finally in August of 2007, a routine blood test showed something was wrong.  His doctor called to say that he had Leukemia.  It turned out to be a very deadly form, Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.  He suffered through a few rounds of chemotherapy and weekly or daily blood transfusions.  Two days before he died he was in the back yard hitting golf balls to try to get ready to play a round with his brother.  Joe passed away on May 8, 2008.

 

Joe Fusia always enjoyed himself.  Every meal was the “best meal” he ever had.  He was proud of his talented grandchildren (six grandsons and two granddaughters).  And every game that he watched his grandchildren play (football, basketball, baseball, hockey, tennis) was the “best game” he ever saw.