August 1, 1945 to January 3, 1981
Thomas George Dunn was born in Windsor, Ontario on Aug. 1, 1945, the first of two boys following the birth of six sisters. He was a very congenial, outgoing person, one who used his great sense of humor and quick wit to make people feel comfortable and well entertained at social gatherings. We met in grade 7 when his family moved to our area and later married in 1966. We had two daughters born in 1967 and 1970, respectively. His love for life was infectious for all of us.
In 1968, he started working for Bendix Canada where they manufactured automotive brake shoes containing asbestos; however the workers would not find out that it was asbestos dust that constantly floated through the air and covered the interior and everything in the plant until 1977 when they went on strike for the right to have a health & safety rep. In early 1979, an article appeared in the Windsor Star stating that the union had filed three compensation claims for workers who had died of cancer they suspected was caused by asbestos exposure.
On Dec. 7, 1979 my husband, aged 34, returned home from a Bendix hockey game he played in, complaining of pressure in his chest which he thought was indigestion; however this continued and worsened through Saturday to Sunday morning when I took him into the hospital emergency dept. They tested his heart to rule out a heart attack and took chest x-rays that showed a shadow behind the heart. They then took a needle biopsy through his back, stating it was ‘clear’ but the tumour should be removed to alleviate his pain. They sent him home for Christmas, he returned on Dec. 27, was operated on the following day when the surgeon advised me that it was inoperable, having only taken tissue samples as it was spread throughout his chest cavity and he would unlikely survive further surgery. When my mother asked if it could be caused by asbestos, he questioned his exposure and stated he would file a compensation claim on his behalf. Radiation treatments started two weeks later, then debilitating chemotherapy treatments until November of 1980 when even blood transfusions could not bring his blood count up enough for continued treatments. In those preceding months, my daughters and I witnessed his devastating deterioration from a strong, muscular, comedic and loving partner and father to a skeletal, pain-wracked suffering human being that no amount of morphine could alleviate. He sat up in his lazy boy chair because he said it felt like his chest was being crushed if he lay down and he could not breathe. His main concern was for his daughters having to see him like that. Our torture of watching him suffer and not being able to do anything for him was nothing compared to the constant pain he was in. Being a religious family, we went from praying for a cure to begging for his pain to cease. He died Jan. 3, 1981, gasping for air his lungs could not absorb.
I cannot begin to tell you how this has affected my daughters’ lives, losing their dad at ages 9 and 12, not having him there when they made their First Communion, Confirmation, let alone graduate from Grade School, High School and University. He was not there to walk arm and arm, down the aisle at their weddings nor feel the joy of having four energetic, fun-loving grandchildren who would have benefited by his presence in their lives.
Yes my daughters and I have gone on as is rightfully so but neither his memory nor what he went through will ever be erased from our minds and hearts.