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Jennifer: Surviving Daughter of Lupus/Scleroderma Overlap Patient

In Loving Memory of Diana and Gary Pralgo

My mom and dad are truly missed by all who knew and loved them.

Flowers for Diana by Shelley Ensz This letter was written by my dad and was read at my mother's memorial service in October of this year.

I actually started to write this the evening of the day Diana passed away for her wake. I was not able to complete it then because I became overwhelmed with the grief of having lost someone I spent thirty-four years with. I only hope I can put into words what is in my heart, and give Diana the tribute she deserves.

I met Diana in February of 1965. I had just turned 20 and Diana was 19, but it took me several weeks to work up the courage to ask her out. After the first date we saw each other every day until her passing some 34-1/2 years later. Being young and in love, I asked her to marry me in just a few short months and, to my surprise, she accepted.

We stayed with my parents for two years while I got on my feet financially. During that time our first son, Mark, was born. By the time we moved into a little apartment in North Babylon, Diana was pregnant with our second son, David. It was during this time that I learned of the resolve and determination Diana had to make this family work and stay together. To be honest with you, being as young as I was meant that I had to grow along with our family.

We bought our home in Miller Place in 1972, and two years later our daughter Jennifer was born. We came through so much together and I learned what true love was.

Chickens at the Fair by Shelley EnszEvery parent can say that each one of their children is unique and they each need something special, and that no two are alike. In our case truer words would never be spoken.

Our oldest boy Mark, for example, wanted a pet. Did he want a dog? No. Did he want a fish? No. What did he come home with, but a chicken! "No," I said, "Absolutely not!"

But Diana looked at me and said, "What difference does it make what kind of pet Mark wants, as long as he takes the responsibility of caring for it?"

She was right, of course, and in a few months there would be four chickens, a rooster that crowed at the moon, and a chicken coop. Mark did not let Diana down.

NYPD Blues

Elliott Behind Bars by Nolan LaTourelleDavid on the other hand, was not into pets. As a matter of fact, he did not like anything with fur, feathers, scales or wings. What David was into was baseball and wrestling. He enjoyed being with friends and lifting weights. David had somewhat of a temper.

Diana and I would argue whose side that came from, but the mess we had on our hands was a weightlifting teenager who grew larger than his school mates and would never say no to a fight.

"I'll handle this," I said, "I'm his father and he will listen." David and I locked horns more that once during this time, but Diana saw the good in him, and through her love, David helped me see that being a father means having to give ground at the right time. Today David is a New York City police officer, and has given me three beautiful grandchildren: Alicia, Diana and David.

Jennifer was born with a learning disorder, dyslexia. This made it very difficult for her to learn how to read and write as quickly as her peers at school. At one point when Jennifer was in first grade, Diana received a call from Jennifer's teacher and was told that Jennifer would have to be placed in a special school.

Diana would not hear of it and proceeded to spend every night for many years after that tutoring Jennifer, who graduated from Miller Place High School in 1992 and received a Suffolk County Executive's Youth Achievement Award.

Fish at Sidney's by Shelley Ensz Jenn went on to receive an Associate's Degree at Farmingdale College in Airport Maintenance, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Meteorology, Oceanography, and Environmental Science from Maritime College at Fort Schuyler.

Just for good measure, she also passed a Coast Guard's Maritime licensing test and can now work on any U.S. Merchant Ship.

Diana loved animals, and I can tell you that more than one stray cat owes its life to her. Once, one of our chickens got sick. The poor thing actually had a cough. Diana boiled some chicken soup, added a little cough medicine to it, and hand fed it to the chicken with an eyedropper. The chicken was cured!

As the children became older, Diana returned to the workforce. For many years, until her illness made it necessary for her to retire, she juggled her schedule between work and being a mother. If the children needed anything, it was mom they called at work.

In 1993, Diana was diagnosed with a rare disease called scleroderma. We had never heard of it before, but in the next six years we would get to know it all too well. It attacked every vital organ as well as her skin. It brought her constant pain every day, and even the ability to breathe, which is taken so much for granted, became a battle.

She did not complain, for all she wanted to do was to be with her family and her pets. She truly loved the simple things in life. She suffered greatly at the end and lost the battle on October 9, 1999. I and my children were truly fortunate to have loved and been loved by Diana.

Sometimes when my grief becomes overwhelming, I think of the battle Diana fought and of it gives me the strength and courage to go on. She has left me with a wonderful legacy in my loving and supportive children and beautiful grandchildren.

— by Gary Pralgo

~ Update by Jennifer on 09-28-06 ~

My mom is truly missed by all who knew and loved her.

My dad, Gary Pralgo, passed away this past June at the age of sixty-one. He had fought a form of Leukemia for several years. He was finally able to join his true love in God's Kingdom.

To Contact the Author

New Email: [email protected]
Story posted 12-8-00
Email notice posted 7-9-03
Update edited 09-28-06 JTD
Update posted 10-25-06 SLE
Story edited 10-24-11 SLE

Story Artist: Shelley Ensz
Hodgkin's Disease
Overlap Syndrome
Survivor's Stories
Go to Jennifer B: Morphea Scleroderma

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