When John and I met we would talk about getting married and the one regret we both shared from childhood was not being able to spend more time with our fathers. Both Fathers were first generation Americans from birth and they both spent most of their waking hours working to care for their families. We were married and John became a firefighter. When we began having children it was Johns choice to work in the district were we lived. Our children spent almost as much time at the station as home therefore it was like having two homes. Born Salvatore John Tristanio but know mostly by Sam, he and his sisters spent almost as much time at the station as at home. It would be accurate to say the fire department played an enormous roll in raising my family. Family was always the most important part of our lives and the fire department was as big of part in our family as any relative. Sam spent as much time playing on the hose bed of pumper #34's as he did playing video games. He would sit in the cab hit the lights, sirens (and sometimes go on rides, shhhhh). He would wear Johns helmet and boots, play checkers with Sam DiMaggio, playing catch with John Castilleja just to name a few. Since 34 pumper was in the district they were at most of his base ball games as a child. Sam's childhood friends new 34's as well.
Raising Sam was a pure delight. He was full of energy and sometimes exhausting especially to his sisters and teachers. It seemed as though he was never still and he was always talking. Sam loved people even from his earliest days, he was never shy and he liked all types of people. Sometimes I don't think Sam saw the outside of people only what was inside. He loved his family and life so much. He had a hard time understanding rude grumpy people.
When Sam's father died January 13, 2003 Sam's heart broke. He was 21 and the baby of our family. I watched Sam change from the baby to the man of the family. He became a wonderful man. He was the best son any mother ever had. It was no surprise when he joined the fire department. He fell head over heels in love with Ashley Bougadis, after three years they planned to get married. They bought a home and set the wedding date for April 19, 2008, all the plans were finished. I have never seen anyone so happy and complete. Sam was always so passionate about all of life. He could make people laugh by making fun of him self or just being outrageous which was all the time. He loved children and pets. Him and Ash had two dogs, a poodle named Vinnie and a dachshund named Sophie. His niece's and nephew were his pride and joy. When Sam was assigned to Pumper #3 he was a little disappointed at first. He had hoped to be in the middle of town with a lot of action. Very quickly Sam grew to love the crew. His Captain Mike Cambiano became the man he looked up to and loved. Mike filled a whole in Sam that had been there since his fathers death. His new friends became his family. One night when Sam was at my house visiting someone called to see if Sam might trade stations, by that time you might as well have asked Sam to abandon his family, there was no trade. Sam's life was once again complete.
Sam was at my house just before his accident. His last words after visiting were "No one needs to tell me how lucky I am. I have Ashley, my house, and my job. Bye Momma I Love You, call you when I get home." I believe Sam got on his motorcycle that he loved so much and did just that. I believe God let Sam drive straight into his fathers arms and join him in heaven, where they both continue to help us through God.
It was my dream to see Sam marry and have children. It is now my dream to keep Sam alive forever and help others through him. Sam was an organ donor. He was able to donate his heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas. I have heard through the transplant organization all the recipients are doing very well. One recipient chose to write and tell us she received a kidney and pancreas and after dialysis three times a week nine hours a day and since having diabetes since she was 12 she was cured.
Letter from Midwest Transplant Network (link soon to come)
Sam loved his motorcycle as most riders do and since his accident I have met some wonderful mothers who have lost their son's to motorcycle accidents. I would be honored to help them raise awareness for motorcycle safety. Please look at these web sites also :
Sam was always helping others no matter how small or large.
I know Sam wishes to continue to help others. That is why we have set up the Sam J .Tristanio Memorial Foundation - GKCCF.
When enough money is raised the money will be given out to burned victims, through St. Florian twice a year.
Sam's Mom and Family,
Gina and Mike McGowan, Alyssa and Johnny McGowan
Denise and Rosemarie Tristanio-Modeer
Please help us to help others for
Salvatore (Sam) J. Tristanio!