Woman honours her father with kindness campaign after he passes away from COVID-19 in Mississauga


Published April 28, 2020 at 2:38 pm


COVID-19 has taken the lives of over 60 Mississauga residents, and one of those residents was a local hairstylist known for his random–and much appreciated–acts of kindness. 

“My dad was such a community guy who was still working at 73-years-old,” says Gaby Mammone. 

“He loved gardening and growing hundreds of tomatoes and sharing them. He was [the embodiment] of ultimate kindness.” 

Concezio DiVirgilio, a husband and father-of-three, died of COVID-19 at Trillium Health Partners–Mississauga Hospital on April 17.

“He had no underlying health conditions, he was a healthy man,” says Mammone. 

Concezio participating in the Cops for Cancer program

Mammone says her father stopped working on March 15 after public health officials recommended that people over the age of 70 and those with underlying health conditions stay home to better protect themselves from the novel coronavirus.

Mammone says that on March 17, her father developed a cough that lasted about four days. 

“We learned that this can happen with COVID-19. That you can get some symptoms and your body can fight it off,” Mammone says, adding that her mother also developed symptoms of the virus around the same time. 

“A few days later, it came back with a vengeance for both of them. My dad was worse and my mom was sent home from hospital with water pills. My dad had extreme shortness of breath and he was admitted to hospital and put on a ventilator right away.” 

Mammone says her parents went to the COVID-19 assessment centre at the Mississauga Hospital on March 30 and were told that Concezio needed oxygen immediately. 

“They wheeled him into the hospital. That night, he called me and he was scared. He said the doctors wanted to intubate him and put him on a ventilator. The doctor explained everything to me and said my dad had all symptoms [of COVID-19] and that they believed he had the virus. He confirmed [the diagnosis] the next day,” she says.  

“My dad said he was scared and I said he would be okay. The doctor said he’d be home in a few days. They had to keep him on the ventilator and eventually put him on his stomach (proning), which can only be done for a short time. He was in the hospital for 17 days.” 

Mammone said that her father started getting better by Easter. 

“They were able to lower his oxygen and anaesthetic and he opened his eyes. I wanted to be there and hold his hand and talk to him. I asked if we could have a device placed in his room with our voices so he could hear his family talking so he wouldn’t feel alone,” she says. 

Mammone says a nurse who attended to Concezio when he opened his eyes told him where he was and why he was there. 

“She said he heard the recording and cried,” Mammone says. 

The next day, however, Concezio’s condition deteriorated. 

“Everything then started going backwards. We were praying for a miracle. After 11 to 14 days, they have to take you off the ventilator because your body gets too used to not breathing on its own, and your body can reject the device. My father’s body was rejecting the plastic, so he got pneumonia in his right lung from a tube that had been helping him breathe.”

Mammone says her father’s kidneys began to fail, but he was too ill to be put on dialysis.  

“On April 16, the doctor called and said our dad was not going to make it,” she said, adding that only her mother would be able to go in to see him. 

Mammone says she and her siblings had to break the devastating news to their mother after she finished her 14-day isolation–a period during which Mammone and her brothers could not see their recovering mother in person. 

“It was almost like he was holding on so we could tell my mom the news in person because by then she recovered from Covid-19 and was done her quarantine. Within an hour, she went to the hospital. We asked if we could join, and they did authorize one person to go with her. My brother called me and my other brother on FaceTime so we could say goodbye. My dad was on paralytics and not responsive, but I believe in my heart he could hear us.” 

Mammone says that even though the doctors and nurses were unable to save her father’s life, she’s incredibly grateful for their care and compassion and is currently raising funds for Trillium’s Emergency Covid-19 relief fund in her father’s name.    

Mammone also sent the nurses and doctor a thank you card. 

“We don’t know what they’re going through. I’m still recognizing the nurses and doctors and I’m grateful to them.”

While Mammone is hoping to give back to the front line workers who worked tirelessly to treat her father, she says that she’s hoping to let people know that kindness–which her father was known for–doesn’t have to cost anything at all.

Mammone has launched an initiative–#BeAwareBeKind–calling on people to look for opportunities to be kind. 

She says the initiative was inspired by Concezio, who worked and volunteered as Santa (and who frequently provided hairstyling services for other mall Santa’s) and who always participated in the Canadian Cancer Society’s Cops for Cancer program.

According to information on Turner & Porter’s website, Concezio was also known for building amazing snow sculptures and creating captivating scenes with his Christmas lights. 

He also loved to teach his grandkids how to do magic tricks and once set out to grow the longest zucchini in Mississauga.

Concezio with his almost-record-breaking zucchini

“One of my dad’s passions was to be in the Guinness Book of World Records for growing the longest zucchini. He was close, the current titleholder grew a zucchini measuring 8 feet and 3.3 inches. My dad’s zucchini was 8 feet and two inches,” Mammone says.    

“Sadly, he won’t get a chance to enter again.”

Most of all, Mammone says Concezio was known for being kind. 

“My dad loved his family, his garden, Elvis’s music and doing random acts of kindness. My dad’s legacy of being kind to others lives on. He would be proud to know that we are all looking for ways to be kind to others without expecting anything in return,” she says. 

“He’s giving and caring, the first guy to say ‘I’ll help you.’ I want people to be kind because that’s what he would want.” 

Concezio as Elvis

Emphasizing that #BeAwareBeKind is not a business venture, Mammone says the goal of the project is simply to encourage people to actively seek out opportunities to help or show kindness to others. 

“I want people to be aware and be kind. There are so many ways to be kind. For example, my girlfriend knows I have two children and am feeling guilty that I haven’t done a lot of e-learning with them, so she arranged for her husband to play chess with my son online. This was so helpful as it gave me some time to myself. She has also offered to read my daughter books electronically.”

Mammone says it’s one thing–and a good thing–to provide help when asked, but her project encourages people to offer help, love and support without being asked. 

“When someone offers to buy someone milk or staple items, that’s a whole new level.”

Mammone says people could consider calling someone who lives alone, organizing an online game for people to play, or even arranging a food drive. 

She also says that people can simply reach out to others who might need someone to talk to. 

“Some students have no one to talk to right now. We don’t know what so many people are going through. Some women might be in an abusive household, not knowing what to do. Ask people if they want to talk, or if they need help connecting with a professional,” she suggests. 

“I just want people to get creative on how they can be kind. The world needs it. That’s who my dad was–he was a gentle and kind soul.” 

Photos courtesy of Gaby Mammone

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