NEW PORT RICHEY — No one should struggle alone. That was the theme that Brian Verrette, a 2009 Hero of Hope for the American Cancer Society, used on his Facebook page when he learned the colon cancer he had once defeated had returned, this time with no cure.
Mr. Verrette, who had been in hospice care for the past year, never lacked for support.
He died Sunday (Jan. 20, 2013) at Gulfside Center for Hospice Care, surrounded by friends and family and in the arms of Karrol, his wife of nearly two years. He was 43.
"I keep reminding myself that my pain means he doesn't have any anymore," said Karrol, who cared for him full time and has spent the past several months negotiating with bill collectors. The Tampa Bay Times wrote last month about community efforts to help the family.
The Verrettes first made headlines in 2011 when they got married in a ceremony at the Trinity Relay for Life. They had initially planned a beach wedding, but two weeks after their engagement, doctors told Mr. Verrette that his cancer had returned — and spread. The Navy veteran and information technology specialist had been in remission since 2008. A year later he was even traveling on behalf of the American Cancer Society as one of the nonprofit agency's "Heroes of Hope."
He gave Karrol the option of ending the relationship. She chose to stay.
On Aug. 29, 2011, they started the Facebook page to engage people in backing their cause and offer support to others battling cancer. The page has 3,473 "likes."
"The world knows Brian existed and was better because of him," Karrol said.
The page chronicled Mr. Verrette's journey as the disease took its toll. Facebook friends sent in Bible verses that had provided them comfort. Karrol posted photos of the couple's clasped hands and wrote about how her husband, who has two grown daughters, was preparing for the end.
Among those last duties was the recording of Mr. Verrette reading of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas for his future grandchildren.
He also planned every detail of his funeral, from the purple shirt and black slacks he wanted to be buried in to the red, white and blue flowers he wanted on his casket.
He also asked that Karrol's brothers, both in the military, fold his American flag, and hand it to his best friend from the Navy.
He will present it to Karrol.
Karrol said she is taking refuge in memories of her husband. Her favorite came from their honeymoon in the Washington, D.C., area. They were on a trolley in Alexandria, Va. An elderly, severely disabled woman was on board. When the trolley stopped, Mr. Verrette stood up and offered to help.
"She could barely walk. He picked her up in his arms and carried her off the train and put her on the bench," Karrol recalled. "I was so in awe of him."
The family will receive friends from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday in the chapel of Trinity Memorial Gardens. The funeral will be at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Generations Church in Trinity. Burial will follow at Trinity Memorial Gardens.