Todd’s wife of six years, Wendy, said her husband was a true giver who loved helping his neighbors, friends and family. People were drawn to him because of his generous nature as well as his incredible sense of humor.
“Many winters ago, Todd was crossing Far Hills Avenue to get to work, and he was in a hurry. It was an icy, snowy day, and in his rush, he slipped and fell flat on his back in the road right in front of a full – and fortunately stopped – RTA bus,” Wendy said. “Half-covered with snow and road muck, as well as embarrassment, he picked himself up off the ground, turned to all of the open-mouthed bus passengers and took a bow. The bus erupted in laughter, or so his story goes, and he laughed at himself and proceeded to work. He was always a kid at heart, and he never took himself too seriously.”
That sense of humor was still present during some scary medical issues. Todd had his second heart valve replacement a few months before his daughter, Carina, now 8, was born. Just a half hour after that procedure, he underwent emergency coronary bypass surgery. Wendy said it was a miracle he survived that day, and it was his humor and determination to be a good father that got him through.
“He was driven by the birth of his child to be better and stronger. He wanted to be able to hold the baby, so he really worked through his health challenges with that as an incentive,” Wendy said.
When Wendy was about eight months pregnant with Carina, in the middle of the night, she noticed something was moving around the ceiling fan. She woke Todd, who got out of bed, turned on the light and saw a bat!
“He was so funny. He told me to hide, so I pulled the covers over my head. He grabbed a broom, and half-dressed, this 6-foot-4-inch, 170-pound man did this weird made-up tribal dance. He kept chanting ‘Ooooooooooh, aaaaaaaaaah, ooooooooooh.’ And the bat disappeared,” Wendy said. “That was Todd!”
Something Todd took very seriously was his role as a father to Carina.
“Once Carina was born, he was the happiest Daddy,” Wendy said. “He was just enthralled with Carina, and he lived for her.”
In addition to being a family man, Todd took great pride in his work in the wine business. He started at Dorothy Lane Market in Dayton when he was 15 years old and worked his way up to the wine department even before he was able to drink wine. He read labels and learned about wine from his mentor in the department, Ed Flohre. He eventually became the wine department manager at Dorothy Lane Market’s Centerville store, and in 1998, he moved on to Vintner Select in Mason, where he excelled in the sales realm of the business. In 2002, Todd left to be the national sales manager for Robert Pecota Winery in Napa Valley, but he returned to Vintner Select after a year. He became Vintner Select’s portfolio manager for domestic wines, managing relationships and orders with wineries in California, Washington and Oregon.
But on June 3, 2008, Wendy’s world came to a halt when her 40-year-old husband died from a brain hemorrhage.
Wendy remembers being approached by one of Life Connection of Ohio’s procurement transplant coordinators at Kettering Medical Center. She was surprised to learn that even with Todd’s medical history, it was still possible for him to save lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. After talking with the rest of Todd’s family and ensuring her Catholic faith supported donation, Wendy made the decision to let Todd’s giving spirit live on in others.
That day, Todd saved three lives through organ donation and enhanced the lives of more than 60 others through tissue donation.
“It was such an uplifting experience for me,” Wendy said. “Donating my husband’s organs to give life to others lifted me through the grief of his death. I felt blessed.”
Though Todd was the one known for his wit, Wendy’s humor was showcased a few years ago at an event where people were encouraged to finish the sentence “I’m a donor because…” on a marker board. In honor of Todd, Wendy wrote, “I’m a donor because… my wife made me do it!”
Every day, Wendy wears a silver bracelet that spells out “Donate Life” with Todd’s initials on it. She encourages everyone to register as a donor.
“Organ donation is not only something that you do for yourself, but as a survivor, I can say it’s something that helps those you leave behind,” Wendy said. “It’s amazing to think that a little bit of him goes on and keeps other people alive. Not all of us can do that. It’s a privilege.”
And a little bit of him is still with Wendy in the form of Carina. Carina exhibits Todd’s mannerisms and looks like him, too. Carina has some memories of Todd, mostly from the last six months of his life.
“Todd had a brain hemorrhage six months before he died, but he survived that. I honestly believe he was supposed to go then, but God gave us an extra six months, and because of that, Carina remembers her Daddy,” Wendy said.
A few months after Todd passed away, Wendy and Carina were eating pizza with Wendy’s sister, Kathy, and her future husband, Liam. Liam folded the crust of his pizza before he ate it, and Carina “gingerly touched Liam’s arm and said softly, ‘My Daddy used to eat his pizza that way.’” Carina also remembers doing animal-themed jigsaw puzzles with her dad.
Carina has inherited Todd’s sense of humor and outgoing nature. During every trip to Dorothy Lane Market, Carina needs to stop at each department to visit her friends and say “hello.” And could Carina follow in her father’s footsteps and make her mark in the wine business?
“Carina made her First Communion this year, and she cracked me up because the first time we were at church afterward, she said ‘That wine is not good.’ She’s critiquing wine already!” Wendy said.
Wise-beyond-her-years Carina is very proud of her father.
“About a year ago, we were praying at night, and Carina said something amazing,” Wendy said. “She told me, ‘I miss my Daddy, but Daddy is helping other people live.’”