Fund pays for Scotty’s funeral
By MICHELLE AGUILAR, Staff Writer
Saturday, January 16, 1999 – (EASTHAMPTON) – Because of his cerebral palsy and a severe developmental disability, Gregory “Scotty” Blanchard was never really able to use the spoken word to communicate with the people in his life.
But that didn’t prevent Scotty, 31, who died of complications related to a massive pneumonia infection Dec. 20, from getting an intense enjoyment out of life and from showering his family and co-workers at Riverside Industries with deep-seated, loyal affection, says his live-in caretaker and friend for three years, Mark Saletnik.
“He had a heart of gold. I know that sounds like a cliche, but it’s really true,” said Saletnik. “He would always give you a big smile. All you had to do was show him you liked him.”
Inspired by those memories, Saletnik has started a fund at BankBoston in Easthampton – where Scotty lived – to raise the $6,000 needed to pay for Scotty’s funeral costs.
Scotty’s mother, Lorraine Blanchard of Greenfield – who took care of Scotty by herself for several years before arranging an independent living situation for him in a Loudville Road residence three years ago – is already far behind on her other bills, having taken a three-month leave of absence from her job as a nurse at Northampton Nursing Home to care for Scotty full time.
In the final weeks of his life, Blanchard cared for herself and Scotty savings from her nurse’s wages and the Social Security income her son received.
“He really hadn’t been well since he was born. But it ended really well for him because he got to spend his last few weeks at home (instead of a hospital). He deserved that happiness,” she said.
She is just getting her life back together now that she has buried Scotty. “When I really think about it, I realize I still don’t believe he’s gone,” she said.
Blanchard said she was surprised and touched when Saletnik first told her of his plan to raise money for Scotty’s funeral. “I figure this is Mark’s way of showing how much cared for Scotty,” she said. “He was like his best friend.”
Saletnik said that while he moved into Scotty’s independent living situation as part of a job, living with Scotty soon changed that. “Very quickly, it stopped being a job. He became my buddy,” he said. “I got as much out of the relationship as he did, maybe more.”
Michelle Chouinard – who started out as a respite worker for Scotty once a week and eventually became Scotty’s live-in caretaker and developmental specialist at Riverside Industries – had a similar experience.
“We took to each other right away. He’d clap his hands when I came into the room. I found myself looking forward to Saturdays,” she said.
She described Scotty as an exceptionally joyful person who loved going for ice cream, watching television, and above all, frequenting the Massachusetts and Rhode Island beaches where his mother made sure she took him every summer, no matter how she had to juggle her finances.
When Scotty died, Lorraine Blanchard gave her only son a fairly no-frills but very traditional Catholic funeral. She said she did so in full awareness that she would have to make some sacrifices to afford it. “I know I’m going to have to keep working and working to pay it,” she acknowledged.
Scotty is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Haydenville, where his grandmother had bought a family plot years ago for herself, Scotty’s grandfather, Lorraine and Scotty.
Saletnik and Chouinard said that despite Scotty’s move to his own residence three years ago, the bond between Scotty and Lorraine was one of the tightest they’d ever seen between two people. Chouinard, who became especially close to Lorraine, has seen firsthand the profound loss in Lorraine’s life since her son passed away.
“Scotty and Lorraine, they lived for each other … She learned to become a nurse basically so she could take care of him,” said Chouinard. “He was her whole life.”