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Cdr. Zemo C. Tarnowski, USN


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He was my father. Diagnosed late August, 1997 - died Feb. 1, 1998. Declined palliative radiation; received immediate hospice referral. Got stellar care from hospice personnel.

Dad had been a WWII prisoner of war - he was captured in the Phillippines on Corregidor after Bataan fell. Narrowly escaped the infamous Death March, although his treatment was no better. Despite 3 1/2 years of beatings, overwork, disease and starvation, he went on to live to 79 years of age. This experience became a defining event in his life: he was loyal to his country, although his experiences as a soldier indelibly marked his life. He was loving, playful, funny, spiritual, patriotic and intelligent.

The most incredible thing about my Dad? As he lay dying, he confessed to a priest friend that he was trying to forgive his Japanese captors - he struggled to forgive the people who had brutalized him and his fellow soldiers for years. It was important to forgive, despite the horrible treatment he had suffered at their hands.

Like so many other soldiers, Dad got addicted to cigarettes in the military. I remember his packs of Lucky Strike always around the house when I was little. When he got up during the night to use the bathroom, he would light up. Tobacco was always there, a normal part of life.

Dad died, two of his daughters and his loving wife at his side, on a Sunday morning. The last thing he tasted was some peach juice from my mother-in-law's canned peaches. (He called her "Meals on Wheels.") My Mom kissed him once for each daughter who could not be there. She said he had the most radiant smile she had ever seen on his face.

I miss you, Pop, but I know you are with me, and I know your soul is happily peaceful. We'll meet again.

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