Lives Lost: A man loved by many, a death at 80 alone in Rome

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This undated photo provided by the family in April 2020 shows Enrico Giacomoni, right, and his son, Roberto. The last time Roberto Giacomoni saw his 80-year-old father Enrico, he gently helped him up from bed, put his socks, shoes and jacket on, and walked him out to the paramedics who had come to take him to the hospital because he was having trouble breathing. (Courtesy of Giacomoni family via AP)

ROME – Nothing in the way Enrico Giacomoni lived during his 80-plus years in Rome corresponded to the way he died: alone.

He was a good person, Giacomoni’s son says, a man who took his responsibilities seriously but didn’t let the pressures of life make him unkind. He built a construction business that supported his sister’s family and his own. He hired 10 people when he had enough clients.

In retirement, he found delight as his grandchildren’s attentive “nonno,” chatting with neighbors and shopkeepers during grocery runs and cooking with his wife. Then came the fever and stomach bug that led to trouble breathing and a call for an ambulance.

He got dressed and to the door of his apartment with the help of his son, who tried to accompany him. The paramedics in protective suits stopped the son — an escort and hospital visits were prohibited in case his father had the virus. He died 13 days later.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of an ongoing series of stories remembering people around the world who have died during the new coronavirus pandemic.


Enrico Giacomoni was born the year Italy entered World War II. The worldwide pandemic that has drawn comparisons to the struggles of the war has claimed more lives in Italy than any other country.

Italy reached that sad benchmark the same week as Giacomoni's ambulance ride, positive test result, and March 16 placement in intensive care.

His wife and son were ordered to quarantine at home after confirmation of his infection. They were nearing the end of the two weeks when he died on March 29.

The day after his father’s death, Roberto Giacomoni, 50, sat at the desk where his papa used to play computer chess and do crossword puzzles. While he worked to get the body of his father to a crematorium, his mother, Giulia, wept nearby. The couple had been married 55 years.

Enrico Giacomoni had been a steadfast provider, but money always was tight. He loved the sea, one of Italy’s riches, and took his family on excursions when he could. Buying their top floor, two-bedroom apartment in a working-class neighborhood in 1987 took sacrifices.

Retirement came with a lung cancer diagnosis, but he had survived for a decade after surgery. Then the coronavirus hit.

During his first few days in the ICU, family members could still see him and chat over video calls. But once he was put on a ventilator, they had to rely on a single daily update from a busy doctor. The last call came at 1:20 a.m. on March 29.

Roberto Giacomoni is tormented by how his father went through the ordeal by himself. His mind often flicks back to the night his father was taken.

“Don’t worry, Papa, I’ll come tomorrow with your suitcase,” Roberto Giacomoni recalled telling his father. "You’ll be OK. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Should he have known he was saying goodbye? It’s a question he might struggle to answer until his children, ages 8 and 3, have reason to mourn for their father.

“He wasn’t expecting this,” Roberto Giacomoni said. “He was there hoping things would get better, and all I could do was tell him, ‘Papa, be strong. You’ll see, this will pass and will just become a memory.’”

“But his eyes were sad, in the sense that he obviously knew,” he added.


Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield contributed.


This story has been corrected to show date of death was March 29, not March 30, and to make spelling of surname consistent throughout to Giacomoni not Giancomoni.