Robb’s Life Chapter 45 – A Tribute to Lawrence “Lorney” Dussliere

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Lawrence (“Lorney”) Dussliere holding his son’s hand while Robb sleeps in the hospital.

Robb was dying in March and early April, 1996. Throughout the year we had been documenting Robb’s life, his parents had been by his side every step of the way.

You might think that this is no big deal. They are the parents. They should be supportive, right?

Unfortunately, many parents abandon their children when HIV and AIDS enter the picture. This is one of the reason Robb worked so hard on the DeLaCerda House during the final months of his life — to help support homeless people living with HIV and AIDS, people who were often homeless because they had lost jobs and had no one left who was willing to take them in.

Lorney and Hattie Dussliere demonstrated the best of human nature during a personal crisis; the protective qualities of parents who understand that love is unconditional.

Robb’s favorite performer was Elton John. As Robb approached death, I began looking for a way to pay tribute to his parents. I listened a lot to Elton John’s great album, “The One.” On that album is “The Last Song.” One day, as I was listening to the CD at home, the lyrics of “The Last Song” became very clear. It was about the love of a father for his AIDS-stricken son.

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A father in pain, still able to muster a smile, demonstrating incredible love and support to a son. 

This video instantly sprang into my mind, almost fully created. I sat down in my home and cried like a baby. I was doing that more and more over Robb, it seemed.

Even 20 years later, as this blog post is being written, parents still abandon their HIV-positive children. This tribute to Lorney Dussliere is still relevant.

After Robb passed away, Elton John came to perform a concert in the Quad Cities. Lorney and Hattie managed to get a VHS tape of “Robb’s Life” to him. During the concert, as they sat in the crowd, Elton John performed “The Last Song” and dedicated it to the Dussliere family.

I invite you to stop for a moment, listen to the lyrics, and you will understand why Robb’s parents have my undying respect and love.

If you would like to help keep Robb’s legacy alive, please donate — even a few dollars — to the DeLaCerda House. Go to their web page and click on the “Donate” button at the top of the screen.

Robb’s Life Chapter 21 — Checking a Headstone Off the To-Do List

On September 13, 1995, this episode of Robb’s Life aired on WHBF-TV. Robb had been very sick the week before, and he and his parents, Lorney and Hattie Dussliere, realized they needed to select a headstone for their grave and check that item off the to-do list.

Robb barely smiled during this video shoot at Moline Monument, although you can hear him laugh during his first comment about the three of them agreeing “quickly for a change.” It was obvious he was not feeling well.

Help keep Robb’s legacy alive! Donate to the DeLaCerda House and help provide shelter and support for homeless HIV and AIDS clients. Go to www.delacerdahouseinc.org and click on the “Donate” button on the right side of the page.

Robb’s Life Chapter 10 – Choosing a Grave Site

Robb Cemetery3The first time I had a chance to talk very much with Robb’s parents was the day he went with them to select a grave site at St. Mary’s in East Moline.

This is one of my favorite pieces in the series. The tone and structure of the stories began coming together in this one. Real life is made up of serious moments that are sometimes punctuated with humor, and humor can quickly give way to sadness. Robb was a very funny, mischevious guy, but just below the surface, the people around him are beginning to feel the heartbreak of what is coming in the not-so-distant future. I felt that this story brought these different emotions together, and it became a template for the stories to come.

Also, by the time we shot this story, near the end of May, 1995, Robb and I were more at ease around each other.

I had met Lorney (Lawrence) and Hattie Dussliere a few weeks earlier at Robb’s house, but we didn’t talk much that day. Now, as we toured the cemetery, I had a chance to interview them for the first time. They are wonderful people.


 
Please donate to the DeLaCerda House and keep Robb’s mission alive, helping HIV and AIDS patients who find themselves homeless. Follow this link and click on the Donate button on the right side of the page.