One of My Dad's Best Friends is Dead

Johnny is gone. Johnny M., a fine, funny guy, a man with three children and a stepchild, died of carbon monoxide poisoning in his home in Connecticut sometime Tuesday or Wednesday morning. Some other stories have his name, but I’d rather not have it on the board where it’ll show up on Google or something.

:eek: :frowning: :frowning: :frowning:

This man knew me before I was born. He was only 58 years old. My Dad knew him for 44 years. 44 years!! He was a student at the high school where my Dad first taught in the Bronx, and they stayed friends the whole time. He helped me get a job in 2001 and I had him as a reference when I was laid off after 9/11. He once came 200 miles for a surprise birthday party for me. He was warm and hard-working and had a great sense of humor, overcoming an abusive and poverty-stricken childhood. He loved computers and model railroads and had travelled extensively. He had done a lot with his life and was so proud of the beautiful house he had bought three years ago…with an attached garage and no carbon monoxide detectors.

His wife came home and left the car in the garage with the motor running and the keys in the ignition. She went to sleep and is now critical. Johnny parked his car in the street and also went in to sleep; he passed away in the same bed as her. Nobody fucking knew a thing until the CO2 built up so much that the neighbor’s detector went off, and he called the cops.

What kind of a pointless way is that to die?? How bad am I for being grateful that Nanette is still unconscious? How evil am I for being angry at this new widow for her goddamn carelessness?

Dad is holding up pretty well–he turns into Efficiency Man during emergencies and, while he had to teach his last class of a summer session today as an adjunct professor, he spent all the time he could calling old friends. He and my Mom (Johnny was at their wedding, and was one of the kids who held me and my brothers when we were born) have cried together and will cry some more. Right now everybody’s in shock. The man had literally hundreds of friends and Dad has called several, most of these middle-aged guys breaking into tears right away.

I’m not sure why this thread is in the Pit. Oh yeah–I haven’t really cried yet. My eyes were moist when Dad told me (at midnight, after picking me up from the subway because we live in the same neighborhood). I’ve sobbed a little but right now I’m mostly–angry? Angry at Nanette? Angry at the fate that has robbed my mother of one of her oldest friends (after a long illness, thought) and my Dad of one of his within three weeks of each other, three weeks before their first child is getting married (my baby brother)? Anger at God? Anger at fate? Angry at myself for feeling mostly numb right now?

My Dad is going to Mass tomorrow morning. I’ll go with him. For his sake, because I don’t quite know what to think about God right now.

If you don’t have a CO2 detector, get one tomorrow and think of Johnny. Thanks.

Sorry to hear of your long time friend’s death. It is a tragic occurence and I can’t imagine what the family is going through right now. However, there is no need for a CO detector in most people’s home because they don’t have bonfires in the living room(hell, this is California, we hardly ever light a fire in the fireplace), or well, forget that they had a **fucking car **running! Dear god, WTF? Not only did the wife leave it running, but your friend didn’t hear it running? Didn’t smell the exhaust?

Were they drinking or something? That’s just daffy!

Once again, my condolences, it’s always hard to lose someone close to you in a tragedy such as this.


It doesn’t have to be a car running or a bonfire to cause CO poisoning; anything that has fossil fuel consumption could potentially be a risk. A coworker at a previous job had this happen in her condo; some kind of faulty ventilation system vented fumes (I forget what kind of fuel-burning appliance that caused it, or it might have been from the garage area) into her second bedroom. Her (young adult) daughter lived with her, and her son was home from college on break. Since he was home most of the time, he seemed to have the flu, while they were just feeling run-down since they went out to work. She’d called her doctor about how they were feeling, describing the symptoms, but he said it wasn’t a big deal. When her daughter took a nap to try to sleep off the symptoms and closed the door to that bedroom, she came out a few hours later and collapsed. Firefighters came with blower fans to clean out the air in the apartment, and they were all rushed to the hospital. Her daughter was in fairly bad condition but recovered.

Check out the literature on CO poisoning - it says that due to modern home construction leaving very few gaps for gases/air to escape, CO can build up over a period of time. It doesn’t have to be acute one-shot events like leaving a car running in an attached garage. My coworker and her children were feeling sick over nearly a week before her daughter unknowingly closed herself into the room that was letting the CO in; it could have gone on even longer, potentially. CO detectors will alert people to any kind of CO buildup, gradual or quick.

There is a definite need for a CO detector in most people’s homes. A very common cause of CO poisoning is a cracked heat exchanger in a home furnace. It can happen in an old or new furnace and if your furnace runs on natural gas there is no suspicious smell. We had it happen to an oil furnace and there was a slight smell. My sister-in-law had it happen to a brand new gas furnace, they fortunately had a detector.

Anyway Mehitabel I’m very sorry this happened to your old family friend. I hope you can eventually not be angry with the widow. Remember how much guilt she will have to live with if she makes it through this.

Sorry to hear about your loss, my thoughts are wiht you and your Dad. Add me to the “how the hell do you forget about a running car?” camp.

I’m very sorry about this tragedy Mehitabel. Anger is a very normal part of the grieving process and makes a lot of sense given the circumstances. Find a book somewhere or read on line about grief and it will help.

I am very sorry about your loss. In your sadness you have done a good thing to turn such tragic events into a Learning Lesson.

Ok, I’ll take the ignorant CO detector comment back, but how does one leave their fucking car running for hours without knowing?


We got a CO detector after replacing a heat exchanger that had rusted through.

And to Mehitabel, my condolences. I lost an uncle whom I never really got to know, I was about seven years old and only met him once. From what I was told, his own stupidity did him in. He had been cleaning out a container that had once held some chemical or other and didn’t take proper precautions against the fumes that were still in there. I can’t imagine what you must be going through.

First, my condolences. This sounds like a truly tragic loss for all of you.

Next, can I add my voice to the “get a frickin’ CO2 detector” chorus? We bought one the day we closed on our first house, and have had one ever since.

My MIL almost died from CO2 poisoning as a child, and a couple of relatives in her house DID die. It’s no joke- odorless, colorless, and what could be more natural than catching a nap when you’re feeling a bit rundown?

Thanks, everyone. His children are talking to the funeral home, now, apparently. I don’t think you can have an open-casket wake after an autopsy like that :frowning:

The Straftford Police are also interested in why the wife did not turn off the car; however, Nanette was in an auto accident a while ago and took lots of pain medications. Perhaps she was just a little out of it at the time. I have not heard her condition has changed. Johnny never went into the garage; it’s a one-car garage and he parked on the street and went into the front door. It was muggy this week and everybody has their air conditioners going–I guess the white noise cancelled out the car noise from two stories down.

After the Mass this morning, Dad said he had “accepted” Johnny’s death during it. I still can’t, but I haven’t seen all the tragedies Dad has. Both of his parents died too slowly (of Parkinsons’ and cancer/heart trouble) and he took care of them right to the end. He has great faith and is very, very strong at times like this. But for me, who can’t do much, it’s pretty lousy.

We had a family succumb to CO poisoning around the block from me in the Bronx–no cars involved, faulty heating system. The mother and son survived, the father and daughter did not. Terrible.

Thanks again for the condolences. This is the first funeral of somebody who died unexpectedly that I knew well. It’s going to be tough.