Tireless volunteer 'honored' to serve vets
By Rick Wills
Published: Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Over the past 15 years, Raymond Fern went through treatment for several aggressive types of cancer, but he never stopped volunteering at veterans hospitals.
“He would go and see them the same day he had chemo. He just did not spend time thinking about himself,” said Janet Cercone Scullion, a longtime friend of Fern's and a retired VA nurse.
Raymond M. Fern, a lifelong Bloomfield resident, retired truck driver and Korean War veteran, died Monday Nov. 12, 2012. He was 79.
Over almost six decades, Mr. Fern spent at least 15,000 hours volunteering in Veterans Affairs hospitals in the Pittsburgh region. He did everything from organizing bingo games to going room to room to talk with hospital patients.
“He was a great listener. He was able to understand needs of veterans. He was low-key — not an attention seeker but an attention giver,” Scullion said.
Many residents of veterans hospitals have no family or have relatives who live some distance from them.
“They are the most forgotten people. We have people who have been in VA hospitals for 50 years and are separated from their families. Men like Ray Fern become their family. It gives meaning to their lives. It is a bonding experience,” Scullion said.
Mr. Fern served in the Air Force in Korea in 1953. He met his wife, Patti Donatelli, in 1956 in the Plaza Theater on Liberty Avenue, where she was selling popcorn and candy.
“I just thought he was cute. I was 18 when we got married. Everyone said it would not last. It lasted 56 years,” Patti Fern said.
She said her husband felt he got more of a benefit from volunteering at the VA than the residents did from him being there.
“He said they made him feel so fortunate. He really felt honored that he could meet them,” she said.
In 2006, Mr. Fern became the International Supreme Commander of the United States Military Order of the Cootie, a nonprofit organization devoted to service in veterans hospitals.
Mr. Fern was a member of the Korean War Veterans, the VFW, the American Legion, Merchant Marines, Knights of Equity and Catholic War Veterans. He was a constable in the city from 1995 to 1998.
He served on the board of directors of the Bloomfield Preservation and Heritage Society and served on several committees of the Bloomfield Citizens Council. He was on the board of directors of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum from 1997 to 2006. He served as hospital chairman for Sharing and Caring, Pittsburgh.
In addition to his wife, Patti, Mr. Fern is survived by his daughter, Ilona Fern Grenzig, also of Bloomfield, and by one grandson, Matthew Grenzig.
Family and friends will be received from 2 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Walter J. Zalewski Funeral Home, 216 44th St. in Lawrenceville.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Maria Goretti Parish, 300 Edmond St. in Friendship.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Orpik: Penguins must keep their cool
- Penguins’ Bylsma wants Cup version of Letang
- Pirates trade for Mets first baseman Davis
- York teen suspended for asking Miss America to prom
- ‘We Are FR’ fund going strong
- Latrobe woman texts searchers in Linn Run State Park to tell them she’s OK
- RiverQuest short of money, looks for a partner
- Rossi: Pens sticking to power-play plan
- Cyrus’ rescheduled U.S. tour now includes Pittsburgh stop in August
- Police say Latrobe woman bought gun for boyfriend, who shot neighbor
- Alvarez struggles as Pirates fall short against Brewers