The combined family: back from left, Doug Jerdo, Debbie Jerdo, Linda Buttery, Pam Drollette, Rich Drollette, front from left, Robby Drollette, Lisa Szewczyk, Harold “Junie” Tart, Leslie Cowty and Aliceson Drollette.
Photo by Keith Lobdell.
Willsboro It was a family reunion between people who had never met.
However, around the coffee table at Rich and Pam Drollette’s home Nov. 4, people who were once strangers talked as if they were old friends.
The story of what brought them together is a familiar one in the North Country that centers around family patriarch Harold “Junie” Tart, who had cancer of the liver in 2003.
“At the time, there wasn’t actually an option for me,” Tart said. “Pam contacted doctors and doctors and no one would do anything.”
Eventually, they found a doctor in Chicago who examined Tart in July and said that he would operate, which would require a liver transplant.
On Aug. 12, 2003, Linda Reilly, who lived in the Chicago area, was taking her new motorcycle on its maiden ride. According to her sister, Leslie Cowty, she had purchased the bike the day before.
“I got the call and I didn’t even know that she had a motorcycle,” Cowty said.
The call was informing her that Reilly had been in an accident with her bike.
“They told us it was serious, but they thought it would be okay, that she may have to learn to walk again but was going to recover,” Cowty said. “Then we started getting conflicting reports from the doctors. On Aug. 20, they did the brain scans which showed that she was brain dead.”
“We had to make the decision to take her off life support, and it was probably the toughest two days ever,” sister Lisa Szewczyk said. “She was not letting go, she was being Linda.”
A few weeks prior, Linda had told her family that if something were to happen to her, she wanted her organs to be donated. After her death, doctors were able to use both of her kidneys and her spleen.