The Raymond DiPerna
Melanoma Research Program

Friends and Family Share Their Memories

"Hello, everyone, and thank you very much for coming. This has of course been a very difficult time, but it's made a little easier when family and friends are here to support us and to honor my Dad's memory.

When I sat down to write a few words about my Dad, the first thing that came to mind was this: he loved his family. He loved his wife, he loved his mother, he loved his children, and he loved his sister. He would do anything for us, and he did do everything for us. He lived his life to be with us, and we greatly enjoyed spending time with him.

I couldn't have asked for a better father.

He had a life, of course, before I knew him. He used to talk about planting tomato plants with his father, and playing cards with my grandmother's family. He enjoyed spending time with his cousins and aunts and uncles, and he learned a lot from working in the family's oil business. He even worked for a time in that business alongside Bishop Peter when they were both younger. It gives us great comfort to know that Bishop Peter is performing these services, as Bishop Peter has known my Dad for many years.

When my Dad went to college something happened to him that made his life complete: he met my mother. They met at a dance one night and soon became inseparable. They graduated college, got married, and spent the next 45 years with each other, building a family together. They had such a happy marriage, and made such a strong team. They complemented each other very well.

My mother couldn't have asked for a better husband. And my Dad couldn't have asked for a better wife.

Their marriage started off with tragedy, however, as they lost their first child after just two months due to a heart ailment. It was their strong union that got them through this difficult time. My mom said that this was the first time she witnessed my Dad truly sad. I witnessed him being truly sad when he lost his father. He loved his father very much, and he was very appreciative of all of the things his father taught him.

Aside from times of great loss, in all the years I knew my Dad, he was always upbeat and happy. His presence would lift a room, and would make everyone around him feel good. He had a great sense of humor. Sometimes when one of us told a funny story, he would start laughing uncontrollably and wouldn't be able to stop. This was fine when he was sitting comfortably in a room watching tv. Other times it happened while he was driving, and my mom would quickly try to settle him down so he didn't crash the car.

One time my youngest sister Sam, the 11th child, asked my Dad: "Dad, if you had to do it all over again, would you still have 11 kids?" My Dad looked at her and without missing a beat replied: "Sam, if I had to do it all over again, we wouldn't be having this conversation." He was showing his unique sense of humor, of course. He loved all of his children, and showed that in many ways.

Growing up with my Dad was a great experience. He worked hard during the day to support us, and then spent every night and weekend with us. We would take frequent day trips on the weekends – up to Kittery, Maine; to Nantasket Beach; to Boston; to New Hampshire, to Rhode Island. He even taught us how to ski.

One of the places we loved for him to take us was more local: his mother's house. We would get very excited for a trip to Grandma's. We knew she'd always have food ready for us, ravioli, meatballs, chicken cutlets, spinach pie... and then apple pie and ice cream for dessert. Sometimes my Dad would have one of us make the phone call to Grandma before the visit. His instructions were always the same: "Call Grandma, tell her we're coming over, she'll say yes..." He knew she would never say no. My Dad loved his mother dearly and took time to see her whenever he could.

His mother couldn't have asked for a better son.

I took piano lessons when I was a kid. Every Friday evening after the lesson my Dad would pick me up on his way home from work. We'd stop by at the pizza place in Natick and my Dad would send me in with money to pick up the 4 large pizzas he had ordered for us for dinner. Whenever I went in there, the woman who ran the pizza place would ask, "Where's Father Goose?" I would point out towards the car. She'd then smile and throw in another small pizza, free of charge. When we got to our street my Dad would always pull over and let me sit on his lap and drive. I greatly enjoyed this. A few years later my Dad took me to take my driving test. The instructor sat in the passenger seat and my Dad sat in the back. At some point we came to an intersection and I could see a truck approaching from my right. I waited for the truck, waited, waited... and then I worried that I was beginning to look bad for waiting too long. I hit the gas and darted out in front of the truck, which then had to slam on its brakes to avoid hitting us. The instructor very calmly said: "I... would have waited." He then directed me to pull over, and he had my Dad get into the driver's seat. I had failed the test, and was devastated. Later, I asked my Dad what he thought about the situation at the intersection. He said "I was sitting back there, and I saw the truck approaching, and I saw you looking, and I was saying to myself, Don't go Ray, Don't go Ray – and then you pulled out." Right after the test we were set to drive to Boston to see my sister Lea at BU, and my Dad told me to drive. I said, "Dad, you do realize that only 5 minutes ago I failed my driving test?" He replied, "Yes, I'm aware of that. Don't worry – you'll pass next time." And I did.

My dad would always have a lot of projects around the house or out in the yard that we would help him with on the weekends. He was very handy, and good with tools. When we were younger he bought a lot in Sherborn to build a house on. He cleared the lot himself. He cut down the trees with the chainsaw and chopped them into logs, and stacked the logs into walls, and later used the logs for firewood. In building the house, he did as much work of the work himself as he could. He wired the house, and put in the tile, and painted the walls, and installed the kitchen cabinets and the floors, etc. When it was all done we moved into the house... and then my Dad bought the lot next door and did it all again, and after it was all done we sold the first house he had built and moved next door to the second house he had built.

My dad loved all kinds of projects. One of them was building an above-ground pool for us and preparing it at the beginning of each summer. One year he was cleaning out the pool after the winter. It was filled with green, dirty water and dead leaves and various types of unidentified insects, and a number of us were sitting on the edge watching him. All of a sudden my Dad noticed that little Brett, who had been perched atop the edge last he checked, was now missing. My Dad quickly looked down into the dirty water, spotted Brett flailing about underneath, and instinctively reached down and pulled Brett up to safety. My Dad, always seeing the humor, joked that Brett was the first one in the pool that year.

My dad had a great work ethic. He worked tirelessly to support his family, and he was determined to give his children good educations. He put all 11 of us through school, made sure we got good degrees that we could use, and whenever we needed it he bought us apartments and cars and helped us out financially. He and my mother always worked hard to help us with our schoolwork. My Dad would handle all the math and engineering courses, and my mom would handle the English and science courses. When I was studying electrical engineering, my Dad would often spend hours on the phone with me helping me with my homework and explaining the concepts to me. He even bought copies of the textbooks so he could help me. Without him I wouldn't have gotten through school. He also did the same for my cousin Mike. And then he did the same for a number of my brothers and sisters. By the time he got down to Doug, his fifth electrical engineering protege, my dad joked, "What course do you need help with? Microelectronic circuits? That's no problem. I've taken that course four times already."

When it was all done and he had finished putting us all through school, my Dad ended up with 5 electrical engineers, 3 accountants, 2 computer information systems majors, and 1 communications major. Oh, and 1 lawyer. That's me.

My dad's work ethic was on display both with the work he did for his family and the work he did at Raytheon. I greatly enjoyed last night speaking with his co-workers from Raytheon who had come to pay their respects. I already knew how much my Dad was respected – he was a senior fellow, which is a prestigious title, and he is a named inventor on a number of patents – but i truly appreciated hearing their perspective as colleagues and friends.They told me how much they respected him as an engineer and a problem solver, and also as a division manager. It's telling that despite all of his success as an electrical engineer at Raytheon, my Dad was not satisfied with his electrical engineering degrees. He went back to school while he had 10 kids and got a masters in civil engineering.

About ten years ago, my parents moved to Tucson, Arizona. That was a big change for my parents, who both grew up on the east coast and had spent most of their lives there. But my parents loved it in Tucson. They got acclimated to the culture right away, picking up cowboy music and cowboy hats. My dad used to love for us to visit. One of the places he would often take us was Tombstone. He grew up watching Gunsmoke and still loved the cowboys theme. Later my Dad got back into playing cards, and my brothers and I would play poker with him, or go to the casino with him. He enjoyed bonding with his sons in that way.

In closing, I want to say that my Dad has been a huge influence in our lives. I always looked up to him. It was my goal to never disappoint him. I saw the way he lived his life, how he treated my mother, how he treated us kids, and I wanted to be like him. He loved picking us up at the airport when we visited, or driving us to college, or taking us on trips. When I went off to college he and my mom drove to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to drop me off. When I went off to law school he and my mom drove to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to drop me off. When I got a job in New York, he and my mom drove to New York to drop me off. My dad sacrificed for us. He worked hard for us. He never complained. He was always around us. He taught us. He lived his life for us. He took care of us. One of his lasting legacies is that we are all able to take care of ourselves.

When he got sick last year, he fought as hard as he could, and we helped him as much as he could. My mom was amazing in supporting him and he appreciated that tremendously.

He was taken from us too soon, and that was a bad break. But we were fortunate to spend all of the time with him that we did. We will never forget him, we will always be thankful, we will always be proud of him, and we will always love him. I know he's sitting up in heaven right now with his father, tying down a tomato plant, and saving a lot of seats for us until we get there.

I want to say to my Dad, thank you, and we love you.

The world couldn't have asked for a better man."

"Your father had so much goodness to share. When I picture him now, I can see that humble sweet smile that lead right into his kind soul. What an amazing mentor he had to have been to you all...all those amazing busy house but still you all emerged to be such loving, successful humans. An amazing success story which your father had to have acquired himself to have passed on to you all" - Jeny M.

"If there were an Olympic Sport called "Fatherhood" -- Ray DiPerna would have been the gold-medal winning contender over many decades. He and his amazing to the nth degree wife Annette produced a stunning fleet of first class offspring -- 11 wonderful humans in their own right. Ray and Annette had some mystical/magical family chemistry -- they produced this happy army together. Let's all learn something -- anything -- from their obvious success! Ray Sr. -- you are alive for MANY generations to come. Many kudos!!!!!!" ~Maggie H.

Raymond DiPerna Memorial Card

In honor of Ray's life and in his beloved memory,
The Raymond DiPerna Melanoma Research Program
has been established at ICAN, the International Cancer Advocacy Network

View the Raymond DiPerna Memorial Card [PDF]

To post your own tribute about Raymond here, please email us at and we will post it within 24 hours. Please include your phone number.

The Raymond DiPerna Melanoma Research Program
is a vital part of ICAN's Cancer Patient Advocacy and Clinical Trials Program Advocacy Services.

For more information about this special program, please click on.....


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