Darien woman lost her husband and son to COVID-19: ‘God took the wrong person’

DARIEN — Two years after the pandemic upended her life, Rose DeVito sat at the table in her kitchen — the same kitchen she spent years cooking the Sunday family dinners her husband Anthony loved.

And the table is where she and her youngest son John “Jack” DeVito would “talk politics,” usually in agreement with each other on the issues of the day.

Both Jack and Anthony DeVito died in the span of just weeks in April and May 2020. They were among the state’s earliest COVID-19 casualties.

For 91-year-old Rose, a longtime Darien resident who grew up in Stamford, life has irrevocably altered.

“It’s been a lot. A lot,” Rose said. “I’ll tell you one thing, I will never be the same person again.”

Rose connected with Anthony in 1950 when he wrote her a letter of introduction — which she still has tucked away — after meeting briefly through a mutual friend.

Anthony had graduated from Stamford High School in 1945 before attending Pace University and obtaining a degree in accounting.

“When my mother gave me the letter, I laughed,” Rose recalled. “I said ‘This is stupid.’ But he had no other way of meeting me. And we started to go out.”

Anthony was a veteran of the Korean War and after he was discharged in 1952, he returned to Darien. Later becoming a CPA, he opened his own accounting firm with partner Canio LoRusso in Stamford.

The couple moved in with Anthony’s parents after they were married and raised four children in the family home, Rose said.

Jack was her youngest son, Rose said. The DeVitos are known to have long lifespans, making it even more of a shock when Jack succumbed to the virus on April 7.

At 60 years old, he “had everything going for him,” Rose said. Jack had just started Rodowita z Roztocza, a natural mineral water company based in Warsaw, Poland.

He also had three beloved children and a longtime companion, Rose said.

“He was friendly. He was funny. He loved people,” Rose said. “He knew how to talk to people. He had you laughing all the time with totally silly jokes.”

A charmer with an easy laugh, Jack had graduated from Darien High School in 1977. Like his father, he graduated with a degree in accounting — his was from Iona College in New Rochelle — and started working first as an accountant and later a CPA.

“He had everything to live for, this kid,” Rose said. “He had everything going for him. And then God took him.”

The family surmises that Jack caught the virus in March after visiting his girlfriend in the hospital while she recovered from surgery. He came down with what seemed like a bad cold, Rose said, but initially brushed it off.

With limited testing available in the early days of the pandemic, Jack could not get into a testing site to confirm suspicions that he had COVID-19. He tried, Rose said, but his symptoms and age did not meet the qualifications at the time.

Jack’s health quickly deteriorated and he died at his New Canaan home on April 7, 2020. He had no pre-existing conditions, according to his family.

Jack’s daughter called Rose to break the news. It was a shock she will never recover from, Rose said.

“You bring a child into the world and then you see them go,” Rose said. “I should have been the one to go, not him. That’s the way I look at it. God took the wrong person.”

The family never told Anthony, who had dementia, that his son had died.

Anthony had recently undergone a series of medical complications, including pneumonia. When he contracted the virus, then developed aspiration after choking on some food, it proved too much for the 92-year-old, Rose said. He died from COVID-19 related complications on May 6, 2020.

He was a generous man who loved his grandchildren and his large family, Rose said. Their decades-long home is filled with photos of children and relatives across generations and continents.

“He was a good guy, gave me everything,” Rose said.

Father and son resemble each other, Rose said, pointing to their smiling faces in miniature photos. She keeps those photos on the kitchen table, where she can always see them.

“They’re with me all the time,” she said.