Submitted by his nephew
Victor DeLellis was a Town of Waukesha‚ Wisconsin firefighter. For me‚ first and foremost‚ he was my Uncle ‘Buster.’ To family he was Buster; to the rest of the world‚ he was Vic.
Buster was one my mother Grace’s younger brothers. Grace was the only girl‚ and the second oldest‚ of the five DeLellis siblings. My earliest memories of my Uncle were when he and my Aunt Eileen lived in the second floor of my grandmother’s house. My family lived in a small house right next door. I can remember how excited I was when Buster and Eileen had their first daughter Joanne. I was all of 10 at the time and took great pleasure in being the ‘big’ cousin.
Christmas’ at my grandmother’s house always involved the entire DeLellis family‚ including all my cousins. At one of these annual events‚ a ‘marriage bet’ was made between Buster and my older brother Dave. The bet‚ made after several ‘beverages‚’ was that my brother would get married by the time he turned 25. When 25 rolled around‚ my brother wasn’t married and Dave won the bet-all of $20‚ if I recall.
On the day Buster was seriously injured in the line of duty‚ he was on vacation from his maintenance job at Carroll College. He was driving a tanker responding to a call. While crossing a highway intersection on red‚ an automobile broadsided his truck and he was thrown from the truck. In 1979‚ fire service rules regarding emergency vehicles approaching intersections and drivers wearing seatbelts were much more lax than they are today.
Buster sustained a severe spinal injury that resulted in him being a quadriplegic. He remained confined to a wheelchair until he died in 1994. Despite his injuries‚ Buster’s mind remained sharp and he retained his good-natured sense of humor. Eventually the burden of caring for him at home became too great and he was transferred to a nursing home.
Nursing home life opened another chapter for Buster. He was much younger than most of his fellow residents. He became an author. He wrote an article for ‘The Lutheran’ magazine about what it was like to live in a nursing home. He encouraged the reader to remember nursing home residents and how they need visitors. He also dictated his World War II Army experiences fighting in some of the bloodiest conflicts of the Italian campaign.
As an insurance industry loss prevention professional‚ I feel I’m helping to keep my uncle’s memory alive. My job‚ like his‚ is to protect people and property. My uncle’s legacy also lives on in my oldest son Scott. His middle name is Victor!