By Pete Fontaine
Originally published May 8, 2014, in Beacon Communications/"Johnston Sun Rise." Reprinted with permission.
Michael J. Baccari stood alone looking at a plaque that had been affixed to a wall in his late father's memory. It was obvious he was emotional, especially when he glanced at the many pictures from his father's life.
There were pictures of him fishing, enjoying times with family and friends, a collage of a man people had earlier called an old sage and marvelous medical man.
"My dad was a very modest man," Michael Baccari began, his voice cracking somewhat from the moment's emotions. "He didn't brag and there was always one constant: he never, ever pushed his patients, through."
Which is why everyone at Cherry Hill Manor [in Johnston, Rhode Island] had to overcome the emotions of finally having to say goodbye to Dr. Michael J. Baccari, who was remembered time and again during last Friday's ribbon cutting dedication of a comfort suite named in his memory and honor.
"Dr. Baccari was truly a special man," said Katie Gerber, Cherry Hill's executive director, while welcoming people to last Friday's dedication. "He was the epitome of class and character. He was just a wonderful doctor and human being."
Dr. Baccari, who was born Sept. 29, 1933, passed away on April 17 of this year. For 36 years, he served as Cherry Hill's medical director. More impressively, as Carol Perfetto wrote, "he was a physician to many but a friend to all."
Cherry Hill Manor opened in 1977 with Dr. Baccari as medical director.
"He was truly reminiscent of the traditional family physician," wrote Perfetto, who also created a poem for the late doctor's funeral card. "He was a person who exhibits a warm personality and a gentle and reassuring manner. Along with his overwhelming sense of pride in his profession, he has been a comfort to all who have come in contact with him.
"We at Cherry Hill Manor have been blessed with Dr. Baccari and his gift of dedication, compassion and friendship. In his honor, we dedicate our new palliative care comfort suite to this incredible and unforgotten gentleman. Thank you, Dr. Baccari, for the privilege of working with you."
To which Michael Baccari added, "I remember when it was late at night and my dad would grab his little black bag and head out to visit a patient. I wish I was like my father. No one ever had a bad word to say about him."
Last Friday, family members and Cherry Hill staffers had trouble not talking too long about what the late Dr. Baccari meant to them and how much of an impact he had made on their lives.
"Just sitting and listening to Dr. Baccari was so comforting," said Susan Baccari, who is of no relation but was one of several Cherry Hill staffers who were asked to share her memories of the late doctor. "That was the kind of gentle man he was."
To which Cheika Erwin, an RN at Cherry Hill, said, "He loved his coffee snacks. He was an exception to the rule."
Cathie Baccari Mulcahey, the late Dr. Baccari's daughter who once worked at Cherry Hill, said, "I used to work with my dad as a nurse. I have many good memories of those days. Everyone here loved him."
Lisa Mallozzi, an LPN who formerly worked at Cherry Hill but is now back as the director of marketing and clinical community liaison, added, "My memories of Dr. Baccari are the times we spent talking about his fig trees. He was just a marvelous man."
The late Dr. Baccari's widow, Alberta, performed the ceremonial ribbon cutting. As Gerber later explained, "He knew about our naming the suite, and he talked about possibly coming there."
It was, though, a sad time for Alberta, as it was for his children Michael, Daniel, Brian, Cathie and Robert, his sister Madelin Colantino, brother Vincent, and Jane Baccari, who all took part in the actual ribbon cutting.