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Widower reads a special message in Cameron Park Life

FOREVER LOVE — Shawn Duffy reads the special message he received from late wife Pietra. The widower first read the love line printed in Cameron Park Life just a few hours after Pietra died. Cameron Park Life photo by Shelly Thorene
FOREVER LOVE — Shawn Duffy reads the special message he received from late wife Pietra. The widower first read the love line printed in Cameron Park Life just a few hours after Pietra died. Cameron Park Life photo by Shelly Thorene

FOREVER LOVE — Shawn Duffy reads the special message he received from late wife Pietra. The widower first read the love line printed in Cameron Park Life just a few hours after Pietra died. Cameron Park Life photo by Shelly Thorene

This is a love story, a fervent rapture between Cameron Park wife and mother Alexandra “Pietra” Duffy and her husband Shawn, who received an unexpected Valentine from his wife in last month’s Cameron Park Life.

Despite regular exercise, a good diet and a healthy lifestyle, Pietra was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive lung cancer in December 2009. She drew her last breath on Feb. 2 at age 41, leaving Shawn and two children, Spencer, 11, and Savannah, 9.

Shawn Duffy described his wife’s personality as “magnetic … she touched people … she’s the one who brightens the room when she walks in.”

The family understood her illness was incurable, but her death was nonetheless unexpected. A shaky Shawn Duffy drove home from the hospital, picked up the kids, tried to maintain a brave facade for their sake while trying to grasp a life without his soul mate. He never dreamed he’d get one last message of love, encouragement and gratitude from her.

THE DUFFY FAMILY — Savannah, Alexandra "Pietra,"€ Shawn and Spencer, left to right, enjoyed many happy years together before illness struck. Pietra died in February.

Pietra’s Facebook page is a testament to the bond she engendered with friends and family. In the weeks before her death she also engaged in a little “old school” social networking, placing a “love line” to her husband in the Valentine issue of Cameron Park Life.

On the day Pietra died, Shawn returned home exhausted and got a message from Pietra’s step-sister and close friend Dee Dee Soderstrom, who also lives in Cameron Park. She told him to check his mailbox. He hiked down the family’s steep driveway and found the February issue of Cameron Park Life.

At the top of page three, tucked into an elaborate heart-shaped design, he found the following words:

“I’m so happy we found each other in this crazy world and that we’ve been able to spend the last 23 years building our beautiful family and life together. You are an incredible dad and your unwavering love and support during all we’ve been through this last year has meant so much to me. You are truly my rock and I love you more than words can say. Your forever love, Pietra.”

“I saw that and just broke down,” he recalled, his voice thickening with emotion. “I cried all the way up the driveway.”

Shawn has since used Pietra’s Facebook page to thank everyone who was a part of her life, posting, “We have been scooped up and cradled in your arms and protected from all around us. We were able to be with Pietra and tell her how much we love her and share every moment of our lives together. You were all there to give us hugs, smiles, prayers, love and take the worries out of the hardest parts of everyday stuff for us.”

He thanked his friends for raising money to help pay for the many and varied treatments, some experimental, that Pietra endured through 2010, and for sending the family to the beach between treatments.

Shortly after Pietra was diagnosed, Shawn lost his job as a cook with the county Department of Human Services. “We came to see it as a blessing,” he explained from his home last week. “I got to be with her full time and help with medications and injections.”

Shawn’s parents, Harold and Thelma Duffy, flew in from Washington shortly after Pietra’s death and stayed for three weeks, helping with the children, who are doing well, he said.

How is Shawn going to do on his own with two young children? “I’ve had more offers to help than I can count,” he said. “This entire community has been there for this family though this whole thing, and they’re still there. I’m humbled and awed. We’ll be OK.”

mroberts@villagelife.com

Short URL: http://www.villagelife.com/?p=4674

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Posted by on Feb 24 2011.
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9 Comments for “Widower reads a special message in Cameron Park Life”


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  1. Amazing article Mike. This brought a tear (or two) to my eyes!

  2. Thank you Mike for sharing this story of never ending love. I am Pietra’s best friend of 20 years, through that time Peetie and Shawn fell more and more in love each day. They both taught us all the meaning of “Unconditional Love.” She will be forever missed but never forgotten..

  3. What a sweet last love note for a very sweet man. This is a couple who truly celebrated valentines every day. Always holding hands and smiling while walking up to get the kids from school each day. Pietra was full of love and we will miss her.

  4. Thank you for this article. I LOVE this family & Pietra was an inspiring, loving, & amazing person & the world is a little less bright without her smile to greet us. But she is watching us & encouraging us to move forward & honor her by being better human beings. Thank you, Shawn, Spence, & Savannah for sharing her with us. I love you all.

  5. Dee Dee Soderstrom

    I am so blessed to be a part of this whole love affair. Shawn, Pietra and Kids truly inspired people to strive to be better in many ways. Their love and good grace is infectious. We will all make sure the family will be OK… Their Grace and dignity has will shine on all of us. I hope and pray that everyone reading this, thinks about those little things in life that seem so bad and realize life is so darn unpredictable, So, Love, Respect, Cherish, and be thankful for today because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Thank you Mike for this article and thank you Shawn for having the courage and strength to do the interview. Pietra is so proud of you yesterday, tomorrow and always
    Love Dee Dee

  6. Pietra and Shawn were truly the couple that you envied…not in a negative way, but in a way you wanted to imitate. Their tender, gentle love for each other and their beautiful children was clearly unbreakable.

    Pietra was the kind of person who the light of her spirit shine and she did it in a way that was humble and graceful. She was the kind of person that would light up a room and warm your heart without trying. She was the kind of person that unconsciously gave other people permission to do the same…because her love for life was contagious. Even though she is gone, her light will shine brightly…for eternity.

    Thank you for posting this article. Shawn your strength and courage continues to amaze me. Thank you for sharing this tender moment with the community, as it is a chance for everyone to learn a valuable lesson….When you love someone you should be able to tell them, show them, shout it, write it, post it or publish it without hesitation. There should never be a time in our lives where we are hesitant about loving openly, tenderly and passionately.

  7. Thanks to my dear friend Dee Dee I have been following this families journey. My heart breaks for all of those who have lost such a wonderful person. From what I know Pietra never gave up she was always very positive and I am sure that the strength she had she gained that though all of those that love her so dearly.
    I will keep each and everyone of you in my thoughts and prayers.

  8. Shawn,Spencer, and Savannah,
    It has been the most amazing blessing in my life to get to know your family. I feel so blessed that I’m apart of this small community and i’m one of the lucky ones that have been able to wrap my arms around your family with love and support, and I mean a firm tight hold. I promise you that I will be here for you. Lots of love,
    Rosie Scuderi

  9. Strong loving family

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