Surrounded by his loving family, former Aston Township First Ward Commissioner V. Michael Fulginiti lost his courageous battle with ALS in the early morning hours of Oct. 14.
“As a commissioner, Mike was very concerned with the needs of his constituents and as a member of the business community, he was always supportive of the township,” said Board of Commissioners President Jim Stigale. “We are all very sad at the news of his passing and sorry that, due to his illness, it was necessary for him to retire from the board. He was a great asset to this board and to the entire community. We extend our deepest sympathy to Andrea, Mike’s children, grandchildren, and to his extended family.”
Fulginiti was appointed in 2007 to fill the unexpired term of deceased Commissioner Bill Jones. He was subsequently elected and re-elected by his constituents.
Fulginiti was the picture of health until he woke up one morning in August 2013 and noticed his speech was slurred. At the time, he thought it would simply “go away,” but unfortunately it did not. And as the weeks progressed, the problem became worse.
After a long, tedious year of doctors’ appointments and intense testing, Fulginiti, finally received an answer.
In the summer of 2014, he was diagnosed with bulbar onset Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The illness was brought to national attention by Gehrig, a professional baseball player in the 1930s, who bravely fought and eventually died from the disease.
Most commonly striking people between ages 40 and 70, ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost.
At any given time, there are 30,000 Americans suffering with ALS. It is incurable and usually fatal within two to five years.
Fulginiti and his family decided to fight the disease head on, and with help from friends, participated in the highly successful Ice Bucket Challenge. He also joined other ALS patients in Washington, DC for rallies and petition drives hoping for “The Right to Try” alternative treatments.
Fulginiti and his wife, Andrea, also began searching for clinical trials across the country. They visited the Mayo Clinic, Emory University Medical Center, and the Carrick Brain Center.
His family formed the Family Strong 4 ALS Foundation and in June, the foundation held a fundraiser which raised tens of thousands of dollars for the National ALS Foundation.
Fulginiti eventually lost his ability to speak and eat naturally and in Jan. 2016, officially resigned from the Aston Board of Commissioners.
At the time, Fulginiti was presented a plaque and many compliments about his dedication to the community.
In the hours following his death, social media was full of condolences and praise for a man who showed great strength and humility in the face of great adversity.
“Mike was a blessing to our community and a great commissioner,” said longtime resident Carol Cannon. “He often went out in snow storms and helped residents remove snow from their driveways. He was also a huge supporter of the Aston Historical Society and believed it was very important to preserve our history for future generations. Mike was a good, community-oriented man, and God certainly has a wonderful advocate for heaven in Mike.”
Resident Grayce Turnbach expressed her feelings in an online post:
“Mr. Fulginiti was a man, above all else, of faith and family. He was a loyal friend and a man who always did the right thing because doing anything other than that wasn’t HIM. Never have I ever met a person who was as kind and sincere as him. I am blessed to have known him, his beautiful family, and to be a part of Family Strong 4 ALS this past year. It is with a heavy heart that I say this but, may you rest in peace, my friend. You fought long and hard. You will be forever missed. Xo.”
And these words from Will Holt: “Prayers to Andrea, Kerri, Michael, Amber and the rest of the Fulginiti family. I can’t say that Mr. Fulginiti lost his battle to ALS or anything along those lines. What he and his family did was far from losing. Instead, they won by raising awareness for ALS and they won by showing us what family is all about and how to be there for each other. I did not see or spend much time with Mr. Fulginiti as I got older and I regret that. Despite that fact I can say without a doubt in my heart that he was a great man that was loved and will be missed by all.”
At the end of his retirement ceremony in January, Fulginiti, using a special speaking device, thanked the community and promised to remain strong in his resolve.
“It is with great appreciation I would like to thank the community for their thoughts and cards that have lifted my spirits as I continue to battle this horrible disease. I will not give up hope or stop fighting.”
And he kept his word! Rest in Peace, Mike. You were loved and respected by many and will be greatly missed.
His funeral service will take place at 11 A.M., Saturday, Oct. 22 at Mt. Hope United Methodist Church, 4020 Concord Rd., Aston.
Visitation after 5 P.M., Friday, Oct. 21 at the Minshall Shropshire-Bleyler Funeral Home, Ltd., Middletown (Rte. #352) and Knowlton rds., Middletown Twp., Media, and from 9:30-10:45 a.m., Saturday at Mt. Hope Church.
Interment will be private.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to: Family Strong 4 ALS, 115 Drayton Rd. Aston, PA 19014.