Dean DiGilio

Dean DiGilio

Fearless, determined, funny, caring, protective, clever

Dean had an auspicious start to life. He was born on his dad’s birthday and to parents who provided a great childhood for him and his younger brother Thomas. Both kids were diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis as babies. Due in part to this shared experience; the brothers were very close. Not wanting to make them feel like “sick kids” their parents encouraged their involvement in anything that interested them.

The brothers took full advantage of every opportunity, setting up skate parks and ramps in the yard, and going full out on BMX and Tony Hawk type skateboarding. A childhood highlight was getting backstage passes to the X games when they were held in Philly.

Dean’s dad worked nights when they were kids and was with the boys every day after school, playing basketball, helping with homework and taking them out to eat. They also fished on their boat. Dean was into music, mostly alternative, but liked the variety of mixing in gangster rap or county, which he said, “calmed him down.” He was into MMA fighting and was good enough to fight professionally.

Dean went from skateboards and BMX to ATV’s and motorcycles, on which he performed tricks. He wanted to become a motorcycle mechanic and own a shop. About a year after high school, with some sober time under his belt, he went to motorcycle trade school in Florida. Unfortunately, he didn’t finish as he relapsed and came home.

It was in high school Dean’s mother said, “that things started to change.” He began drinking with the same intensity he put into everything he did. Eventually the drinking led to drugs, which complicated his CF. He was also on meds for bipolar disorder. There were several rehabs stays and in 2011, not actively addicted for about six months, Dean had major surgery for his CF. Medication was required to manage the pain and triggered a relapse. Ironically, Dean was credited by four of his friends with being critical to their continued sobriety, even though he couldn’t consistently help himself.

There is much more to Dean’s story than can be told here. Dean was quirky and zany, spontaneous and impulsive. It was the impulsivity and getting off meds for his bipolar disorder that likely ended his life by suicide in a shed at their family home. It is not the expected story of one losing interest or feeling hopeless. Dean was making future plans. He was accepted for a prestigious MMA teacher’s class. He was reapplying to motorcycle maintenance school. He had a beloved new dog, Nala, that he “conned” his parents into allowing. He also had a recent breakup with his girlfriend, relapsed, and was temporarily adrift. The note he left told his parents how much he loved them and valued their support, but also stated how tired he was of fighting his addiction. His mom said: “I feel if we knew and could have gotten him through that night, he would have been able to move forward.”

His mom has had grief counseling and learned a lot about addiction. She now has a different appreciation of life. “I just want to be with the people I love,” she said. With Dean’s “divine guidance,” she has recently become a Certified Family Recovery Specialist ready to help people through chaotic times like she experienced.

The family created the Dean DiGilio Memorial foundation for those struggling with the disease of addiction. And they have planted a beautiful garden in the place where Dean died. His mom said, “We wanted life and love, rather than death, to prevail.”

Dean’s mother, Dorothy DiGilio, provided the information for this narrative.

January 27, 1991-August 10, 2013

Age 22-Lived with addiction 4 years

Share this story from The INTO LIGHT Project

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

More Into Light Stories

Read more biographies from this exhibit.
Devin Hart Bearden

Devin Hart Bearden

Caring, athletic, bright, witty, attractive At 6’2”, Devin was lanky, handsome, and a natural athlete. Equally at home on a skateboard, snowboard, or when surfing, he was a pleasure to watch; so fluid and graceful. He was a good soccer and baseball player and loved hiking in nature or being at the beach, especially on the annual family beach trips to Hatteras in North Carolina. [...]
Read More »
Jillian Marie Angelicola

Jillian Marie Angelicola

Gentle spirit, humble, loving, compassionate Jillian was a kind, empathetic, and loving woman, whose conflicts in life taught her to be selfless in her relationships with others. “Whenever Jillian would go into rehab, she would arrive with suitcases of clothing and whatever else she might need.[...]
Read More »
Raymond A. Bauer

Raymond A. Bauer

My son, the gentle soul Ray was an old soul who gravitated toward children, animals and the elderly. He loved to hear his grandparent’s stories from the past and his mother remembers Ray and his grandpa watching wrestling and the playful banter they had; “No Pop, it IS real blood!!” Ray was very affected by the death of his grandparents when he was just 14. [...]
Read More »
Morgan John Bazik

Morgan John Bazik

He was my world, and I was his Morgan and his mother shared a very significant characteristic; they both had enormous hearts. “He had my heart wrapped in his body,” his mother said. Morgan’s big heart made him gravitate toward people who had difficult home lives or other problems. Most of them ended up at Morgan’s home, where Bonnie welcomed them and provided snacks, dinner and a safe place to relax and be themselves. “It was Morgan’s big heart that brought them to our home and mine that kept them here,” his mom said.[...]
Read More »

Bring an Exhibit to Your State

Interested in bringing The INTO LIGHT Project to your State?
Find out how you can make this happen.