Jeff Pearlman

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Danielle Thurston, and what matters

In the minutes before I wrote this, two things happened:

A. I watched Whitney Houston’s funeral.

B. I learned of the death of Danielle Thurston.

Houston’s funeral is being broadcast everywhere. News channels, entertainment channels, the Internet. Predictably, it’s a Who’s Who of famous people, from Clive Davis and TD Jakes to Stevie Wonder and Kevin Costner. The church is packed, the outfits are expensive, the message is that God has a plan for Whitney, and that—as we speak—she’s with him, singing atop a cloud.

Danielle Thurston and I attended Mahopac High School together (Her last name was Ramundo). We were both born in 1972, both survivors of the mean streets. Danielle went on to Westchester Community College, then worked as an estimator at State Farm. In recent years she lived in Clinton Corners, N.Y. with her husband John, and their two sons. Her life ended after a three-year battle with cancer.

I wasn’t close with Danielle, but I do know this. She didn’t sing as well as Whitney Houston. Probably didn’t dance as well, either. She couldn’t hit a baseball as hard as Gary Carter once did; didn’t develop the iPod, a la Steve Jobs. She lacked Etta James’ resume. Her life, however, was no less valuable or noteworthy or momentus. We, as a culture, gravitate toward fame, and bolster it with undeserved meaning and importance. We tend to forget that, come day’s end, it is a flawed measure; that it’s the so-called “little people”—we of the anonymous sect who make small differences (without drawing attention to ourselves) in our families and our communities—who allow the world continue to spin. By all accounts, Danielle was a magnificent mother and wife; a friend you’d want to have; a person of character and compassion. I would take those qualities over a No. 1 album or Gold Glove any day of the week.

One of Danielle’s friends, Angela Amato, wrote something on her Facebook wall that, I believe, speaks volumes: “My mom said it best in her post; to Danielle cancer was not a death sentence, for her it was a life sentence—she didn’t let the cancer control her, she remained in control the entire time. In the three years since her diagnosis she has beaten odds; created memories with her children; showed all of us the real meaning of courage and fight; she inspired people who never met her and gave a whole new meaning to the word strong. A good friend told me God would not let us suffer more than we can handle. Danielle was tougher than nails and to me she didn’t lose her battle with cancer—God simply wouldn’t let her suffer her any longer. She won and for that I am very proud of her.”

 

  • Christine Marchesano

    Rest in peace Danielle. I graduated with Danielle and even though we were not close friends, I know Danielle left her mark and she lives on through her children. My sincerest condolences and prayers go out to her family, children and close friends who know her. Rest in Peace.

  • Steve

    I think your point of the world gravitating to fame is spot on. Please don’t give me yet another day when headlines all revolve around Whitney Houston…yep, it happened, quite a few days ago, yet every single day, more.

  • Kelly (Davis) Franzese

    I have not seen Danielle in a number of years, but I lived with her back in the early 90’s. She was a women with unbelievable drive and spunk, she didn’t take garbage from anyone. I know that she fought this fight as hard as anyone could. I am very saddened by her passing and I hope that in the end people learn from the wonderful things she did in her life. Whitney Houston has nothing on Danielle, Danielle taught how to live when it was hard, Whitney taught us that she didn’t have half the strength that Danielle did. No comparison!
    RIP Danielle!!!!!

  • Gina Girolamo

    Jeff, well said as usual. I remember Danielle. What a loss, a tragedy really. Thank you for posting this. Anyone know of a fund set up for her family?

  • Tracey paradise-bowser

    Very well said. She was a beautiful person. I am glad to say she touched my life… I pray for her children to have strength and prosper…. Hard to wrap my head around the fact that just 3 weeks ago she wanted to drive an hour to come support me at my biopsy…. And now she is gone….Such a beautiful heart…. She was and always will be the sweetest of Angels…. You are gone from the flesh but your incredible spirit is still here with us…. Thank you for your gift of inspiration and strength… I know you are at peace and out of pain and I promise you I will fight as hard as you did because you did….. Xoxo

  • Tim Brown

    Danielle was married to my cousin Johnny. I don’t know if we were very close, but I sure thought we were. My heart is breaking for Johnny, but I truly believe that she is at peace and in a much better place than we can imagine…

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life