Larry Barsanti: Helping a World War II veteran stay in his home

Bay Area residents are familiar with the sign on the South San Francisco hillside. But Vasco (Larry) Barsanti knows it better than most – he was eight in 1929 when the concrete letters proclaiming his town “The Industrial City” went up near his home. “As kids,” he remembers, “we used to walk up the hill and slide down the concrete letters on pieces of cardboard.”

Larry still lives just down the hill from the sign, now with his wife, Florence. The couple met just before Larry deployed to Europe in 1942, and exchanged V-mail throughout the war.

By the time Larry was discharged four years later, the two were married. They settled back in his hometown, where they raised two kids.

Times were tight, and Larry went right to work to support his family. He coordinated trains for the Department of Agriculture, spent many years with the South City post office, and had a janitorial business on the side – because, as he says, “you have to have two jobs to put kids through private school.”

Larry didn’t slow down when he retired. He volunteered for nearly 30 years at Mills hospital, doing just about everything he could there. And he’s a huge movie buff, proud to show off photos of favorite actresses and his huge movie collection.

Articulate, funny, and charming, Larry is fiercely independent, but even he admits that, at 96, he is slowing down.

Larry started receiving Transitions support last summer, when his heart troubles made it harder for him to walk and drive. After shortness of breath recently led his caregiver to take him to the emergency room, he began hospice care.

Florence, 91, has dementia, and was admitted to our Advanced Care Program last summer. As her symptoms grew worse, she transferred to hospice care where her team is a steady presence.

The two of them are well-supported by their Mission Hospice teams, including RNs Mary Clynes and Sandra Stevenson, Social Workers Anthony Lupian and Brooke Rodriguez, Spiritual Counselor Rachel Lopez Rosenberg, Medical Director Gary Pasternak, Home Health Aide Joyce Anthony Uy, and volunteers David Allen and Jill Ivie.

Anthony says that, in addition to end-of-life planning and counseling, the team offers Larry companionship and emotional support. The social workers are also helping the Barsantis find financial resources.

“We’re helping Larry reconnect with the VA,” says Anthony, “so he can get the aid and resources for which he qualifies. Brooke is making calls to help lower his bills. Our goal is to identify resources that will help them keep their home.”

Rachel has been engaging Larry in life review, discussing his memories and the changes he has seen in his long life. They also share a book of daily readings that help Larry, a longtime member of All Souls Church, stay connected to his Catholic faith, even though he no longer attends services.

And each Friday, David drives Larry to the grocery store and the library, where he can check out more old movies.

This team is helping both Larry and Florence get the care they need to stay in their South City home, just below the giant sign. Larry loves having the help, saying “Mission Hospice has been very good to us.”  

Postscript: Before this story went to press, Larry became in need of intensive hospice care, and moved to Mission House, where he received the support he needed for his final days.