Making ‘The List’: Warwick man who died after battling COVID-19 gets final wish

Street Stories

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — For the past two decades, the Fassel family has gone all out for Halloween.

Come October, the yard of their Sprague Avenue home is covered from top to bottom with all different kinds of creepy décor.

Anna Fassel-Flanary said when it comes to planning and creating the displays, it’s a family affair.

“We’re family-oriented, so everything is about the family,” she said. “Family times and family traditions.”

But their display has a whole new meaning this year.

Fassel-Flanary’s brother, Michael Fassel, was rushed to the hospital earlier this year after testing positive for COVID-19. He spent two months on a ventilator before succumbing to the virus on Oct. 1.

“He fought for 77 days, from the minute he entered Kent Hospital to when he was transferred to Rhode Island Hospital,” Fassel-Flanary said. “He fought the whole way until the end.”

She said watching her 38-year-old brother wither away was absolutely heartbreaking.

“I watched somebody go from 250 pounds, because he was at his heaviest weight, down to the bone,” she said. “It was extremely difficult to watch him struggling to do certain things. It was difficult to watch him struggling to breathe.”

Fassel-Flanary said one of her brother’s goals was to make 12 News reporter Kim Kalunian’s annual list of Halloween displays.

“My brother wanted to be on the list of houses to come see … for Halloween and Christmas,” Fassel-Flanary said. “He’s been trying for years. I know at Christmas, he loved to decorate the house for Christmas. He would love when the cars would come by.”

His wish was granted just days before he passed away.

“Somebody reached out to me this year to put it on, and I know he was in the hospital at the time, and I know he heard me that he actually made it to the site,” Fassel-Flanary said. “So to me, it means a great deal that he actually got his wish.”

Michael’s father, Dana Fassel, said showcasing his son’s creativity will help ease their pain.

“It took all this time to get on the list and the year he actually made the list, he doesn’t have the acknowledgement of that,” Dana said. “But he sees it from up there and I’m sure he is looking down on us and saying, ‘good job guys.'”

Once Halloween is over, Fassel-Flanary said they plan to put all of their Halloween decorations away and immediately begin planning their Christmas display.

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