Danny had an aneurysm and triple bypass operation in 1993. He had been shopping in the mall on a Saturday with Della. She had gone into a store and he didn't feel well and sat down on a bench in the atrium. There were lots of people walking about, but one elderly woman came up to Danny and said that he didn't look well; she told him that he had an aneurysm and better go see a doctor right away or he wouldn't survive. Then she walked away. Danny was surprised and speechless. Later at home he and Della talked about this woman and how strange it was. He decided to see his G. P. the following Monday.
When he asked his doctor to check for this and told him about the woman in the mall, his doctor laughed at him. Danny had to insist that the doctor check him. After feeling around his lower abdomen and groin the doctor got very concerned and sent him straight to the Austin Heart Hospital. He had an aneurism the size of a grapefruit. The doctors didn't want to operate as Danny was almost 69 and had suffered three heart attacks. He insisted that they operate. The aneurysm repair was successful, but his heart temporarily quit on the operating table when they were finishing. The doctors revived him and he fully recovered. Danny insisted that the old woman in the mall was an angel.
Della started complaining of lots of physical problems around 1994, right after she turned 70 and retired from the University of Texas Physics Dept. She had lots of tests run and increasingly believed that she had something very seriously wrong with her health. With hindsight it is easy to see now. At the time, some thought that she was a bit of a hypochondriac.
Della increasingly complained of having trouble breathing. It became very noticeable by 1999. Finally, in the fall of 2002, one of her hands began curling up. Around Christmas that year she was diagnosed with ALS -- Lou Gehrig's disease, a terminal and untreatable condition. She began to deteriorate rapidly and by the late spring of 2003 was wheelchair-bound. Danny had to really work hard to take care of her. He was very tender. Della wanted to live long enough for her 60th wedding anniversary. Danny and Della had a luncheon celebration on July 24, 2003 at the Green Pastures Restaurant in Austin with all their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren present. She got very weak in the next few months and died on November 8, 2003 at Hospice Austin. Danny was lost for a while.
Danny couldn't be persuaded to move into town after Della's death. He continued to live in his house in southwest Travis county on his acre-and-a- third lot with just his dog Rocky. His son Daniel went to visit him often, as did his grandson, David Traverso. All his daughters lived far away--Toni near Houston, Texas, Rose Mary in Milan, Italy and Carole in West Palm Beach, Florida.
During his time alone, Danny’s connection with his cousin L.B Traverso became very important to him. There had been Traverso family reunions near Baytown, Texas on and off through the 1950s. Usually only Danny’s father, Dan, Sr., and his Sister, Rose went. Danny took his son up to visit relatives a couple of times in the early 1960s,but after that for some years he didn’t see much of his cousins there. Danny reconnected with his cousin L. B. Traverso and L. B.’s sister Estelle at his aunt Rose Traverso Nelson’s funeral in 2001. Danny and his daughter, Toni, spent a weekend with L. B. and his wife and Estelle Weston at Don Faust’s ranch in the Texas Hill Country in 2004. Danny and L. B. began talking on the phone regularly especially after Della died. They talked a few times a week.
When hurricane Rita threatened the Galveston/Houston area in September 2005, L. B., his wife and other relatives from Baytown had come to weather the storm in Austin. Jerry Lyons, L. B.’s nephew, L. B. and Daniel III went out and visited Danny at his home in the country. Danny thought the world of L. B. Traverso. He said that L. B., like all the Traverso side of his family, were “just the quietest and nicest people in the world”. One of the last conversations Danny had with his son was about Danny’s concern for L. B, who he had been having some medical tests and wasn’t feeling well.
In 2005 Danny had another heart attack and EMS managed to get him into town and to the hospital just in time. He underwent quadruple bypass surgery and recovered. Afterwards he went back to his home in the county but was dependent on family and neighbors, which was hard for him because he’d always been so independent. He lost his mobility then because he no longer had confidence in driving. He gave his pickup truck to a young guy from church who was down on his luck and needed a vehicle to get to work and sold his almost brand new car to his daughter, Toni.
In March 2007 Danny had a stroke. After two months of hospital and rehabilitation he could get about with a walker but wasn't capable of returning to his home. He moved into a nursing home in Austin and for five months was very positive and popular with staff and residents at the nursing home. He enjoyed joking with the women staff and nurses and became very proprietary and helpful to some residents who were in worse physical shape than he was.
All his daughters came to visit him during his stay at the nursing home. He loved his girls. He would light up when he had seen them or if one had called on the phone.
Besides pictures of his family, his favorite wall decoration in his nursing home room was the certificate appointing him an Admiral of the Texas Navy, signed by Texas Governor Rick Perry on April 15, 2002. The Texas Navy is a service group that supports the upkeep of the Battleship Texas at the San Jacinto Battleground State Park where Sam Houston and his Texicans defeated Santa Anna and a larger Mexican Army in 1836. Edwin Moore had been the Admiral of the Texas Navy when Texas was an independent country. The appointment was in recognition of Danny's service on the SS Edwin W. Moore on her maiden voyage. And through him the organization got information and a photo of the liberty ship named in honor of Admiral Moore. Danny was both amused and proud of his appointment
Danny had always been an actively practicing Catholic. He and Della were very involved at their church, St. Catherine of Sienna. Danny volunteered regularly in the church’s around-the-clock “perpetual adoration ministry”, where he would go to the church’s chapel and sit silently and alone with the exposed communion host for an hour at a time. (The host could only be exposed when it was attended by volunteers like Danny.) He gave money to the church and a host of other Catholic charities on a monthly basis, in an amount that surprised his son when he discovered it after Danny’s death, given Danny’s fixed income from Social Security and a small survivor’s portion of Della’s university pension.
After Danny’s stroke, he wanted to take communion regularly, and he really wanted to see some familiar faces he knew from his church. His son and one of his daughters called the church office several times. They left messages for the priest and talked with the church secretary and the woman who was the community service director. But nobody from St. Catherine of Sienna ever came to see him. He was surprised and very disappointed.
During that time Robert Billingslea, an evangelical minister and friend of Danny’s son-in-law Gordon “Robby” Roberts-- himself a Protestant minister-- became a regular visitor and friend to Danny. Robby, Rose’s husband, had asked his friend to look in on Danny after Della died. The last couple of years of Danny’s life, Robert Billingslea regularly dropped by for coffee or to visit. He came to see Danny regularly later at the nursing home.
Danny was disappointed and bitter about the Catholic Church at the end and insisted he didn’t want a Catholic service. Instead, he wanted his friend, the Reverend Billingslea, to officiate at his funeral.
Danny developed pneumonia in mid-October, 2007 and died in St. David's Northwest Hospital, Austin, Texas on October 26, 2007.
At the viewing and graveside, Rev. Billingslea was wonderful in conducting the ceremonies and very moving in his remarks. After all the years Danny spent in Catholic churches and all the lay activity and money he gave the church, surprisingly in the end it was a Protestant cleric who was there for him with loving Christian charity and friendship -- and as far as known Danny never gave him any money or attended one of his services.
Ten days before his death Danny was feeling very fit and even speculated that he might live to be ninety. While having coffee with his son he said, "I have had a good life..." and paused to take a sip of coffee and then added, "... it's still good."