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Chester County Press

Editorial: ‘I can do all things’

05/30/2023 04:02PM ● By Richard Gaw

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Phillipians 4:13, contained on a plaque that rests on a shelf in Room 315 at the Pocopson Home

For Barry Fragale, a temporary resident in Room 315 at the Pocopson Home in West Chester, the people of Kennett Square where he has lived and worked his entire life have rung in his ears like a beckoning call since the day he suffered a spinal cord injury in Bethany Beach on Aug. 14, 2022. He cannot get rid of them and he doesn’t want to, because over the course of the last ten months they – along with his wife, Monica, their daughters and his immediate family – have wrapped him in a constant cocoon of love and warmth and humor, first at the Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia and now at Pocopson.

They keep coming to see him in order that they touch his hands that no longer work and gently embrace the legs that can no longer walk. They bring him gifts and share the stories from back home just a few miles from his room. The nightmare of the wave that tore at him and changed his life has long been lifted from their memory; they know that Barry Fragale now lives well beyond the mere mechanics of a body that confines him to a wheelchair. They know that the essence of Barry Fragale has always been his mind and his heart and his humor amplified through his voice, and they know that the sometimes unrelenting ugliness of fate will never take all of that away from Barry Fragale.

A Chester County Press reporter recently joined Barry Fragale’s on-going calliope of visitation rights for a profile that will soon appear in the upcoming edition of Kennett Square Life, and as he left his vehicle in the Pocopson parking lot, the reporter believed that it would be wholly permissible to find a man who had every right in the world to think of himself as a cruel victim of circumstance.

Then he saw Barry Fragale’s crooked smile, beaming – the one that thousands of people in Kennett Square and beyond have gotten to know at the Fragale Brothers Barber Shop on South Union Street for decades. Within minutes, the reporter’s preconceived trepidation about interviewing a man who had seemingly lost hope in life suddenly vanished, and he became enveloped by hope. He should not have been led to believe such folly; after all, here was a man who when it was announced that he had suffered a devastating injury, saw nearly 1,000 of his friends, family and community members donate $131,000 to a Go Fund Me account that has helped defray the family’s medical costs that are not insurable.

In his hospital bed, Barry Fragale connected the vast network of families in Kennett Square. He was proud to report that he had been cutting the hair of his fourth generation of families. He recalled his childhood growing up on Cope Street. He spoke about his friends who come by to see him every week. He shared the open book of how it was Monica and his girls Mia and Emelie and his brother and the big and extended Fragale family who saw him through his darkest moments.

It is through a force of will that somehow permits flowers to emerge slowly from concrete pavements, poetry that arises from tragedy and hope from the wreck of a human body. From his hospital bed, Barry Fragale did not speak as a man who has lost everything, but rather, as someone who sees thousands of new dawns ahead.

He is scheduled to return to his home in the borough sometime this summer, and while the home will be retrofitted to fit his new needs and his medical condition will not return him to the life he once led, the surviving and singular beauty in this storm is that Barry Fragale will still be with us.