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Man Who Went into Coma Before Papal Visit Dies

December 9, 1985

PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) _ A man who lapsed into a coma awaiting an audience with the pope died Monday as authorities worked to arrange an air ambulance flight to bring him home for Christmas.

John Pelliccia, 67, of Marysville was stricken Nov. 4, the day before he and his wife, Esther, were to see Pope John Paul II in a group audience.

The retired autoworker never regained consciousness. He had been staying in a hospital in Pisa because his family lacked the $50,000 it would have cost to send him home by air ambulance.

″The good lord Jesus just resolved the whole thing,″ said Pelliccia’s son, John Jr. of St. Clair Shores in suburban Detroit. ″We’re happy for Dad that he’s relieved of all the suffering he’s gone through.″

Since their plight was reported last month, the family received donations totaling $4,200. St. Christopher’s Catholic Church in Marysville collected about $1,600 more.

Martha Wylie of the state Travelers Aid Society said an anonymous donor recently agreed to pick up the rest of the transportation cost, and the State Department had tentatively arranged for a flight this week.

″We are so grateful for all the help and support we’ve been shown,″the younger Pelliccia said.

″It’s a sorrowful situation, but it doesn’t entirely catch us by surprise,″ the Rev. Joseph Gagnon, pastor of St. Christopher’s, said Monday. ″We knew the man was critically ill.″

Gagnon said parishioners would not ask the family to refund donations.

″I’m sure they’ve incurred costs in Italy and with the air transportation,″ he said. ″The tragedy pulled parishioners together, and I think the family really appreciated it. That sense of community support is a real accomplishment.″

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