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Faith, fellowship see family through hard times

John and Deborah Delabruere, and sons John Paul and Ryan, were touched by how many people came out to help them at a Knights of Columbus spaghetti supper in Holy Trinity Church in Greenfield Friday. Not pictured is their son Eric, who was at a church retreat to prepare for his confirmation.
Recorder/David Rainville

John and Deborah Delabruere, and sons John Paul and Ryan, were touched by how many people came out to help them at a Knights of Columbus spaghetti supper in Holy Trinity Church in Greenfield Friday. Not pictured is their son Eric, who was at a church retreat to prepare for his confirmation. Recorder/David Rainville

GREENFIELD — “Now that I’m blind, I can see more than I ever did before — spiritually, mentally and physically.”

Although John Delabruere lost his sight last year, he hasn’t lost his positive outlook on life. Times are tough for his family, but their commitment to their faith and each other has helped them persevere.

On Friday, the Delabrueres were the beneficiaries at a Knights of Columbus spaghetti supper.

“I never thought I’d be on the receiving end,” said Delabruere, who has been a Knight for the past 25 years and participated in many of the organization’s charitable efforts.

Delabruere lost an eye in a car accident 44 years ago.

“I’m lucky to be alive,” he said, explaining that the other three people in the car were killed in the crash.

His remaining eye was also damaged, and he was temporarily rendered blind. His mother prayed for him to regain his sight, and that Christmas, his prayers were answered.

“That was the first day I had seen my mother’s face since the accident,” he recalled.

In 2000, Delabruere underwent surgery for a corneal implant. His vision improved, and he was able to function, though still legally blind. He would undergo several more surgeries in the following years.

Last June, he went under the knife for corneal surgery again. Complications arose, and he again found himself completely blind.

Unable to see, he had to close his business, Le Petit Cafe, a small restaurant serving breakfast and lunch on Main Street in Greenfield. Delabruere had run the cafe since 2008.

“For three months, I didn’t do much,” he said. “I had hoped the doctors would be able to do something for me, but they can’t. I’ll be totally blind for the rest of my life.”

His wife, Deborah Delabruere, had to leave her job so she could care for their three sons in their Bernardston home. Their middle child, Ryan, has autism and requires close attention. Unable to find specialized public schooling for Ryan, the family took him out of school and he spends his days at home with his mother.

The bills started to pile up and the family was faced with $3,000 in heating costs this exceptionally cold winter.

In November, John Delabruere went to the Caroll Center for the Blind, in Newton, where he learned to get around without his eyesight and live independently in a 14-week program. He came home, and has since been living in Greenfield, in a house the family has been trying to sell.

Now that he is learning to make due without his eyesight, Delabruere hopes to re-open the cafe this year, provided he can find assistance.

In the meantime, the money raised by the Knights of Columbus will help them pay some of the bills that have been stacking up. Friday night, the organization presented the family with a check for $2,000, and more is on the way, as the donations continue to be tallied.

“It feels wonderful to have so many people come out to support us,” John Delabruere said. “I thought there would be maybe three or four tables of people here.”

The organization sold more than 150 tickets for the spaghetti supper, and received a variety of donated goods for a raffle.

“I’m at a loss for words,” said Deborah Delabruere. “We don’t have any family in the area, but, at the same time, I’ve never felt so supported, so cared for, by so many people.”

If you would like to help the Delabrueres, you may send a check to: Knights of Columbus council 133, c/o of treasurer Jerry Ethier, 18 Shattuck St., Greenfield, MA 01301.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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