A Danbury nursing home that was suing Russo over a $100,000 bill he accrued while staying there against his will has apparently joined his growing circle of admirers, who have celebrated his enduring spirit by throwing backyard ceremonies and donating $125,000 in home improvements.
The agreement has yet to be finalized in state Superior Court in Danbury.
Russo has always said the 17 months he spent in the nursing home, committed against his will by a court-appointed conservator, is an injustice that he could not forget. That’s why, when the nursing home offered to settle the bill for $10,000 in November, Russo responded the nursing home should pay him that amount instead.
On Tuesday, a cheerful Russo said he agreed to drop his grievance against the nursing home out of affection for his two greatest advocates — a Danbury contractor named Joe Schirmer and a former Marine from Bethel named Dan Gaita, who have chauffeured him to court dates.
“I think they are both wonderful people, and I wanted to relieve them of the burden of having to load me in and out of the car,” said Russo, “My grievances have in no way been addressed, but I wanted to bring an end to it for them.”
Russo’s gracious spirit is part of what has endeared him to scores of well-wishers, who have helped return him to the home he built in the woods just north of Putnam Lake, N.Y.
A bachelor who has been independent his whole life, Russo lost his freedom when he fell at his home in 2013 and a social worker saw the bad condition of his roof.
A court-appointed conservator named Mark Broadmeyer was supposed to manage Russo’s health and repair his home for his return. Instead, Broadmeyer sold Russo’s possessions, spent his life savings and illegally rented his home to another family.
It took Gaita’s zeal to galvanize enough support to free Russo and pursue justice. As part of that process, Housatonic Probate Court in New Milford ordered Broadmeyer to repay Russo $34,000 — money that has not been returned.
Russo’s refurbished home has been the scene of several high-profile community celebrations, including a Veterans Day ceremony in November that featured speeches, proclamations and citations in his honor.
“I lost a year and a half of my life and each day was torture, but I’m feeling great,” Russo said Tuesday from his home. “The work they did on my house I couldn’t have done in five years, and that helps me keep my mind off of things as well.”
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Another victory in sight for New Fairfield’s 97-year-old World War II vet