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Isabel is usually a happy bovine,
frolicking through pastures, and cavorting with her friends, and she is
THRILLED with the outcome of her book, Big T.’s Heart’s
However, the subject matter is the bummer. As many of Isabel’s loyal
followers already know, Kenneth Anthony “Tony” D’Ortona
died on Father’s Day, June 15, 2008. The only child (born 1974)
of Isabel’s creator Valerie, his loss, though kick-in-the-gut-wrenching,
eventually evolved into her grief journey of writing and painting.
With the support of sister painters, gentle friends, sympathetic college
students whom she’d taught, and the skilled art layout of Kelly
Barber, Big T.’s Heart’s in Me! was launched.
Tony had already registered to be an organ donor, so upon his death, Valerie
and Tony’s father, Kenneth, honored Tony’s wishes. Consequently,
his heart, kidneys, liver, and corneas were transplanted into five desperately
ill, lucky people.
Valerie painted Tony’s story in the whimsical style of Isabel’s
World. “Big T.” (a large bull painted on a barn) served as
the main character although he never uttered a “Moo.” The
book explains through Toby (a younger, formerly ill bull) how Big T. ventured
off to Wyoming to cook in a resort.
Tony loved preparing food, trained in culinary arts, designed and made
knives specific to his craft, and earned a university degree in business
administration with a focus on restaurant management.
Back to Big T.’s Heart’s in Me!: After only six weeks
at Jackson Hole, Tony and a friend of two weeks were returning to work
from Salt Lake City. She fell asleep at the wheel; the truck hit the guardrail;
Tony was thrown from the tumbling vehicle. Thirty-six hours later, declared
brain dead, he was being prepared for donor harvesting. In Big T.’s
Heart’s in Me! book, as Toby explains to the frog, cat, and
pig, a previously ill Toby ends up the recipient of Big T.’s heart.
An educator, Valerie designed the book to serve as a learning tool for
children (of all ages). She illustrates organ placement in Big T.’s
body, provides a glossary to define terms, encourages people to fasten
their seat belts, and urges readers to register to be organ donors.
Click on “Rave Review” to read organ recipient Jim Gleason’s
generous book review.