When Dolores St. Louis started running the Daffodil Days cancer fund-raiser at Christ the King High School nearly a decade ago, she simply wanted to prevent the tradition initiated by her colleague, Maria Merone, from ending with her retirement.
"I just felt that somebody had to take that position over," said St. Louis, the executive assistant to the school's board of trustees.
One year later, her son Paul died of malignant melanoma.
Ever since she has kept alive the tradition of the annual flower sale, finding solace by advancing the fight against the disease that killed her son.
"It helps me a lot. I feel like my son's death wasn't in vain. Something good will come out of it," said St. Louis, 68, who has lived in Maspeth for the past 50 years. "I wrap myself in this and it makes me feel closer to my son."
During the Daffodil Days, which span about three weeks in late February and March, students and staff at the Middle Village parochial school collect orders for flowers that are delivered to the campus for distribution on March 24.
"We use daffodils as our symbol of hope," said Lisa Andujar, the special events director for the American Cancer Society's Queens region. "We encourage people to purchase daffodils, cut or in a pot, so we can raise money for cancer, for awareness, education, advocacy, patient services and research."
Students have to submit their orders to St. Louis by Friday, and she's hoping to hit a target of $1,000 in sales. Federal Express sponsors the fund-raiser nationwide, providing free delivery and the use of its facilities in Maspeth and Kennedy Airport to package the flower deliveries.
Every year the fund-raiser commemorates the life of a different cancer victim, and this year's honoree is St. Louis's son, Paul.
A graduate of Christ the King, Paul St. Louis died in 1996 at the age of 29 only one week after he began chemotherapy treatments for the malignant melanoma.
"The picture of health," St. Louis said of her 6-foot-4, 295-pound son. "You never would have expected that would happen so suddenly."
As a teenager Paul had apprenticed with a neighborhood glazier, cutting glass and installing it in windows, a craft he continued to pursue until his death. He put up windows for stores in such places as Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island and the Newport Mall in Jersey City.
"He was a person who liked to work with his hands - anything to do with his hands," St. Louis said.
Paul's cancer was diagnosed when he noticed a mole on his back had started bleeding, but doctors thought he was in the clear after removing it in an operation.
Less than a year later they discovered the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes, and the aggressive chemotherapy treatment he undertook to battle the late-stage disease ultimately killed him a week after he started it.
"He was here the day before he died," said St. Louis, remembering that her son had been at the school to work on a window job. "When everybody heard, they couldn't believe it."
Paul had married a fellow Christ the King graduate, whom he left behind along with their 2 1/2-year-old son, Matthew, his older brother Robert, his father and his mother.
"He lived for his son. He didn't make a move without his son," St. Louis said. "He was always very helpful to everybody. He really enjoyed people - he was a people person."
Now she's hoping people will come together in his memory to help others win their battles with cancer.
"Research has to find a cure," she said, "and we'll only find it by trying to raise funds."
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2003 Community News Group
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