The Dignity Memorial® Network Honors Five Individuals Who Gave the Gift of Life Through Organ, Eye and Tissue Donation

HOUSTON, TX. - December 14, 2013

Todd Semon, 60, of Norwood, was very much a self-made man and treasured friendship for all facets of life. After receiving a donor heart on January 2000, Todd campaigned to speak to people waiting for transplants and to raise donor awareness through fundraising via the New York Organ Donor Network. Todd was in the unique position of being an organ recipient as well as tissue donor. His daughter Elizabeth summed up his years post-transplant as “13 bonus innings.” Todd Semon is one of five individuals being honored by the Dignity Memorial® network of funeral, and cemetery service providers for giving the greatest gift of all…the gift of life. In addition to Todd Semon, Angel Nathaniel Chacon of Pomona, Calif., Sean LaPersonerie of Copiague, N.Y., Joshua Thomas Waleryszak of Seattle, and Paul John Young of Las Vegas, will be memorialized with floragraphs—portraits made of floral and natural materials—to be decorated by family and friends in December and featured on the Donate Life float entry in the 125th Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif.

“It is a privilege for us to be able to honor these five individuals who meant so much to their families and friends and who were able to significantly impact the lives of those with the greatest need,” said Phil Jacobs, Sr. Vice President for the Dignity Memorial provider network. “Working in the funeral industry, we believe in the importance of memorializing loved ones, and this is a wonderful opportunity to pay tribute to Todd, Angel, Sean, Joshua and Paul and the gift of life they gave to others.”

Angel Nathaniel Chacon, two months, brought much love to his family. Only two months after he was born, while Angel was in his bouncy chair, he suddenly stopped breathing. Paramedics were able to get his heart beating again, but he had no brain activity. Angel's parents said the decision to donate was easy; the reason his heart started beating again was to help others. Sean LaPersonerie, 24, served in Iraq in the U.S. Army’s Third Infantry Division, yet suffered fatal head injuries as a result of a car accident a year after returning home. After donating Sean's organs, tissue and corneas, his mother, Marie, helped found "Sean's Gift," which offers hand-knit blankets to comfort donor families.

Joshua Thomas Waleryszak, 12, was stricken with a seizure disorder not uncommon in children with developmental disabilities. Despite this disability, Joshua was a friend to all, and his presence always lit up the room. More than 350 people attended his memorial service, many of them Seattle firefighters wearing dress uniforms to honor their colleague, Joshua's mother, and Joshua. As part of his legacy, Joshua donated both kidneys and his liver.

At age 19, Paul John Young became the youngest paramedic in Nevada. He spent the next 36 years saving lives as a fire captain and paramedic and was a registered organ donor. His passion for helping people is his living legacy. Paul was able to save and heal 30 lives via organ, tissue and cornea donations he made at age 55, when he died from complications after neurological surgery.

Each of these five individuals has a life story that is unique, but they all share the same outcome: each was a donor of organs, tissue and/or corneas and made a profound difference in the lives of other people.

For more than 120 years, the Tournament of Roses Parade has been an American tradition. The Dignity Memorial network of funeral, cremation and cemetery service providers is joining Donate Life’s national campaign to celebrate and honor the lifesaving gifts of organ, eye and tissue donation as part of Donate Life’s 2014 Rose Parade Float …Light Up The World. The float will be featured in the 125th annual Tournament of Roses Parade on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif.

Light Up The World features a festival of lanterns illuminating 30 riders – all grateful organ and tissue transplant recipients – and 12 living organ donors walking alongside to demonstrate their ongoing vitality. Five enormous lamps are adorned with 81 memorial floragraph portraits of deceased donors whose legacies of life shine brightly. The riders are seated throughout a dedication garden filled with thousands of roses bearing personal messages of love, hope and remembrance.

The Donate Life float’s riders, walkers and floragraph honorees represent millions of people touched by organ, eye and tissue donation, including donor families, their deceased loved ones, living donors, transplant recipients and transplant candidates. Riders, walkers and floragraph honorees are individually sponsored by Official Partners, such as the Dignity Memorial networks, who support the Donate Life Rose Parade float.

About the Dignity Memorial® Network

The Dignity Memorial network of more than 1,800 funeral, cremation and cemetery service providers is North America’s most trusted resource for funeral and memorialization services. Dignity Memorial providers offer an unmatched combination of products and locations serving families with care, integrity, respect and service excellence. For information, please visit

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