Andrew "Andy" Isola, from Port Matilda in Centre County, died from complications with COVID-19 on Oct. 27. He was 77. WPSU's Anne Danahy spoke with his son, Jim Isola, about what his father was like and why he tells everyone to be safe.
Anne Danahy: Jim Isola, thank you so much for talking with us. And I'm so sorry for your loss.
Jim Isola: Oh, no, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
Anne Danahy: Can you tell us a little bit about your father, Andrew, Andy, Isola What was he like?
Jim Isola: Oh, he was a great man. And he's just a really good guy. And you know what I found out more and more about him as people were sending in cards to, to my family and in the relationships they had with him over the years. And so he never had that one really close friend, like best friend. But what I'm finding out is that he had dozens of very good friends that he would share himself and you know, golf with or visit with, you know, up and down the East Coast. So he just was really good guy.
He started off growing up in Queens, New York. And he didn't come from a family, you know, wanting to go to college. And so he joined the military and got very involved with a group called Classic Wizard, which is basically on the spy side of the Navy, which was kind of cool for him. And he was in the Navy for 21 years. And he started as an enlisted person and retired as a Chief Warrant Officer. So as an officer in the Navy, he worked down in NSA, and he was able to take, you know, his whole family all around the world at different bases he was at. He was mainly on land bases versus being out to sea.
Anne Danahy: And what are you hearing from all of these friends of his? What did they say about him?
Jim Isola: Oh, they're just — I'm going to probably tear up a little bit — but just just what a good guy he was. And then you know, he was always there for them. And he would check in on them constantly. And every winter for the last, I don't know, 8-10 years now, he would go to Pensacola. And he would retire down there for five months. And he would volunteer at the museums down there. And he would serve meals at the military bases on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, and all those types of things for the service members down there. And he just really enjoyed it. He was very giving,
Anne Danahy: How did he find out that he had COVID-19.
Jim Isola: I'm glad that we're talking about this. And I hope that people hear about this, and whether they learn from their own experience or maybe for their parents' experience. So my father, he was not going to be one that was just going to hide in the basement, but he knew that it was real. And he respected it, and he wore a mask, and he was careful. But he just was not going to just hide, he just wasn't going to do that. So he enjoyed people too much and you know, going on with life. So he tried to be careful. I checked with him, you know, on a weekly basis, obviously. And he's not sure how he got it. But he's very private. And he's very prideful about those things. And he never gets sick. So he just thought it might have been something that he was, you know, just coming down with something and didn't really put two and two together. And then as soon as he shared with me, I was begging him to go get a COVID test right away.
Anne Danahy: Can you tell us what happened after that? Eventually, he was in Mount Nittany Medical Center, right?
Jim Isola: He was. And so I think part of the downfall was not maybe taking it as seriously or not realizing what it was. And then he delayed a little bit even going to get a test. So even though I was begging him the day that I found out for him to get a test that day, he waited two more days to go get the test. And of course, then it took two days to find out about the test. So now we're nine or 10 days into him having symptoms of COVID. So you know, we're 10 days behind the ball already.
Anne Danahy: What was it like for you and your family? Were you able to visit him at all?
Jim Isola: Yeah, so that's the really tough part. And you know, you read about it, but to experience it yourself is totally different. Well, you don't realize until it's very personal. So no, I could not go see him. You know, and I understood that, I wasn't mad, you know, it is what it was and I wanted them to get my dad better. So he was in there for 19 days. And I was able to talk to him three times. The nurses and the doctors were fantastic. I talked to them on a daily basis. My father was just so tired. The symptoms you know that he was having, he was just tired and sleeping all the time. So we had a cell phone in there we had a charger and he wouldn't even put it on because he was just so tired, and he was just focusing on breathing and trying to get better. And so I was fortunate enough to even just talk to him, you know, the three times over 19 days.
Anne Danahy: He was known as "Pop Pop"? Is that for his grandchildren?
Jim Isola: Yeah. So yes, that came from my wife's side. My son named him Pop Pop and the other grandkids followed in line and he was called Pop Pop, and and he loved it. He was a great Pop Pop. He was great with all the kids. He loves to take them out for back to school shopping every year. He also was very kind where he would instead of buying them a toy he would make a donation and put it into their college accounts, which all the kids have used towards their college. He was just great like that, and everybody always loved Pop Pop. He never was that in your face type of guy, he was kind of more laid back, you know, let the kids, you know, come to him, and he had a great bond with all of them.
Anne Danahy: In his obituary, you have the message for people to do the right thing and wear masks and you say, "to keep all of the Pop Pops in this world safe." And I think that really hit home for a lot of people — just how real it is. Are you hoping people see that?
Jim Isola: Yes, actually, a lot of people in their cards wrote that they knew that this was real. Well, they thought it was real, because it was in the news, but my father getting it made it real. He went to the Waffle Shop two to three times a week, if not more, you know, and then all of a sudden, you know, they can't believe that he's not there anymore. And he was a member of the Mountain View golf course. And he golfed with his buddies out there two to three times a week, different lunch times, and, you know, all of a sudden, he's not there anymore. And it made it real, that there was somebody that they knew, you know, that had it and then not only had it, but now, you know, didn't come back from it. I think it was a very stark reminder for a lot of people that this is real, and you really need to be careful.
Anne Danahy: Is there anything else you would like to share about your dad?
Jim Isola: What I guess I would say is, you know, for people listening is, you know, please take the symptoms, you know, seriously. Please don't delay or just wonder. I'd rather you be hypersensitive and you know, be overly cautious than underly-cautious because it happens. It happens that fast. And most people you know, will recover. I don't want to panic just because my father passed away. Without getting into much detail, he did have other underlying conditions. And so those people need to be extra careful. And, you know, I'm hoping that the other Pop Pops out there will take this seriously and please be extra careful.
Anne Danahy: Jim Isola, thank you so much for talking with us.
Jim Isola: Oh, You're quite welcome. Thank you for the opportunity.