Mercyhurst Magazine Fall 2020

An everyday life for an unusual family

Beverly Migliaccio with her family.

Condensed from a story by Mary Benson Solberg in Mercyhurst Magazine , Spring 1991

Thirteen-year-old Billy. Blind and deaf. “During your times of trial and suffering...

Eighteen-month-old Laura. Down syndrome. “... when you see only one set of footprints...

Twenty-three-year-old Beverly. Lymphangioma. Use of only head and left arm. “... it was then that I carried you.” The unknown author of “Footprints” might well have visited Kathie (Kaufmann ‘65) and Bob Migliaccio of Corry, Pennsylvania. With the help of their seven biological children, they “carry” 28 adopted children — including Billy, Laura, and Beverly — all in the same house, all with special needs. Beverly, a senior communications major at Mercyhurst College, is among the oldest adopted members of the Migliaccio family still at home. “They’re unselfish, caring people. I could never imagine doing what they’re doing myself,” says Beverly, a South Carolina native who was adopted by the Migliaccios six years ago. Neither can the Migliaccios imagine doing what Beverly does. Lymphangioma has attacked her lymphatic system since she was born, prompting her biological parents to give her up. Benign tumors for which the disease is known have snatched away her use of everything but her head and left arm. Wheelchair-bound since age 10, she’s had one arm amputated and endured countless operations, including skin grafts.

Despite the insidious nature of her ailment, Beverly anticipates graduation from Mercyhurst in May 1991. Her goal: a job in public relations or a related field. Arms resting on a wooden, desklike board made especially by Bob Migliaccio for her motorized wheelchair, Beverly says simply, “I’ve always been determined.” “My entire life I wanted to go to college,” Beverly explains. “Once I set my mind on something, then I can’t rest till I get it.” Beverly, while acknowledging her own willpower, credits the Migliaccios for some of her success. While working toward her degree, Beverly has enlisted the help of 18-year-old Rob Migliaccio, whom she calls her “chauffeur,” Dad Migliaccio, and 22-year-old Michelle, a student at Villa Maria Campus of Gannon University. All have driven Beverly to and from school when the college van has not been available to take her to night classes or to Erie, where she did an internship in public relations at the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Home. She gets rides from the family to Union City Memorial, where she volunteers in the public relations office.

To make Beverly’s trips aboard the van easier, Bob Migliaccio installed a portable lift on the vehicle. A mechanic before his forced disability after open-heart surgery last summer, Bob, at 47, is the family do-it-yourselfer. He’s now repairing their converted Greyhound bus in anticipation of upcoming trips, even to church where the family fills three pews. Having been “carried,” sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally, Beverly knows well that brand of Migliaccio dedication. “It is,” she says, “just everyday life.” Epilogue: After graduating in 1991, Beverly Davis-Migliaccio worked as program manager at Community Resources for Independence. She lived alone in her own apartment, owned a car, and hired attendants and drivers as needed. She died of swine flu in 2014. Kathie Migliaccio now lives in South Carolina, where her husband, Bob, died in November 2019. Though she no longer adopts children due to her age, she still has a family of 13 at home.

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