VERNON — Jazz guitarist Eddie Hazell lived an amazing life. He toured across North America, recorded several albums, and even had a book written about him, “Someone Out There is Listening: The Life of Eddie Hazell.”
But of all the people he met through his gift of music, at the end of his life one of the people at his side was someone he did not know until 2009.
Linda Esposito, 51, of Vernon, served as a caregiver – along with employee Susan Michael – up until Hazell died of Parkinson’s disease two months ago.
“She’s more of a close friend,” said Hazell’s widow, Anne Nielsen Hazell, of Esposito.
Esposito may be a talented caregiver, but it wasn’t until she was laid off from her job at a Parsippany-based recruitment company two years ago she decided to make a career out of something she loved doing. She said she asked herself, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” In sales and recruiting for more than 25 years, Esposito decided to instead draw on her experience caring for her dying mother, brother and mother-in-law, whom all died within three years of each other.
Susan Michael, right, of From the Heart Elder Care, stands with Anne Nielsen-Hazell as they look over papers and books about Anne’s late husband, Eddie Hazell, who was an accomplished jazz musician.
In April, Esposito started From the Heart Elder Care, a new business specializing in non-medical and companion services for the elderly. Esposito and her 15 employees make meals, do light housekeeping, iron, do laundry, organize around the house, clip coupons, play games, aid with reading, escort to religious services, and do pretty much anything a senior citizen needs.
From the Heart has about 12 clients right now. Esposito acknowledges starting the business has been difficult, but that she continues to charge $18 to $20 an hour, a virtual steal for anyone familiar with the health care industry. “We’re building the business one client at a time,” she said.
Esposito said she still draws on her experience in recruiting to match caregivers to families. “Every family is different,” she said. The nature of what Esposito and her team do can also be difficult emotionally. Anne Nielsen Hazell and Esposito both teared up while speaking about Eddie Hazell. “With his loss of independence … he wasn’t happy, but he liked them,” Anne Nielsen Hazell said of his caregivers.
Esposito said there is another motivation for doing what she does. “When my mom was sick, I couldn’t find services like this,” she said.