by Ashley Barker
The MUSC family was
shocked on Jan. 19, 2002 when Anthony
"Tony" Pirraglia, 47, a liver transplant
coordinator and Meducare flight nurse, was
shot and killed while trying to help a car
wreck victim on Cannon Street.
a liver transplant coordinator and
Meducare flight nurse, was killed on
Jan. 19, 2002.
Pirraglia left behind a
wife, Cindy, two sons, and 11-year-old
daughter Maria. More than 10 years later,
the memory of Tony is alive and well
within Maria Pirraglia, R.N., who joined
the MUSC Meduflex nursing team in August.
"These are the same
halls that he walked. These are the same
people he interacted with," Maria said.
"When they see me, they see him too. This
is the last thing that I can really hold
on to and be able to say, 'This was my
dad. This was his life.'"
Maria found out quickly
that her father was loved by his
co-workers. She learned that his nickname
was "spicy" because he brought hot Italian
sausages to eat at work, and they both
shared the same smirk.
"When I'm concentrating
or when someone says something really
funny, I get this look on my face," she
said. "It's kind of hard to describe, but
people are like 'Oh my God, you look just
like your father.'"
Although it is hard for
Maria to remember everything about her
dad, she remembers clearly that he carried
himself well and was creative, often
coming up with nicknames for everyone in
"He was my dad. He was
a very tall, confident person," she said.
"As an Italian, he had the trademark thick
hair and prominent eyebrows. But they
didn't deter people from loving who he
was: a family man first, nurse second."
Becoming a nurse was not an easy
conclusion for the 22-year-old.
"I had envisioned for
myself to be the starving artist of the
family, writing and playing the piano,"
Maria said. When he died, she said she
felt like someone should follow in his
footsteps. So after some soul searching
that's exactly what she did.
She graduated from the
University of South Carolina Upstate with
a bachelor's degree in nursing and focused
her job search on MUSC.
"I live, eat, sleep,
breathe nursing. I just love it," she
said. "I feel like I walk among geniuses
at this hospital."
With her father always
in mind, Maria still plans on setting her
own path. She dreams of going to graduate
school and is hoping to become a midwife.
As an adult now, Maria often wishes that
she could pick her father's brain for
advice on types of medications and
symptoms for a particular diagnosis, but
especially for tips on her upcoming
Now that I'm planning
my own wedding, I've asked my mom a lot of
questions about their wedding," she said.
"They got married in 1974. The
generational differences are pretty neat
to see. "
Maria said she's
"terrified" of walking down the aisle,
something that typically happens with the
father by the bride's side.
But she said her older
brothers will be there in his place.
"I haven't asked them
yet, but they'll be carrying me," she said
with a laugh.
Someone else who will
play a pivotal role in the wedding will be
her mother. When Tony died, Cindy took on
all of the family's responsibilities.
"She had to become the
only parent, in a split second," Maria
said. "It wasn't easy. She's a very strong
Moving past the
Her family and job have helped Maria
realize something that may be difficult
for most people in her situation. She's
moved past any hatred for the "kid" who
was convicted for murdering her father.
"As much as I hate his
actions, I've got compassion for people,"
she said. "That's just ingrained in me.
Nurses don't hate people. You can say you
hate what they say or hate what they do,
but they're still human."
Marko Drayton, who was
19 at the time of the shootings, was
sentenced to life in prison without parole
for the murder of Tony and Charleston
police officer Dennis LaPage, and 20 years
in jail for wounding intensive care nurse
Mandy Larson, according to the Post and
"To throw a little
religion in it…God created him; God
created me," Maria said.
Shortly after Tony's death, the transplant
staff came up with the idea for a
scholarship to honor their friend. The
Tony Pirraglia Nursing Scholarship was
finally awarded in October.
R.N., a certified diabetic educator, was
presented a $5,484 check. The scholarship,
which came directly from donations made by
folks around campus, was awarded by Chief
Nursing Officer Marilyn Schaffner, Ph.D.,
Pirraglia Nursing Scholarship was
awarded in October, more than 10 years
after Pirraglia was killed. Pictured
from left: Maria Pirraglia, R.N.,
daughter of Tony; Dr. Marilyn Schaffner,
R.N., chief nursing officer; Jennifer
McCrudden, R.N., scholarship recipient;
and Cindy Pirraglia, wife of Tony.
McCrudden presented flowers to Cindy
upon meeting her for the first time.
"I was really looking
to honor Tony and his family," Schaffner
said. "Everything lined up perfectly. We
had a nurse who works at MUSC, who is a
student in the graduate program at the
College of Nursing, and we're recommitting
our memory to Tony."
Maria couldn't be
happier with the winner, especially after
the way she interacted with her mother
while accepting the scholarship.
"When I met
(McCrudden), I knew she deserved it,"
Maria said. "She threw her arms around my
mom and hugged me and gave my mom
meeting the Pirraglia family as "very
"We all became teary
eyed upon introduction," McCrudden said.
"I thought Mrs. Pirraglia was very warm
and inviting. Maria was as well. But she
was almost beaming talking about how she
loves it at MUSC and that she was happy to
be working where her father used to. She
said it was like family."
While working full time
as a nurse, McCrudden, who spent 10 years
at the Medical University Hospital
Authority, is pursuing a master's degree
in nursing. She has maintained a 3.96
grade point average while doing both and
said receiving the scholarship is an
"Mr. Pirraglia died by
being a good Samaritan and doing what he
loved," she said. "He was selfless. This
scholarship is helping me with my
continued education as nurse. I hope I can
make him and his family proud."