Virus took his life, but he died in peace

Longtime Louisa business owner John Busada passed away on April 7. He is pictured here being honored at a roast organized by the Louisa Rotary Club.

When he passed away on April 7 at the ripe age of 102, few of John Busada’s survivors were preoccupied with the fact he died after catching the coronavirus.

Busada, who for many years operated Busada Manufacturing Corporation in the Louisa Industrial Air Park, left this world peacefully and after his children had a chance to say goodbye.

The Massachusetts native moved to the Colonnades, a retirement home in the Charlottesville area, more than a decade ago. He had lived in the facility’s assisted living section for the past four years, but never moved to its nursing home. When Charles and Jean, Busada’s children, found out in late March that their father was sick with the virus, they knew what they needed to do.

“They called us up and said, ‘Your father is having a very bad day,’” recalled Charles. “They wanted to know if we wanted them to take him to the hospital. We said no, because we knew the virus was going around. Then he tested positive, and within a week hospice was coming to him.

“Had he gone to the hospital,” Charles said, “we would never have been able to see him again.”

As it was, he and his sister had to battle with Colonnades staff to be able to visit their father while he was still able to communicate. “The hospice denied us to be able to see him, until he was actively dying,” Charles said. “When we arrived, only one of us was allowed to see him at one time. We said, ‘We’re going to go see him, call security if you want. We knew they wouldn’t … I knew he could understand me, and we talked about preparing for death. There was a real warmth there that I’ll never forget.”

Busada had few symptoms of the coronavirus, his son said. While his caregivers noticed that he had a cough, that was something he had for years.

After developing a specialized knowledge of plastics while working for General Electric and serving in the United States Navy in World War II, John Busada founded his company on Long Island, near New York City, in 1951. Busada relocated the business here in 1987 at the suggestion of Charles, who didn’t want to raise his own children near a big city and liked Louisa’s rural character and proximity to a college town.

It wasn’t long before Busada became a familiar figure at gatherings around the county. He was known for his extensive collection of bow ties and his fondness for giving his time and resources to the community. His name and that of his late wife, Violet, adorn the circulation desk at Louisa County Library, and in 1988, he rallied fellow business owners to give to cancer research.

“I have a weakness for community service,” he told The Central Virginian that year. “I believe a businessman owes it to the community to give his time to such efforts.”

Busada continued to manage his company’s affairs until 2004, when he was in his 80s. Since then Charles and Jean have operated the business. Charles returned to the fold after a stint as an ordained Baptist preacher, while Jean moved to Louisa from Chicago.

As a manager, the elder Busada “expected perfection” at times, Charles said. But “he was very personable, and that’s how he’s most remembered. When he went into assisted living, “all the aggressive entrepreneur faded out of him and he became a real pussycat.”

Busada, whose own father immigrated to the United States from Lebanon, was born with the name Boosahda. He changed it when he started his company because he thought it would be too difficult for some people to pronounce, according to Charles.

The coronavirus crisis has hurt sales at the company, which has 12 employees. But Busada is considered an essential business because they provide supplies to food-related industries. The Sweetheart Cup Company was one of the firm’s first clients in the 1950s, and remains one today. “We’ve got letters from companies that wanted to make sure we could still supply them,” Charles said. Charles said his father’s wish was to be cremated. The family plans a proper memorial service to remember him after restrictions on gatherings have eased.

Recommended for you