Name: Michael Arno
Location: Magnolia, New Jersey
DOD: November 30, 2013
It still makes me smile when I think about the the first thing my cousin Michael said to me when I came down to visit. I had just moved to New York from Virginia. I was so excited to be able to visit my family in South Jersey. “I really like your tattoos.” He had such a deep voice for a guy who at the time wasn’t much smaller than me. Right away he became much more like a younger brother to me. We had grown up hundreds of miles away from each other and I never got to see any of my family very often. But I was just over an hour away after moving up north and I soon became a regular at my aunt’s house.
He was the typical teenage boy who tested his parent’s patience on a regular basis. He was into skateboarding, music, graffiti and getting into trouble. I had my struggles with drugs and alcohol but was working it out on my own at the time. I tried giving him all the big sister advice possible whenever I could so he wouldn’t end up with the problems I had too.
After he graduated high school, he went into the Navy. He ended up graduating from boot camp right after the 9/11 attacks and was sent to serve on the USS BATAAN which at the time was right off the coast of Afghanistan. He would call me when he was back in the States to fill me in on all of his adventures at sea. It used to drive my husband crazy because we’d talk for hours and hours at a time. Both of us always talked way too much…
Not long after he got out of the service was when things started to get hard for both of us. He had trouble finding a job and I went out on disability due to mental health issues. Unfortunately he started having the same problems not long after I did.
We drifted apart. We were both back living with our parents so we were states away from each other again. I can’t help but wonder how things would be now if I had been closer. The last time I ever spoke to him was at our uncle’s funeral just a couple of weeks before Michael died. We had talked for awhile outside at one of our relative’s houses. It was almost awkward because so much had happened to both of us since we had last really had a conversation. We both were such huge messes but I didn’t know exactly how bad it actually was for him.
One of our cousins called me on November 30th. I still don’t remember anything from that day except for him saying that Michael had overdosed. I asked him, “ON WHAT?” He told me it was heroin. I think I even asked if he was okay. It’s blurry but I don’t think I understood what he was saying. How could he die? It was like someone cut off my air my suddenly. I couldn’t breathe. I don’t remember anything until the next day when my dad called to tell my mom and I that my grandfather had died too. I had lost two of my favorite people in just two days. The grief is still overwhelming but it’s a different kind of pain losing someone who was so damn young and losing someone who had lived a full and very long life.
My cousin Michael was smart, incredibly sensitive and sweet. He made me laugh every single time we hung out or talked on the phone except when he was really giving his parents a hard time. And only then was I frustrated and worried like big sisters get with their little brothers. He called himself my “troublesome cousin” but he was no trouble to me. He was just really lost and hurting. I’d give anything to have one of our calls that went on for hours again and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and miss hearing his voice. Forever in my heart and now tattooed on my arm because I can still hear him saying, “I really like your tattoos” from that conversation on his mom’s back porch so many years ago.
This song is by our good friend Ben’s band. Michael and him played together when they were in high school and I was lucky enough to see them in their high school Battle of the Bands. Anyway, it’s a very powerful but sad song and it made me think of Michael when I heard it.
Michael D. Arno Jr.
AGE: 30 • Magnolia
On Nov. 30, 2013. Beloved son of Michael and Teri (nee Hendry) Arno. Survived by sister Melody Arno (David Zagone) of Bellmawr, brother Alex (Michele) Arno of Stratford, loving uncle to Jillian & Nico Zagone, grandmother Patricia Piot of Laurel Springs. Mike served in the US Navy during Iraqi Freedom. Relatives and friends are invited to attend his viewing on Friday morning 10-11 am with funeral services starting at 11:00 am at the: ORA L. WOOSTER FUNERAL HOME, 51 Park Blvd., Clementon, NJ 08021. Interment Camden County Veterans Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to Wounded Warrior Project, 370 7th Ave., 3rd Floor, Rm 320, New York, NY 10001. Share memories at OraLWoosterFuneralHome.com