YESTERDAY, I LOST THE LOVE OF MY LIFE. My husband Don Conover passed away from stage 4 pancreatic cancer which he's been fighting since November 2019. I am beyond devastated and heartbroken. I am at a lost for words to try to explain the pain I'm in. I don't know how I'm going to continue my life without him.
Don and I were connected in a way that was beyond romance and beyond friendship. The relationship we had was a once-in-a-lifetime. A forever connection that could only exist with our true love. Don and I met 18 years ago at the Bally's health club in Des Plaines, and these five words changed my life forever, "Don't drink all the water", when I was at the water fountain. I turned around and saw the most charismatic, handsome, masculine man smiling at me. That was the beginning of our incredible love story.
Don was born in Brooklyn and was the youngest of four brothers and a sister. He grew up in a poor Italian neighborhood on Fort Hamilton Parkway and 36th with his Italian mother and grandparents. He lived in a cold-water flat. Sometimes they had as many as 12 people living in a flat with only 1 bathroom. But that didn't stop Don, he was always motivated. Despite his rough upbringing, Don's ingenuity earned him three degrees. All while holding down a job and going to night school.
When Don was 40 years old, he moved to Chicago with his family to be the Head of Research and Development at Stepan Chemical. They gave him a small house with a carport and a salary of $40,000, which was millions to him coming from such a poor background. Don said he walked out in the backyard and yelled, "I MADE IT!" While Don was at Stepan, he invented the scent for LEMON PLEDGE without using the lemon peel. This was quite an accomplishment few could ever do. He always laughed and said the bonus from Stepan, for his invention, was a fishing rod.
He knew he was destined for greater things, so he and two partners opened up Belle Aire Fragrances, a 1200 sq.ft. facility. Don poured his heart and soul into every area of the business. Working tirelessly, from creating fragrances to marketing and sales. Well, that facility now consists of two buildings, 22,000 sq.ft. and 9400 sq.ft., located across from one another in Mundelein, which employs 60-70 people. He treated every employee with respect and they admired him for all of his wonderful traits and loved working for him.
Recently the company name was changed to Belle Aire Creations due to Don's new inventions and patents. They are used in oral care products, which are being used in eight different countries. There are so many products of Don's fragrances and odor modifiers that you use in your every day lives, from detergents to perfumes. It would be impossible to list.
Don owned 80% of this successful company and he did it ALL ON HIS OWN. He was never left a dime, not even a cent. His hard work and motivation allowed him to achieve this huge accomplishment without any help from family. Don took care of his mother, his sister, and even my mother. Don treated my mother as if she was his own. My mother adored him, he was the son she never had. He loved nothing more than providing for the people he cared for. He required very little for himself. He always said he had enough and didn't need anything. I guess it's because of his upbringing in Brooklyn, he learned to be appreciative for what he had.
His two passions were boxing and gambling. In his late teens he was a boxer. Don took care of his body physically. He worked out 3 times a week, 2 1/2 hours each day. His other favorite thing to do was gamble. My husband was a big dice player but he was never irresponsible with his finances. Playing dice made him the happiest. We spent a lot of time in Las Vegas.
Don was our hero. When I first met Don he told me he was my archangel, but he was all that and more. Don was one of the most handsome, powerful, charismatic, witty, funny, smartest man I had ever known. Most of all he was generous with a heart of gold.
Don and I had a fairytale marriage. A relationship that people only dream of. The past 18 years Don wanted to make all my dreams come true. 10 years ago he bought me my dream home at the Carlyle. It was our second residence and we would spend weekends there. We had so much in common, we were both night people. We loved hanging out at Gibsons and The Drake Hotel, into the wee small hours of the morning. We lived a simple life in the suburbs, we enjoyed watching television and preparing meals together. We loved each other's company so much that we only had one television so that we would never be separate. Don was so supportive of me and my career. My husband loved attending my concerts and his eyes would just beam at me my entire show. People would come up to me and tell me how adoring it was watching him watch me. In my business, I'm known as the Queen of Cabaret and in his business he is the King of Fragrance.
I am still in shock and beyond devastated. I never knew how awful cancer was until I watched him try to fight this cruel and ugly disease. He fought a courageous battle and hardly complained even through the pain. The doctors were so optimistic that they could prolong his life for a couple more years with treatment. Don being the strong man he is took it like a soldier. He was hopeful until the very end. After stopping treatment, our only option was to start hospice care 2-1/2 weeks ago, in which we thought we would be able to prolong his life for another 6 months.
His passing yesterday was totally unexpected. I am still in shock! Unfortunately, his body just couldn't take it anymore and it started to give out. I am so grateful that God allowed me to be with Don when he took his last breath. Holding him and saying goodbye was heart wrenching. A feeling I will never forget. I am beyond devastated and hate thinking about facing my life without him. He was my EVERYTHING. He was my best friend, my soulmate, my protector and now he's my guardian angel. I have the biggest hole in my heart and I can't tell you how much I miss him already. Rest In Peace my loving husband. You'll be with me in my heart and soul, every second of every day. I love you more than words could ever express. God took you away from me way too soon. "I'll be looking at the moon but I'll be seeing you."
Donald is survived by his spouse of 15 years, Denise (nee Tomasello); children, Christine (Brian) Seiler and Donald (Rebecca) Conover, Jr.; grandchildren, Andrew Cantor, Matthew Cantor, Luke Conover and Benjamin Conover; siblings, Gary (Robin) Conover and Bill Conover; sister-in-laws, Diane Tomasello and Debra Tomasello; and several nieces and nephews. Visitation: Tues. June 30th 4-9pm at Glueckert Funeral Home 1520 N. Arlington Heights, Arlington Heights, IL 60004. Mass: Wed. July 1st 10am at St. James Catholic Church, 831 North Arlington Heights Rd., Arlington Heights, IL 60004. Luncheon afterward at The Grove Country Club, 3217 Rte. 53, Long Grove, IL 60047.
Published in Chicago Tribune on Jun. 28, 2020.