He was born in 1912 in a world of coal mines, hardship and prejudice. His father died in a mining accident when he was eight. He attended the eighth grade two years because of a rumor that bus service may start and give him the opportunity for high school. When this didn’t happen, he quit school and was working in the mines by the time he was sixteen.
He was a natural athlete and played baseball on several teams. As a teenager I remember him watching one ball game on TV while listening to another on the radio. Some of my earliest memories include attending games with him.
During WWII he enlisted because “it didn’t look good for a young man to be walking around.” When I first heard this I was surprised because I didn’t consider someone over 30 as young.
He was a coal miner, a flight engineer during the war, a hair dresser, owned a garage, foreman at a church furniture company and a machinist – all with an eighth grade education. I’m not certain what he did when he started as a machinist. Did he sweep floors?
He had an eighth grade education and shortly after he began working at the machine shop I remember him going to night school for a few weeks at the local high school to learn algebra. Within a few years he was the highest paid machinist and was offered the position of foreman which he declined. How did he learn trigonometry and geometry? He worked on one-of-a-kind projects: a deep sea recovery vehicle to rescue trapped submariners, the retro rockets on John Glenn’s first space flight, the camera mounts on NASA's un-manned moon shots.
Late in life he took up bowling and golf. He became a Mason and declined a nomination for a position in the Grand Lodge of the state of New York. He was active in his church. The last position he held was second grade children's Sunday school teacher and he had the largest class in the church.
He missed one half-day of work in the early 1950s and never missed another day until he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1974. When he became ill, he received hundreds of cards because he had many friends. He lived another ten years and continued to decline due to a heart attack, infections caused by a bronchial tube that did not heal properly and kidney disease.
I learned to be patient if I asked a question that he couldn’t answer. Within a few weeks he would come in one evening and say, “Remember the question . . . “ and he would have an answer.
He seemed to have infinite patience, unlimited courage and flawless integrity and honesty. He inspired calm and hope. Though he was rasied in a prejdiced world, he wasn't prejudiced. He had a reverence for life that is rare.
He wasn’t perfect. I know some of his flaws but they were minor compared to his good qualities and strengths.
While in the Army a friend made the statement that he wouldn't do a certain thing becase his father would beat the hell out of him. I responded that I wouldn't do it because my father would be disappointed. It felt good and it feels good to have that kind of role model and example.
I’ve done some stupid things in my life that I regret. Fortunately, one of them is not failing to tell him how I felt. When I was in my late twenties and had children, I made a point of saying “I love you, respect you and think you are the best father I could ever have had.”
As I age I miss him. It would be good to sit and talk man to man. I miss that.