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My Most Important Follows

In which I share interesting trivia about people who are important to me.

March 26, 2020.  The #See10Do10Challenge on Twitter reminds us to stay fit while we’re isolated at home during the Corona Virus pandemic. Participants film themselves doing 10 pushups and then post the video on Twitter along with the Twitter names of friends who they challenge to do the same. Participants seem to be naming, or “tagging,” twitterites they enjoy, respect, or from whom they’ve gained valuable knowledge or insights.

Inspired by this I tried to come up with a list of people I would tag. Everyone I could think of  had already been tagged. So in this post I thought I’d “tag” (mention) a few people who are not on Twitter but who have influenced my life in a positive way.

These real-life “follows” of mine are models of strength and perseverance during difficult times, apropos of current virus-created stresses.  Their actions, demeanor, or attitude in the face of life’s challenges remind me to maintain a healthy perspective by taking a long view through the lens of the arc of history. These people helped to make me who I am, and continue to contribute to my education, maturation, growth, and improvement. I wrote a short blurb containing one or two interesting facts about each one of them.

1) Maternal Grandfather, who in 1917 emigrated to Massachusetts in the U.S. from Street, England, joined the U.S. Army and served in the Aisne Marne Offensive, the St. Mihiel Offensive, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Later during WWII he tracked the war on a map on the kitchen wall, and worried to my grandmother, “Mummy our boys are going to war.”

2) Maternal Grandmother, also from Street, who was a bookkeeper at the Clark Shoe Factory, remembered seeing German zeppelins pass overhead, and immigrated to the U.S. to join my grandfather. In my experience, men may be the arms and legs of the family, but women are the backbone.

3) Paternal Grandfather, who also served in WWI, and told stories of seeing planes in dogfights in the skies above, imitating the sounds of the guns “Bap bap bap bap bap bap bap.”

4) Paternal Grandmother, who was a hilarious little imp, whose home was always a comforting space. My many warm memories of her include Parcheesi games and Cheese Puffs.

5) My Dad, who joined the Army during WWII but was discharged due to back problems, and subsequently became a welder building submarines in the shipyards of Groton Connecticut and Quincy Massachusetts. Later he was the Sextant at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston. He died in 1978 at age 56 from mesothelioma, probably acquired in the bowels of the submarines.


Dad, early 1950’s.

6) My Mom. My hero. My role model. 93 years young and going strong. She graduated from high school on D-Day and was engaged to a boy who went to war but came back…different. She broke it off. She became a telephone operator, saved up, and in 1949 visited family in England, traveling on the HMS Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary, on which the entertainment included the Ink Spots and Burns and Allen. London was devastated but recovering, bodies still being removed from the rubble. She met my dad where he worked, at the local gas station in Everett, MA where her dad regularly took the family car. They married on his birthday at Park Street Church in Boston. Later, when Ma Bell phased out operators in the 1960s, Mom took the training to become a toll test technician where she was a woman in a man’s job before it was a thing. She suffered workplace harassment but had a boss who was having none of it. Her harassers found themselves reassigned. She worked night shifts so she could be at home in the afternoons for my brother and me. She’s a hero who doesn’t see herself as one. She simply did what was necessary. She retired from Ma Bell in 1985.

Mom, 1949, heading to England

Mom, 1949, headed to England.

7) Uncle R, mom’s brother, was not eligible for military service due to a heart condition. He worked for Massachusetts Lt Governor Sumner Whittier. Interesting side note, on election day my mom was at Whittier’s home in Everett so his daugher’s wouldn’t come home from school to an empty house. Later, Uncle R later became the director of the choir at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston, into which I was recruited at a young age, where I sang soprano, then alto, then baritone. The entire choir attended summer camp together in Bethlehem, NH, and performed show tunes and spirituals at churches, high schools, and “Dirty Dancing” style summer resorts all over northern New England. My uncle contributed greatly to making my childhood and teen years wonderfully full and rich.

8) Uncle H, mom’s other brother, was stationed in the Pacific during WWII, where he maintained aircraft electronics. After the war, he was a flight engineer for Pan American Airways for many years. Late in his career, he was on medical leave after a knee surgery. Recovery was slower than expected, which delayed his return to work. He called some friends to fill in for him. Their plane was bombed and fell on Lockerbie, Scotland. He was so distraught from the experience that he never went back to work.

Maternal grandparents, Mom, Uncle R, and Uncle H.

9) My brother. A truck driver delivering heavy goods to construction sites and manufacturers around New England. He survived a horrific car crash the year after my father died, late at night after working a shift at the Logan Airport Hilton in Boston. Recovery took many years and required multiple surgeries.  He’s now a member of the Elks and a pillar of the community. He worked his way up through the hierarchy and became the Exalted Ruler of his local lodge, twice, the second time by popular demand, where he achieved national recognition as a model leader.

Brother’s car

10) My two kids, who are smarter, better looking, more self-aware, more perceptive and more accomplished than I ever was, or could be. My son is a waiter, carpenter, dog trainer, and musician, and has a degree in chemistry. He leads a life many of us would envy. He is thoughtful and introspective, always forward-looking, and a good and loyal friend; a future “Most Interesting Man In The World.”  My daughter is a rising star in her field of user experience study and analysis. She has a BA in history from Tulane and a Master’s from the University of Chicago. She is highly sensitive to the social environment around her, and of cues from others. She is, attentive to all, yet solution-focused.

Every one of my real-life follows, each in their own unique way, exemplifies the WWII British sentiment of Keep Calm and Carry On. Each of them sets a high bar to which I can only hope to live up to.

In the lottery of life, I’ve hit the jackpot.



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