Six Weeks ‘Til Showtime!!

Hi everyone! I have not abandoned my blog. Quite the contrary, I have incorporated some of the entries in my soon-to-be-published book, “The Rogue’s Road To Retirement.” We are now in the final phase of publishing. The release date is 1/6/2015. The edits are complete, and we have received the printed manuscript and cover design.

What a process! Now the fun begins. The audio book folks have been in touch and have chosen a terrific actor to narrate it. I am enclosing a link to Skyhorse Publishing’s book description and a look at the book jacket, as well as a link to where you can buy the book on Amazon.

My daughter Jenny is helping me gear up with my agent and editor for the sales part of the process. Jenny has become quite the “stage daughter,” telling me to slim down and “stay on message.” My son-in-law, who is a great guy, is supporting me at every turn – and building me my own website! If anyone has an idea for readings and signings, please get in touch. Your suggestions will be much appreciated.

I’m working on another book in the meantime. This has been and continues to be a thrill at every turn.

Thanks to all of you for all of your help and support.

Best,
George “The Red Rogue”

http://www.skyhorsepublishing.com/book/?GCOI=60239102063270&

God Bless Our Men and Women in Uniform and Veterans Everywhere!

As we celebrate the glories of our military this holiday weekend and the sacrifices of those no longer with us who have given so much to make and keep us safe and free, let us not overlook the disgrace that has been visited upon our wounded veterans by those in high places ignoring their plight and failing to offer them the proper medical treatment and care they deserve.

One month ago Dorothy, daughter Jennifer and I were privileged to participate in: “AN EVENING TO HONOR LCDR ERIK KRISTENSEN, USN, SEAL, ANDOVER ‘91″ in honor of Andover’s only alumnus killed in action during the War on Terror. The story of the two-day event is a treasure of memories shared with his parents, SEALS, alumni, students and faculty. (see below)

Let’s not let the transgressions of our elected officials dim or tarnish the memories of our veterans, but rather resolve to remember the Names, Faces and Contact information of those who would stand in the way of immediate and appropriate action to care for our wounded — and urge them to take the proper action!!

Best, George

 

“48” IN HONOR OF ERIK KRISTENSEN 

In the Navy, a short weekend is referred to as a “48” (hours). We departed home, Essex, CT, at noon 4/24 arriving at the Andover Inn at 3:PM and would not return until 3:PM 4/26.

The invitation for the event read, “AN EVENING TO HONOR, Non Sibi Role Model Erik Kristensen’91, a signature event of Non Sibi Weekend.” The weekend is a yearly event in which Andover students and Andover Alumni in near and far places engage in projects to help others and better communities in every conceivable way.

LCDR Erik Kristensen, USN, SEAL, PA’91 is the only Andover alumnus killed in action in the War on Terror. Erik was killed along with 7 SEALS and 8 Army Night Stalkers while selflessly leading an operation to save other SEALs trapped in an intense battle during Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush in 2005. Their Chinook Helicopter took a hit from an RPG. The recent film “Lone Survivor” chronicled the courageous Red Wings mission (and was screened Friday evening on the Andover campus). Erik is one of the movie’s main characters. The day honoring Erik would be the first all-school event conceived and driven by the Andover and the Military, an affinity group of the Andover Alumni Council.

The drive up to Andover, on a bright, brisk spring afternoon was uneventful except for the expectation of events to come and the slight apprehension of keeping to the strictly prescribed timetable. Friday would be a whirlwind of events crammed into the day starting with a 7:30 breakfast with students and SEALS. At Andover there is a strict curfew. All students must be checked in to their rooms by 10:PM. The curfew dictated the time constraints under which the event committee had to operate in order for the students to participate in all the day’s events.                                      

Plans are one thing. Executing them is another. PA alumni guru Jenny Savino’s genius for imaginative planning and seamless execution,  and her ability to sell the solutions was put to the test. In spite of some choppy water, the game plan passed with flying colors. Nothing went awry. The timing was as crisp as any Military evolution and nothing was left to chance. We even had help from beyond. The day was cloudless and bright!

Dorothy and I attended a special dinner on arrival Thursday with core members of the Committee, Harry Flynn’75; Christine Balling’86; Jennifer Savino, officially knows as the Assistant Director, Alumni Engagements and Director of External Relations; Navy SEALs Marcus Rivchin and Ryan Rico and his wife Iordanka Slavov (both SEALs are among a handful who also qualified as SWCC Operators – Special Warfare Craft Crewmen or “Boat Guys;” Harry Flynn, Sr., ’48; and Christopher Capano, Andover’s Coordinator of Special Student Activities. Marcus and Ryan set a tone at dinner that would resonate throughout the two days and be enhanced and embellished as the ranks of participants grew.

Two words would be heard time and again in speeches, conversations at meals and small talk among all present from that first dinner to meals and bar gatherings well into the nights: FAMILY! and TEAM!

Two Latin phrases appear on Andover’s Seal, forged by Paul Revere 4/5/1782 for which he was paid 2 pounds, 8 shillings: Finis Origine Pendet, “The end depends on the beginning” and Non Sibi, “Not for self.” It is not a stretch to take from those words the meaning of FAMILY and TEAM.

7:30 AM Friday – Special guests and SEALs had breakfast with students at the Paresky Commons. Admiral and Erik’s mother, Mrs. Kristensen, arrived at noon in time for the 1:00 luncheon at the Inn as more SEALs, rowing crewmates and friends from The Naval Academy, Gonzoga High School, and Andover began to arrive.

3:00 PM- We caravanned in several cars to the Brown Boat House on the Merrimack River for a tour and special presentation of oar paddles on which Erik’s name was inscribed. The Kristensens were photographed reading a special plaque in the main reception room honoring Erik’s service. Dale Hurley presented Andover Crew hats to the SEALs, and Erik’s friends and crewmates. Harry Flynn ’75 spearheaded this effort.

4:45 PM- We returned and gathered at Memorial Place in time for the touching 5:00pm Memorial Service. Commander Robert Patrick ’88, Deputy Executive Assistant to The Chief of Naval Operations, described the significance of the WWI Memorial Bell Tower and the meaning of the gathering. Reverend Anne Gardner called for a moment of silence, “Please join me for a moment of silence to remember our fallen comrade.” The Bell rang twice with an 8 second interval. Rear Admiral Thomas L. Brown II remarked on the meaning of service and duty. The choir sang The Navy Hymn, joined by the hundreds of students, SEALs, faculty and guests, as the sun began to settle behind the Bell Tower directly in front of us, against the backdrop of a crystal clear blue sky.

5:30 PM- Dinner was served in the Commons. Reverend Anne Gardner said grace. We were seated at a table with The Khristensens, Head of School John Palfrey, Medal of Honor recipient Thomas ’43 and Mrs. Hudner, Tom Beaton ’73, Alumni Trustee and President of the Alumni Council, Commander Rob Patrick ’88, Harry Flynn ’48, Harry Flynn ’75, Marcus Rivchin, and Ryan and Mrs. Rico.

Alumni Council President Tom Beaton opened the program and introduced Andover seniors Greer Sallick ’14 and Elizabeth Kemp ’14. They explained the Operation Hawkeye t-shirt they and other students were wearing that were being sold to fund a scholarship established for Andover Summer Session to be awarded to the son or daughter of a veteran whose parent served or was serving in the military. Harry Flynn ’75 also spearheaded the t-shirt effort by coordinating Andover students with their counterparts at Gonzaga High School, Washington, D.C., from which Erik graduated before spending senior year at Andover.

Operation Hawkeye began when Will Thomas age 11 from McLean, VA, learned of the crash of a Chinook helicopter 8/6/2011 in Afghanistan killing 30 soldiers, including 8 Afghan soldiers and a military dog. Will was outside shooting baskets with his Dad and asked him what he could do to help. His dad suggested shooting baskets in return for donations. Will named the effort “Operation Hawkeye” after the loyal pet of one of the victims. At the soldier’s funeral the dog refused to leave the casket. Will didn’t stop shooting until he reached $50,000 having shot 20,317 baskets and admitting that he was a little sore. This years goal is $310,000, $10,000 for each soldier and the dog that died in the helicopter crash. With permission, Andover adapted his t-shirt idea and modified the design to raise money for a Summer Session scholarship. 

Charlie Dean ’79, West Point ’82, editor of “The Blue Guidon,” the newspaper of Andover, and the Military thought of and raised funds for the striking of a lapel pin designed with Andover’s crest for Andover’s Veterans. He explained the pins and asked Rob Patrick to present the first pin to Admiral Kristensen. Each Andover Veteran then stood and received his pin from an Andover student. Harry Flynn pinned his proud Dad. Harry Sr. and I were roommates on the USS Preston (DD- 795) in 1955. It was Harry’s first trip back to campus since 1947.

6:30 PM- The Cochran Chapel program began. As we took our seats, a riveting loop of pictures was shown on three side by side screens at the front of the Chapel depicting Erik, his SEAL mates, football and crewmates, family, and friends and pictures of the BUDS training rigors.

Co-student Presidents Junius Williams ’14 and Clark Perkins ’14 opened the program and recognized all the veterans present. They introduced Head of School John Palfrey. John recognized Admiral and Mrs. Kristensen and provided a warm welcome to all in attendance. He then read a very moving letter from President George H. W. Bush. Commander Rob Patrick then read an equally moving letter from President George W. Bush.

The Kristensens were invited to the podium. John Palfrey and Rob Patrick presented them with the framed letters. All 1000 plus stood and applauded. Mrs. Kristensen then read a letter from Ben Smith, one of Erik’s Andover classmates, about their son. Admiral Kristensen read a letter from a fellow SEAL. Again all 1000 plus stood and applauded as they retuned to their front row pew. The beautiful Fidelio choir led us in singing America.

6:45 PM- The movie Lone Survivor began.

8:45 PM- A lively Q&A with 5 of the Navy SEALS was moderated by Commander Patrick, Christine Balling ’86 and Harry Flynn ’75.

Much as Erik’s life was way too short, what he accomplished in his short time will be forever remembered. A new sense of family was created among the planners, the SEALS, and Erik’s family and friends. The students had a first hand look at life, service, duty and sacrifice from a different perspective.

I have never been prouder of my country, my school, my family, and being part of Andover and the Military. My never-ending admiration for Erik, understanding his sacrifice and seeing where his strength and values came from — Admiral and Mrs. Kristensen — will stay with me always. I thank them for the example they have set for all of us.  

George S.K. Rider

 

  

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Patrick’s Eve Tragedy: Blizzard Four Dead 3/16/56

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Some stories, buried in time, cry out to be told. “The St. Patrick’s Eve Tragedy 1956” is one of them. Four brave sailors froze to death that night in a blinding blizzard.

In late October 2007, daughter Jenny and I were attending an Andover Alumni Council meeting.  After dinner she arrived at my table with a young man in tow.

“Dad, meet Harry Flynn. I think you were in the Navy with his dad.”

Indeed I was. We were roommates aboard the USS Preston (DD 795) in 1955.  I had not spoken with Harry Sr. in 52 years. The next morning, between meetings, Harry called his dad and handed me the phone.  The years vanished as we caught up. What a warm feeling watching our kids talking as we spoke.

As a result of that chance encounter, we began to swap stories.  One of his particularly caught my attention; “Safe Harbor – Not,” which described the harrowing events of St. Patrick’s Eve 1956 in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island. 

Months earlier, another chance encounter at the 19th Hole of our golf club on Long Island, conversation turned to that same ill-fated day. Doctor Petit, a neighbor, had also been home ported in Newport.  Doc, then a Medical Corpsman aboard the Destroyer Tender, Cascade (AD 16), added a gripping eyewitness account of the same terrifying events.

Their stories triggered my own memories.  I couldn’t get them out of my head; how two old friends from different parts of my life had both been there, at the scene of the tragedy; how I had almost been there with them; why all three of us had been spared, while our fellow shipmates hadn’t been nearly as lucky.  I spent days researching what happened, tracking down long forgotten newspaper articles from the Newport library and piecing together events.

*     *     *

St. Patrick’s Day has come to be known for parades, parties and celebration.  For four brave Navy men, the date in 1956 was just the opposite.

Excerpts from “Safe Harbor”…

My friend Harry had been attached to the Commodore’s staff headquartered on the USS Picking (DD- 685), temporarily based in Newport.  That night, Harry had the staff watch. “A lot of people had already left the ship on liberty,” he recalled.  “We were nested together, four Fletcher-class destroyers, 21 hundred tons of seagoing greyhounds.  I was waiting for my fiancée and her cousin to visit for supper, by launch, return and drive back to Boston.

“We had arrived from the Charleston Navy Shipyard in Boston after our overhaul. A ship just out of the yard is always in a state of flux.  New people and old hands are getting familiar with or reviewing their duties. This time everything worked against us.”  Adding to the problem, a number of senior officers were not aboard the ships at that time, leaving their junior counterparts in charge.

Harry said that the ship’s crew could tell a storm was coming, but storms in Newport in February weren’t exactly headline news. He describes his first encounter, “As we rounded Nantucket Light on the trip from Boston, the hatch above my bunk sprang open and water from the bow flooded the sleeping area. I leapt up and headed topside.” 

On St. Patrick’s Eve, the storm came up quickly and violently.  The winds howled, and snow turned into blizzard with 70 mile an hour winds overnight.

In Harry’s words: “Storms aren’t unusual, but never fun.  We sent the liberty launch in at four o’clock (1600 hours). The wind had come up and the trip was very rough.  When the boat crew returned for another trip, the 50-foot liberty launch landed between the sterns of the Preston and the Irwin. I went to the Commodore, my boss, and suggested that he decide when to cease boating.  It was getting very rough out there.  He said to stop them after the next boat returns.  I went to the stern of the Irwin where the launch was tying up.”

Meanwhile, crewman Kenneth R. Kane, a fireman rate from New York City, was part of the crew manning the 50-foot motor launch that was being moved to a more sheltered position behind the nest of four destroyers tied together and moored to a buoy (Mike). 

“A gust of wind ripped through the air, tossing the launch so high on the waves that its keel could be seen from the destroyer deck.

“As the launch neared the USS Preston, two of the boat crew jumped across to board the destroyer.  When Kane tried to follow, he fell into the freezing water.  The men aboard the ship yelled to throw him a line, but a rope could not be found.  Suddenly, the launch heaved high on another huge wave and crashed down on Kane likely breaking his back.  Crewmen from the Preston scrambled down and grabbed Kane by his life jacket, but he was torn from their grasp when a strap broke.  He slipped through the jacket and disappeared into the churning water, leaving the sailors holding the empty jacket. The liberty launch drifted away.

Officers aboard the Preston, tied outboard in the 4 Destroyer nest, quickly ordered out a whaleboat to aid in the rescue, with five brave men aboard. Two of them, Lt., jg, Juergens and Reese B. Kingsmore, boarded the 50-foot motor launch, restarted its engine and returned to the Preston.

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Whaleboat similar to the one used by the men of the USS Preston

 

The others: Moore, Britton and Hutchinson stayed in the whaleboat and kept up a vain search for the missing Kane.  Moore served as coxswain, although that was not his normal duty.  Before he left the Preston, he told shipmates he was going along “to make sure everything went right.”

As Harry recalled: “The men set out into the now swirling snow. The wind had come up with a wild ferocity and the heavy snowfall limited vision to a few feet from the nest.  I reported back to the Commodore who wanted me to stay on the situation and report to him.  There wasn’t much to report for some time.  I stayed in the Ward Room, with an Ensign I didn’t know too well and his girlfriend aboard for a visit. The storm was wicked that night and we were constantly worrying about the nest breaking up or drifting.”

Tragically, Harry was right to worry.  My friend and bar mate from Long Island, Doc Petit, also in the harbor that night, witnessed the second, somber part of the story: “As dawn broke on St. Patrick’s Day, the three-man crew of the Cascade’s Gig (another whaleboat) and I got underway and started to search for the boat from the Preston.”  Doc and his mates traveled down the bay, looking for the brave men who had willingly put their lives on the line for another.

One of Doc’s crew finally spotted the whaleboat, washed up on the shore of the Douglas Estate, on Ocean Drive, near the mouth of the harbor.  As they approached, they found the bodies of Moore, Britton and Hutchinson, “their cherry red faces frozen, grotesquely contorted in death.”  The three valiant sailors had died from exposure while searching for Kane.  Their 26-footer was washed ashore, miles downstream.   The Newport Daily News later reported it was the worst storm since possibly1938.

*      *      *

“George!  George!  Wake up. Deanie Gilmore just called to see if you were all right.” She had heard on the radio that there had been a terrible accident aboard the Preston. Mother was standing next to my bed.        

I woke up from a sound sleep at my parents’ house in Brightwaters Long Island.  I was home on a 72-hour pass from my new ship, the USS Abbot (DD 629), having recently transferred from the USS Preston.  Both ships had been undergoing updates and repairs at the Charleston Navy Ship Yard in Boston.  The Preston and the three other ships in her Division were scheduled to leave for the West coast to join the 7th Fleet for assignment in the Pacific.  The Abbot was part of the 6th Fleet and would remain in the Atlantic with the 3 remaining destroyers in our division, operating out of Newport, RI.

I knew instinctively that some of the men in my old division had to be involved.  I spent most of the morning trying to contact the base for more information.  The weather was God-awful.  The Abbot was due to get underway from Boston early Monday.  I couldn’t take the chance of getting stuck in Newport and decided against my first impulse to go there immediately.  I sent a telegram to the Captain of the Preston offering my prayers and any help I could be, still not knowing the details of the tragedy.

As the day progressed, the story unfolded.  Sketchy details began to appear on the radio and TV. I finally got through to the office of the Base Commander. The Duty Officer confirmed the loss of four Sailors, and the fact that, indeed, three of the four had perished in the Preston’s whaleboat, trying to rescue the Sailor from the Irwin. 

Sometime in the early afternoon, the names of the Sailors were released.  I tuned in to the news on the radio.  My heart sank as the commentator read the names: Boatswain’s Mate 2, C. Robert C. Moore of Marked Tree, Ark, Seaman Donald Britton of Bayville, NJ, and Seaman Gary C. Hutchinson of Holland, Ohio. I had been their Division Officer. 

I felt helpless.  My thoughts turned to the three men aboard the whaleboat.  I knew R.C. Moore the best.  He was a rangy, easygoing southerner, with a great sense of humor, who took his responsibilities to heart.  He was popular with officers and crew alike. R.C. had taken me under his wing when I reported aboard, as a young inexperienced Ensign. 

I thought of Britton and Hutchison – two squared away seamen whose promise was yet to be fulfilled.  The Deck Force is the training ground from which other activities aboard, staff their personnel.  They were both headed for greater responsibilities. 

The whaleboat in which the men perished had been my responsibility while I was aboard. During ASW exercises, we used that same boat to retrieve spent torpedoes and return them to the subs. I had been the Boat Officer.

It had been decades since I had thought of them, and their courage. Time has not diminished the memory of their heroics. I can’t help but think it’s no coincidence that I ran into Harry and Doc, and pieced together again the story of that night.  For me, it’s a stark reminder of the need to honor and remember the sacrifice of those who give their lives for another, and a reminder of how important it is to make people aware of those four brave men.

As each of us readies for the St. Patty’s day celebration, take a moment to reflect on these brave men and all the other men and women who have served to make this great holiday possible. Raise a glass to absent friends. 

Some stories, buried in history, cry out to be told. “The St. Patrick’s Eve Tragedy 1956” is one of them.

 

                                                   George S.K. Rider

DESTROYER

Author Unknown

 

Over the green hills the bay lies, and after the harbor the sea,

And a grim, gray gaunt Destroyer is steaming there swiftly and free.

With a roll that strains her stanchions and a pitch that peels her paint

With a roaring red heat in her bowels that would make the devil faint

She backs on the crest of the billows, she washes her side in the trough

She ships twenty tons of ocean and then like a dog shakes it off

Her seamen cling tight to the lifelines, her black gang is gasping for air

From mess cook to skipper they curse her, but no outsider would dare

The smoke billows down on her taffrail, the white smoke unrolls in her wake

The hissing steam throbs in her boilers, but she has a speed run to make

She lurches and trembles and staggers, alive from antenna to keel

She reeks of burned oil and hot bearings and rings with the pulsing of steel

Wild winds lay symphonies topside, below crash the drums of the sea

And far to the west of the sunset, green isles call to her and to me

She is brine-caked and crowded, they call her a salty old can

But those aboard grin when they curse her and each one aboard is a man.

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Reaching Critical Mass

February 20th at 1500 hours (that’s 3PM for you land lubbers!), it was determined that I had reached “Critical Mass.” With my wife by my side, I was led into my Internist’s office, contrite and ready to take my medicine. I was ordered to strip down to my skivvies. I offered no resistance. I had not followed instructions since last I passed through his door. I gained 3 pounds rather than losing the 25 he prescribed. All other vital signs and blood levels were well in line, except for the blood sugar. The weight was way out of whack, and I knew it.

The fight was out of me. To compound my dilemma, my daughter was adamant. Jenny will be married in June. On her last visit she pointed out matter of factly, “Why don’t you lose weight so that you can dance at my wedding – after all you’re paying for the band.”  (I am????) Her comments, though searing, were made with a great smile and meant to get me going. They certainly did!

The dye was cast. Dorothy joined the physician and me and took notes at my inquisition. The good doctor provided his choice of a diet doctor with a telephone number. My goose was cooked!!!

With all the rough winter weather we’ve had, it was my bad luck that it didn’t snow on February 25th, the morning of my appointment with Dr. Slim Down. We arrived early and were greeted by a bubbling assistant armed with a fist full of intrusively detailed forms to fill out.

Halfway through the pen to form ritual, I was ushered into Dr. Slim’s office. I again stripped to my skivvies. In a lifetime ago, I could have accompanied Rose La Rose at The Old Howard Burlesque in Scully Square Boston!!    

I was examined and measured almost everywhere. Twenty minutes later, Dorothy joined us with pad and pen. The game was on!!

The instructions flew. All the ingredients for the rest of my life (or at least until I lose 40 lbs.) were spelled out. The diet to accomplish my weight loss goals came through with depressing clarity. At the end of his soliloquy, I had little left, but to ask him timidly,

“How about an occasional drink?

To my surprise and joy he replied, “You can have a glass of red wine with dinner.”

My mind immediately raced to the cabinets in the kitchen to choose the largest glass in the house. The attitude adjustment was still far from complete! A store in his office was stocked with the requisite ingredients to make me thin or, better said, less round. We departed for home, armed with two full bags of goodies, the instructions, and an appointment to return in two weeks for my first weigh-in.

The condemned man ate a hearty meal that evening. My Last Supper! The bill of fare began with two gin and tonics, two helpings of a fine sirloin steak – rare, a baked potatoe (That’s how I spell it!! Guess I’ll never be VP either!), cheese and a large scoop of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.

I slept like a top. D-Day dawned. I began my daily routine consisting of downing 5 pills, nothing to do with weight loss, and starting my daily eye drop discipline; three different drops to alleviate the pressure from my glaucoma, dripped at different times, a total of 7 drops in each eye daily. It was like warming up in the bull-pen!                                                                                     

I settled in at the desk in my office writing away and watching the news. It was snowing like hell. I sat and pondered my fate – three carefully prescribed and measured meals a day, three health “snacks” and doctor’s orders to drink ten 10-ounce glasses of water every day.

Dorothy called out from the kitchen, “Dear, your breakfast is ready!”

I took my seat at the dining room table. Time for the new no-holds-barred diet to kick off.   

Dorothy presented me with a small dish containing 3 opaque fat burners (about the size of rabbit pellets) and 4 turbo-charged capsules: 2 fish oil and 2 fat burner enhancers.                  

My gullet was ready.  Down went the 7 pills and capsules aided by draining my second 10-ounce glass of water. Nine more dietary pills and capsules rounded out the pill count for the day.

Next on the bill of fare came a large chocolate, weight management milk shake. Not an English muffin buttered with raspberry jam in sight. I had to admit that the milk shake was really tasty.

My mid-morning snack consisted of half a nutrition bar with a capsule that prevents diabetes and a green tea mix in a glass of water. Lunch featured another tasty milk shake and a garden salad with vinaigrette dressing. My mid-afternoon snack consisted of the other half of the nutrition bar and a second green tea mixed in a glass of water.

Dinner was a mixture of vegetables and protein, a choice of meat or fish. The first night I chose chicken.  A before bed peanut-butter diet snack capped off the day. Where is my G & T, where are the crackers and cheese?

The combination of pills and capsules: fat burners, enhancers, multivitamins, diabetes preventers and fish oil capsules spread over the day totaled 16. The water intake was 100 ounces. Ugh!!

I made it through the first day. Today is day 8. So far I have lost 7 pounds. My sense of humor has improved. I now have firsthand knowledge of every men’s room in a 10-mile radius. If I were a dog, my left hip would be dislocated from seeking out handy trees or fire hydrants.

The old adage that he “pees like a racehorse” has me heading for the fifth at Hialeah. All that aside, how thankful I am that my loving family bludgeoned me into a health regimen that will pay dividends. Jenny, I will dance at your wedding!! Thanks, Dorothy and son Graham!

PS Word travels quickly. Late yesterday I picked up the telephone. The caller spoke with a British accent saying that he had just heard of my diet, and was representing the manufacturer of one of my supplements. He asked me if I would fill out a questionnaire on their product and then proceeded to ask me a series of increasingly personal questions.

When I demanded to know where he got my name, he said that he had received his information on Facebook. I immediately fingered Jenny as the culprit. Wrong again!!

After my chilly reception he persisted until he cracked up laughing. It was my college roommate Richard Haskel calling from California. He had learned about my dietary debacles from another close friend and classmate Stan Pinover in Madison, CT.

Glad someone is enjoying my plight!!!

PSS This afternoon I peeled back the wrapper on the remaining half of today’s nutrition bar and took a bite. Daughter Jenny asked for a taste. I broke off a corner (a very small corner), reached over and handed it to her. In the process I fumbled the remainder. It fell on the floor, inches away from Ladybug’s nose (our Lab), as she slept sprawled out at Jenny’s feet. 

Ladybug came quickly to life. She looked at what was left of my afternoon snack, stared up at me with her big brown eyes, licked her lips and prepared to lunge.

I sprang into action!!! The face-off between two aging carnivores! The athlete in me took over, I moved swiftly and deftly and snatched my treat from Lady’s open-mouthed attack. I downed the remainder without even dusting it off and damned near swallowed it whole.

Guilt set in, and I rewarded Ladybug with a bone for coming in second. She pawed at my lap for another treat, and I gave her a stern talking-to about dietary discipline.  I told her, “Like it or lump it, Ladybug, this house is on food and fun lockdown until I can jitterbug at Jenny’s wedding.” Lady sighed, and I joined her. Who knows, with luck, maybe Jenny and Bill will just decide to run off and elope!

The Forgotten Lore of Squaw Valley 1960

The reporting from this year’s press in Sochi has overlooked, for the most part, the importance of the 1960 Squaw Valley Gold Medal heroics and the sub stories that are such a part of this fabled history. There has been hardly a mention of the fantastic upset victory by the U.S. Team, which against all odds beat all of the favorites on its way to Olympic Gold — the first Gold Medal ever for U.S. men’s hockey.

Three last minute additions to the U.S. roster proved a key to the outcome, causing some disruption to the team’s chemistry at the time. Forwards Bill and Bob Cleary of Harvard fame and defenseman John Mayasich from Minnesota all played key roles as the drama played out. Herb Brooks, coach of the 1980 team, was among the last cuts. The inclusion of the Cleary’s was not universally heralded in the locker room. All of which was set aside when the first puck dropped.

February 25 1960 – In the final round, the U.S. beat Canada 2-1. Bob Cleary scored from Mayasich at 12:47 of the first period. Paul Johnson scored at 14:00 of the second period, unassisted. Connelly scored for Canada at 13:38 of the third. Jack McCartan, the U.S. goalie was spectacular, making 39 saves.

Two days later, the U.S. prevailed over the U.S.S.R., 3-2. Bill Cleary scored at 4:04 of the first period from brother Bob. The Russians answered with two goals. At 11:01 of the second period, Bill Christian scored from his brother Roger to tie the game. Bill Christian scored the game winner at 14:59 of the third assisted by Roger and Tom Williams. McCartan made 27 saves.

The Gold Medal game took place the next day against Czechoslovakia. The U.S. matched 3 goals by the Czechs in the first period with Weldon Olson scoring from Paul Johnson and Dick Rodenheiser; Bob McVey scored assisted by Bob Cleary; and Roger Christian scored from brother William and Tom Williams. The Czechs scored at 6:58 of the second period to take a 4-3 lead into the final period.

The U. S. locker room was visited between the second and third periods by the legendary Russian defenseman Nikolai Sologubov who spoke little English. He gestured to the Americans and demonstrated to them to take oxygen before returning to the ice for the start of the third period. The U.S. went out and scored 6 unanswered goals to secure the Gold Medal.

R. Christian scored from W. Christian; R. Cleary from Mayasich; R. Cleary from B. Cleary and Jack Kirrane; R. Christian from Mayasich and W. Cleary; W. Cleary unassisted; and R. Christian Completing his hat trick, from W. Christian.

Coach Jack Riley’s U. S. team won all seven games on its way to the Gold and the unquestioned contributions of the Cleary and Christian brothers combinations added another intriguing element to what many believe was the real start of our hockey prominence on the world scene. Jack McCartan was voted Best Goalkeeper. Nikolai Sologubov was voted Best Defenseman and Nisse Nilsson, from Sweden, won Best Forward Honors. Bill Cleary led the U.S. team in scoring with 14 points, followed by Bill Christian with 13 and John Mayasich with 12.                                                                                                           

Hats off to the 1960 and 1980 Gold winners. Go U.S.A. 2014!!!

Watch highlights of the amazing 1960 Gold Medal game here at 4:50 minutes into the clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lat3BRzgkMY

Best, George

 

 

 

Corey J. Swinson

Five months ago this week, Corey Swinson passed away of natural causes at age 43. At six feet five, three hundred and thirty five pounds, his physical prowess was only exceeded by the deeds and accomplishments that endeared him to his family and all who loved and admired him.

Corey grew up in Bay Shore, Long Island, the youngest of ten, raised by hands-on parents whose example inspired him and his brothers and sisters, all of whom prospered and became valued members of their communities.

Corey graduated from Bay Shore High School in 1988. He starred in basketball and played football briefly.

He entered Hampton College in Virginia, studied social work and played football. During his three years at Hampton the team’s record was 31-4-1. Cory made 144 tackles. He played in the Senior Bowl and was the seventh round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins in 1995. He spent the season with the St. Louis Rams.

Corey retired from football and returned to Bay Shore where he worked as private security for several NBA stars before changing jobs after his son Messiah, now an 8th grader in Bay Shore Middle School, was born. Corey became head of security for the Bay Shore School District from 2002 to 2012. At the time of his death, Corey was Director of School Safety and Security for Copiague Public Schools.

Evelyn Blouse Holman, retired Superintendent of the Bay Shore Schools, told Newsday: “No one was more caring or committed to the young people in our schools than Corey. He was certainly a role model.”

Corey also coached youth football. His son meant the world to him. Messiah plays defensive tackle in the football youth program, his dad’s position, and wears his number, 90.

I grew up and lived in the Bay Shore/Brightwaters area for most of my 81 years before moving to Essex, CT, and attended Bay Shore Schools through freshman year. After retiring in 1995, I started a program where my alma mater Phillips Academy Andover provided Summer Session scholarships for 31 deserving students from Bay Shore and neighboring communities. I got to know Corey. We worked together in the mentoring program.

He exemplified the spirit of a town that had taken its lumps – with the advent of malls and shopping centers and the ensuing empty storefronts downtown – but was determined to rise again.

A number of willing hands and strong leaders from every corner of Bay Shore and Brightwaters and every facet would not take “no” for an answer. Today Bay Shore is experiencing a dramatic comeback. Along with the bricks and mortar that rebuilt and repaved our town, the rekindled spirit of our citizens was led by the example of people like Corey.

Michael Cohen, former Brentwood School Superintendent and former Assistant and Director Of Curriculum at Bay Shore High School and now Editorial Director of BK Nation, delivered this tribute:

Corey Swinson, A Remembrance!

“Corey Swinson was a force of nature. For those who knew him and loved him – and there were countless folks who did – we know that we will never see his like again.

“High school athlete, intercollegiate athlete, NFL player, personal bodyguard, school safety director, and most of all, single father of a 13 year-old young man, Corey played many rolls… all with distinction. At 6’ 5’’ and around 375 pounds, he could not be missed. If you traveled anywhere from 125th street in Harlem to Montauk Point with him, someone would recognize Corey and hug him effusively. He was that charismatic.

“Aside from his prodigious physical gifts, Corey Swinson demonstrated keen intellect and an unquenchable thirst for learning. In fact, in one of his last conversations he discussed the President’s upcoming speech on Syria.

“Corey used twitter on occasion. In his own words, the last two weeks of Corey’s life:

‘Heaven is my mother’s back yard, with my brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces, my son and of course my mom. Fish frying, ice cold beer and lots of luv.’

‘Relationships should be a duet not a duel.’

‘Watching Patty Lupone on HBO’s A Young Arts Master Class. Amazing!’

‘OK, I finally found the combination of fruits and vegetables that I’m going to juice and enjoy consistently. Spinach and apple is the real deal.’

‘Gotta be disciplined for this to work.’

‘Not sure what Obama is doing, but it has me concerned. The last thing we need is 2 b engaged in more warfare. There has to be another way.’

‘That first series exhausted me. The Eagles may have something here.’

“Exhausted? Corey was never exhausted. He exhausted those of us who knew him and loved him. May he be granted his own definition of heaven… surrounded by his loved ones in his mother’s backyard!” – Michael Cohen

Last year Corey earned the Special Recognition Award from the Suffolk County Detectives Association.

Dr. Boyce Watkins, Finance Professor at Syracuse University and Founder of Your Black World Coalition, and a leading Black Scholar in the world, said of Corey, “He is responsible for creating one of the best black history month programs in the country. He believed that it is important for black youths to know their history and made it his life’s mission to make a difference.”

Michael Cohen is right. “We will never see his like again!” A gentle gentleman!

Meet the Family

Happy Thanksgiving all…. Back by popular request, I’m reposting a story about our family gathering in 1944.  “Thanksgiving Day 1944” was my first real accomplishment and was published in the Spring 2009 Southampton Review in the Memoir and Personal Essay section along with pieces by Frank McCourt and Melissa Bank.

Of the three generations featured in this story, only two of us are left — myself and my youngest cousin Mike Furgueson.  Members of both families, spouses, children and grandchildren will gather again tomorrow to celebrate.  Hopefully, we will be better behaved, but no one hold their breath! 

Enjoy the holiday, George

Thanksgiving Day Turkey Shoot – 1944

I was twelve.  The year was 1944.  On top of the turkey and stuffing, the ingredients included theft, shotgun blasts, state troopers and a neighbor bleeding profusely from a self-inflicted razor wound.

The setting: The small town of Brightwaters, Long Island.  More specifically, my Aunt T. and Uncle K. ’s house.

The cast:  In addition to my aunt and uncle, “Gramp,” my revered but distant grandfather, patriarch of the family and a respected doctor, author and bank president; Ruth, his second wife; my parents, who for some reason were constantly kicking me outside, along with my brother Ken, 10, and our younger cousins, Tony and Mike.

The annual routine: Arrive early in the day, allowing ample time for the adults to down several rounds of Old Fashioneds, smoke hanging heavily in every room – a pleasant interlude, awaiting Gramp’s arrival.  He took a dim view of drinking of any sort so, to pacify him while making Thanksgiving with the family more palatable, the adults pushed up the start of the cocktail hour.  As my British Dad used to say, “It’s noon somewhere in the Empire.”

The doorbell rang.  Glasses were hastily secreted under the couch, under a chair and behind a large framed picture of my aunt in her wedding dress on the piano.  Gramp entered, followed by Ruth.  Coats were hung in the vestibule closet.  The grandsons were lined up to greet him.  Ruth headed straight for the kitchen “to help,” muttering hello’s on the way.  Her first order of business was to retrieve the chilled drink awaiting her in the ice- box, compliments of Uncle K.

Mother and Aunt T. soon followed.  Back then, they took turns alternating preparing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at their neighboring homes in Brightwaters. Because of the war and stretched budgets, the days of maids and cooks had ended.  We were home alone, and the time-honored familial rules of decorum had already begun to fray.

Dad, on his way back to the living room after a visit to the down-stairs bathroom, opened the door to the attached garage off the back hall.  To his surprise and consternation, he spied two incarcerated turkeys quietly contemplating their uncertain future. Uncle K. had received them as a gift from a friend in South Carolina for use over the Christmas holidays.  They were billeted in a cage with a latch secured by a large wooden peg.

Positive action was called for. Dad removed the peg, folded the latch back and rolled the garage door up and open.  He returned to the chair he had vacated in the living room just moments before, no one the wiser. Gramp was clucking over his four grandsons who were soon ordered outdoors (yet again) to play.  Just about this time, the delivery boy from our local drug store/ice cream parlor, Friedstadt’s, appeared with the dessert.

The kids had just started to play catch with the football in the back yard when cousin Tony noticed that the garage door was open.  He went to check and let out a war Whoop, “The turkeys are missing!”  Gramp and Uncle K. burst on the scene from the house.  They concluded immediately that the culprit had to be the delivery boy. Uncle K. placed a call to the State Police Barracks, not far from the crime scene.

Dad was trying to be as inconspicuous as possible – happy for the turkeys and their new found freedom, but more than a little concerned for the fate of the unsuspecting delivery boy.

“We’ve got to retrieve the turkeys. Boys, start looking!”  Uncle K. was now in command.

Uncle Donny and Aunt Bunny (close family friends) occupied the rambling two-story brick house to the south, across the wooded lot half cleared for a victory garden.

Uncle Donny had over-imbibed the night before with several of his Wall Street partners, arriving home just before midnight.  He decided to sleep in and arose near noon to ready himself for the holiday feast he and Aunt Bunny were having at their home.

Their master bedroom was on the first floor with a large bathroom looking out over the victory garden.  Still in his pajamas, lathered up and bare-chested, the straight razor in his unsteady hand, Uncle Donny absentmindedly looked out the window.  There, perched on the ledge, was a live turkey staring in at him.  Startled, his hand jerked.  The razor slipped opening a gash in his left cheek.  Blood spurted out, dribbling from the wound to the basin and onto the tile floor.

“Bunny, Bunny!  Come quick, there’s a turkey staring at me!”

Still annoyed by her husband’s antics of the night before, Aunt Bunny opened the bathroom door.  The turkey had disappeared into the woods and there stood her husband bleeding profusely from the four-inch slash in his cheek, the blood mixing with the shaving soap forming a dark pink coating on his chin, some of it dropping onto his hairy chest.

“Donny,” she screamed at him.  “Your drinking is getting out of hand!”

The neighbor to the north was away for the holiday.  Another neighbor, who knew about Uncle K.’s gift, phoned to tell him that he had seen a live turkey entering the first neighbor’s barn.

Uncle K. calmly unlocked the gun cabinet in the den, took out a 16-gauge double- barreled shotgun and four shells and headed for the neighbor’s property with Gramp in close pursuit.

Shortly after they departed, two uniformed troopers appeared at the front door.  Brightwaters was and is a small community.  In those days, everyone knew everyone including the troopers.  Dad ushered them into the den where the bar was set up and poured them each a stiff holiday drink.  He promptly confessed, “I liberated the turkeys.”  The delivery boy was off the hook.  The troopers, sworn to secrecy, finished their drinks, exited smiling and returned to their barracks.

Bang! The sound of a shotgun blast.  That can’t be good for the turkeys, Dad later recalled thinking.

Uncle K. had spotted one of them perched on an overhead platform in the neighbors’ barn.  Making sure everyone was well back, he took aim.  Bang!  The turkey dropped to the garage floor, followed by a haze of feathers fluttering in the light from the new hole that had just appeared in the barn’s back wall.

Gramp and Uncle K. walked back with what was left of the fugitive fowl.  The rest of us continued the look for turkey number two.

Shortly after returning from “the hunt” empty-handed, the front door bell rang again.

Uncle Donny, still clad in his pajamas, robe and slippers and sporting an oozing bandage, was invited in.  Bunny followed at a discreet distance.  One look at the cut convinced Gramp that further treatment was called for.

“Georgie!  Get my bag from the car!”  Gramp always traveled with his medicine bag, which included a complete set of surgical instruments and other necessary items for emergency repairs.

Uncle Donny was led to the dining room, which had the best light in the house, and was seated on one of Aunt T.’s antique chairs.

A basin of water was heating on the stove.  Ruth and Mother cleared the crystal water glasses, Wedgewood china and place settings from the near end of the table, then covered the linen tablecloth with towels from the powder room.

Gramp administered two shots of novocain, the stitching began, eight to be exact.

Aunt Bunny, still barely speaking to her husband, deferred viewing the repairs in favor of downing a double Scotch in the den as Uncle K. was replacing the 16-gauge in the gun cabinet.

As Gramp proceeded, the grown-ups disappeared one by one and joined Bunny in the den.  Those passing in the hall could hear the unmistakable sounds of ice cubes clanking on glass.

The last stitch in place, Gramp excused himself, moved a strainer full of peas to the side of the kitchen sink and washed his hands and instruments before returning to the living room to read his paper.

Mother and Ruth removed the water basin, the bloodied monogrammed towels and gauze pads and placed them in the kitchen sink, next to the instruments and boiled peas, and just a few inches away from the stove where Thanksgiving dinner was simmering over a low flame.   The table was reset.

Uncle Donny stopped by the den to thank Uncle K. and joined Aunt Bunny, who had now mellowed perceptibly, Scotch in hand.  They finally exited after thanking Gramp, and dinner was served two and a half hours later as though nothing had happened.

Just before we sat down at the table, the phone rang.  Aunt T. answered.  “It’s for you, dear.  The Troopers’ barracks.”  Uncle K.  picked up. “Sir, after a lengthy interrogation, we have concluded that the delivery boy did not let the turkeys loose.  We’ll continue investigating and keep you informed.  Happy Thanksgiving!”  Dad greeted the news with a sigh of relief.

Two years later, same place, same setting.  Just before dessert was served, Dad clicked his water glass with his butter knife, rose from his chair and cleared his throat.  He started to speak, slowly at first.  “I have a confession to make.  I let the turkeys go.”

The first reaction was disbelief, followed quickly by anger.  Uncle K. was furious, Mother even madder.  Then, a pause.  Dad still standing.

All eyes turned to Gramp.  He looked out sternly over his thick glasses, glancing around the table from face to face, finally fixing his eyes on Dad.  He began to laugh, “That was a day for the ages.”  Dad looked more than a little relieved.  Gramp stood up, raised his half-filled water glass, and toasted, “To family.”  The grown-ups smiled and toasted back, “To family,” then one by one disappeared to refill their glasses.  Once again, we were told to go out and play.

Oh!  The day after that fateful fest, Turkey #2 was cornered and captured in the empty lot.  Uncle K. pardoned him, and he lived out his life on the family farm on the East End of Long Island.  I imagine the little fellow had somewhat mixed feelings about joining the clan.

GEORGE S.K. RIDER

 



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