"I was born and raised in Cambridge. My mother raised me, my brother and my sister. I was the baby. My sister was 10 years older than me. Then my brother. He just died four months ago. He was 78. We grew up between the Port area, which is near MIT, and the Coast which is near Harvard. It was a middle class, working class neighborhood. I was a roly poly fat kid who was always smiling and playing all day long. We all went to school, all graduated, got a decent education. Throughout high school I always worked in the summers.
Cambridge in the late 50s and early 60s-those were the hippie days. I applied myself more when I was younger. My mother worked at VF Goodwrench and worked in the kitchen and cafeteria at Harvard University. She's still alive today at 95 years old. I lived with my grandparents for three years and as they got older my grandfather had to live in a nursing home, but he would come home to visit my grandmother so she wouldn't get lonely and I'd help take care of him. This was the last three or four years of my teen life.
I went to Rindge Tech (now Cambridge Rindge and Latin) for high school. I got into a little trouble now and then but nothing big. I was interested in shop and French (although I could never speak well), and mechanical drawing. After high school I went to UMass for two years; that's where I met my first wife. We were married for about one and a half or two.
We moved out to Pittsfield which is where she was from. I had a job with the city and every day I'd go home on my lunch hour; the Navy recruiting office was on my way home from work. My father was a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Army-Armored division. He was in Germany. My brother was in the Army too. I had heard stories from them and I thought, if I was going to serve, I didn't want anyone yelling and cussing at me. One day, I just walked into the recruiter's office and asked how I sign up. I was ready to go in two weeks. It 'poor man's travel.' I've been around the world. I was lucky.
I was at boot camp for four months and for A School I was a boiler tech. We created steam in the fire room. That was rough. There was a 12-pound PSI power plant with four burners on the ship. We would mix JP 5 oil with steam and then BOOM. We got a whole fire box going. The temperatures were 90-105 degrees and you could only stay in for 30-45 minutes before you'd get heat exhaustion or pass out. In a way I liked it. When we were on the water, running ship-power, it was all us. When we were on the water, if the fires go out, you don't have any steam, you're dead in the water. We were first on, last off. Getting water for the ship was always the first priority because without that the ship wouldn't go. I was on two ships, both fast frigates: Vreeland FF 1068 and when I re-upped, the sister ship Bagley FF 1069.
When I re-upped I went from the East coast to the West coast. I was at the San Diego Naval Station. From the East Coast I did the med cruise: Europe, North Atlantic-and then the West coast pack: Hawaii, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, Australia. Like I said-'poor man's travel.' What surprised me was how friendly and nice people were from different countries. I got to understand and interact with people all over the world. Sometimes we think we've got it good, or got it bad, but you don't really know until you see how other people live.
I was in the Navy for eight and a half years. I got out because my feet got smashed. I was at the bottom of the ship and a guy let a 1400 lb booster pump free fall; something in me just said Corky, look up. And I just barely got out of the way in time. I was medevaced from Subic Bay in the Philippines to San Diego to the medical ward. I basically had to relearn to walk. I was on crutches for a long time. I had joined the Navy when I was 25 and I was 34 when I got out.
I stayed in the West Coast and worked in the ship yards as a welder and pipe fitter. But sometimes my injuries would hurt me. The VA told me to quit, but I had to keep working. I had to survive. I met a woman there and had a child and stayed in California for four more years. I decided to come back east and stayed in the Cape with a job at New Bedford working with American Flexible Conduit for six years and then moved back up to Boston. My family was still in Cambridge and my mother was in the Cape. I basically made my way back home.
I went back to school for computer repair and as a helpdesk specialist. But that was around the time of the dot-corn bust and it was cheaper for people to buy a new computer than repair an old one. So I went back to school again and the VA paid again. I went to school for medical hilling and coding. People were talking about it; I did the paperwork and the VA approved it-boom. I had a job at Dimock Community Center for
two years but they had to let people go. it was a good field, but there were a lot of people in the field.
I officially retired seven years ago. I spend time with a few friends, I've done some travelling. I used to shoot a lot of pool. I have a beautiful wife Annette. We actually met on an MBTA bus-the 29. We talked and we hit it off; we've been together for nine years and officially married for one and half years. She helps keep me grounded. Especially over the past six years as my health has been going down. And here we are today.
I have two children. My son Jamal lives in Pittsfield, PA and my daughter Meka is in Pensacola. I have four grandchildren on Jamal's side: Tina, Jamal Jr, Ellen, and Lisa; and two grand-boys on Meka's side: Donovan and Donald. When my health was better I liked basketball, bowling. As my health started going down there was less I could do. I've always had the urge to do things, but I'm not always able.
I'm proud of my children. I'm proud that I offered my service to my country and travelled all over the world. I had a good upbringing, good parents, good siblings. They helped keep me on the right track. And my beautiful wife Anette.
Advice I'd pass on is: Do not be quick to judge others without looking at yourself first. We all have faults although we might not want to see them. Also take life to the fullest, one day at a time.
If I would do anything differently, I might have tried harder in school earlier on. Always: get a better education, get a better job. You should help others, but learn how to keep it too. I'm lucky to have a good team here. I'm on the transplant list. I just take it one day at a time."