I must be clear – this is something I never wanted to write, but just as I wrote about my mother after she died, I am once again compelled to do so for my father. He died peacefully in his sleep at home in his bed. As other people keep saying to me, “I’d like to sign up for that.” In thinking about it, I would too, but that’s another story.
My dad was a towering figure, mythical in my mind since I was small. Being a weightlifter and athlete, my father in his youth looked like a guy who could have donned the Superman outfit or played Hercules. That does something in your mind as a kid, because I thought my Dad could conquer the world, and I wasn’t so wrong either.
His life started in humble beginnings as a mid-wife assisted his mother in their small apartment in Corona, Queens. Born in the last days of World War I, with “victory” almost at hand, his parents chose to name him Victor, and he would later discover that other parents had similar ideas since there were kids his age named Victor (also Victory and Victoria).
His life began in this simple setting, but his father had plans to get out of the already crowded urban neighborhood. He eventually built a house with two of his brothers “in the country” in a place in Queens called Springfield (now known as Springfield Gardens). In those days this area featured rolling fields, ponds, streams, woods, and farms. This idyllic place was where my father and his brother Dave grew up. Winters featured ice skating on the frozen ponds, and they swam in them in the summertime.
He went to P.S. 37 and then on to Jamaica High School. By the time the Depression hit, many kids on the block had fathers who were out of work. Since my grandfather was a NYPD officer, he kept his job. This made a difference in my father’s life to be sure. After graduating high school, Dad took a job cleaning subway platforms. Later on he worked at the 1939 World’s Fair and often spoke of all the marvels he witnessed there.
Like most everyone else, Dad was eager to get into the fight after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941. He enlisted in the Army and soon found himself in boot camp in Fort Benning in Georgia. Dad’s early days in the Army always sounded like they were more like M*A*S*H than a John Wayne movie. He said that every company had a clerk like Radar, an annoying officer like Frank Burns, and there were a few guys like Klinger looking for a way out. There were many funny stories he told over the years.