Oct 19

Giving Thanks, Day 2: October 19, 2017

Today I am hugely thankful that the last major issue we had here was in 2013 when Tom had his heart attack.  That event caused me to start a whole new blog to post about our experiences.

 

screenshot-2016-11-05-06-30-59

 

Adapted from https://maryomedical.com/2013/02/08/the-beginning/

 

January 27, 2013 was our 40th anniversary.  DH called me and said he was leaving a conference in Washington, DC and we’d go out to brunch when he got home.

The next thing I had heard was that he was in the ER with a suspected heart attack.  I rushed to the ER and found him in his cubicle.  He’d had 3 nitroglycerine pills by then and figured he could go home.

Wrong!  They had him stay overnight at the hospital.  January 28th, they decided to send him by ambulance to Fairfax Hospital for a cardiac catheterization and possible stent.

At the end of that, the surgeon came into my waiting room and said that he needed triple bypass NOW.  Three of the arteries were 100% blocked.  They got me calmed down to see him in the OR.

He was trying to get odds of not doing this surgery and just leaving then.  Finally, I said that he would do this surgery, we weren’t going to fool with this.

I really lost it when they asked me if we had any children and I said 1 son in NYC.  They called him at work in New York and had him get there as soon as possible.  I’m sure he could hear the fear in my voice.

They wheeled DH off for surgery and I waited again.  Luckily, 2 church friends came and sat with me and our pastor arrived about 8:00PM.  Our son arrived about 8:30PM after taking the Acela and a taxi directly to the hospital.

The surgery was over about 9:00PM but when we saw Tom, he was still under anesthesia.  They kept him that way until the next morning since he was too confused when they woke him up.

Long story short (too late!) – he got out of the hospital on the 31st and I played nurse 24/7.   He couldn’t drive/go anywhere for 6 weeks, and then there were 12 weeks of cardiac rehab.

One of the things that came out or cardiac rehab was becoming friendly with 2 other couples (although one of them has since split up).  We go out to dinner every couple months…and none of the surgeons would be happy about our choices.

 

heart-line

 

A slightly different take on the events, written 3 weeks later on the same blog.

Icy Days and Mondays…*

* With apologies to Karen Carpenter!

I know I’m not supposed to “relive” events.  I have done that too often with my Cushing’s and cancer adventures and I’m told that reliving causes nearly as much stress as the original event.

So, I plan to write down my memories here and try to let them go…

It all started on Sunday, January 27, 2013 – our 40th wedding anniversary.  I picked up my mom and went to church so I could sing in the choir.  DH went to a meeting of some sort on Benghazi.

After church, I stopped off in the church office for a goodie bag that the Staff Parish Committee had left.

Dropped my mom off at her house and went home.  I put the goodie bag on the dining room table and logged onto the computer to do some work.

I got a couple text messages from DH:

Text message

I figured I’d take a nap until DH came home for that late brunch.

The next thing I hear was my phone ringing, a call from DH.  He was in the ER at Fair Oaks with a heart attack.  OMG!

I immediately leaped up and rushed out the door.  I called one of my pastors and got to the ER in record time.   When I arrived, he was in a bed, all hooked up to monitors, fluids and such.  He was awake and feeling pretty well thanks to the nitroglycerine they had given him immediately after arrival.

When we had a chance to talk, it turned out that he had been in his conference and realized his chest was getting tight.  He found the hotel’s store and bought aspirin – 3 for $11.00 which he thought was extravagant.  He bought them and took them anyway – and probably saved his life.

On the way home, he was feeling pretty good so he stopped at the mall to buy an anniversary gift.  The salesgirl in Zales didn’t know that ruby was the stone for the 40th anniversary and was kind of ribbing DH for waiting until the last minute to buy a gift.  He walked out of there, felt more tightness and headed to the ER…where he called me.

DH was feeling pretty well thanks to the nitroglycerin and aspirin plus whatever else they had in the IV and wanted to go home.  The staff said no way – he had to stay overnight so he could be monitored.

The “automatic clock” on the wall said it was Monday.  Other rooms said Sunday.  Hmmm

A trainee EMT came in to ask some questions as part of his learning process.  Every time DH mentioned the word “Benghazi”, his blood pressure spiked about 40 points or so.  That term became verboten ever after.

My pastor stopped by and we had some nice chats and prayers.

Time passed, tests were done, doctors and nurses stopped by.  Finally, DH was moved to his room upstairs.

About 9 or so I went home and found our dog huddled by the front door – I had left so quickly I hadn’t left her any lights on.  I imagine she was quite worried.

I can’t even remember what I had to eat for dinner but I really wanted something chocolate.  On a whim, I looked in that goodie bag and there was a double-sized brownie.  I think I ate that in record time and it really hit the spot.

Ice

 

Monday morning (for real!), I checked the weather and found that school was starting late because of icy conditions.  I put on boots and took the dog out.  It seemed to be raining – if it’s raining, it must be warm, right?  So I didn’t really pay attention (and I had other things on my mind!) and completely missed seeing the black ice.

Next thing I knew, I had fallen on one knee, my cell phone in my pocket bruised my other thigh and my left arm hurt where I’d reached out to catch myself.  Luckily, I hadn’t let go of the dog’s leash.

I ended up sitting in a puddle of icy water for a long time, figuring out how to get up.  I finally sort of crawled up the trash can that was sitting in the driveway.

The dog had an abbreviated walk, I changed my wet, cold clothes and headed to the hospital.  I was showing DH my knee and one of the staff bandaged it up for me.  I told him I hadn’t fallen at the hospital and wouldn’t sue but I guess he wanted to be sure.

(Today, Monday February 18, my knee still has a huge lump under the skin and hurts when I touch it, although I’m no longer limping,  The bruise/pain from cell phone finally went away)

The hospital staff decided DH should go to another hospital which is world renowned for its work with heart cases to have a heart catheterization and possible stent.  DH was ready to walk out to my car to drive him to Fairfax Hospital.  He wasn’t thrilled when he was strapped to a gurney and out to an ambulance instead.

I headed over in my car.  They’d changed the entrances to the hospital since the last time I was there and I couldn’t find the “Grey Entrance”.  Finally, after wandering around for a long time, I found it.

I saw DH in the prep room where they got him ready for the heart catheterization – then they rolled him away after explaining all the things that could go wrong.

I went out to the waiting room, got some coffee and a sandwich and hunkered down with my iPad.

Eventually, my beeper went off and I was called back to the room where DH had been prepped.  The surgeon was there this time.  She said that 3 arteries were nearly 100% blocked and they needed to do emergency triple bypass.  They also needed me to convince DH of this since he was figuring he could tough it out.

I started crying but she said I had to get myself together and convince him NOW.  I had to put on scrubs and off I went to the OR.  I got there, DH was on the table trying to figure out the odds if he didn’t do this surgery.  All the medical staff said that he had  a very low chance of survival without the operation.  He still wasn’t sure.  He wasn’t afraid to die.  Tough Guy, Yadda Yadda.

One of the nurses asked me if we had any kids.  I said only one, in NYC.  She said I should call him and get him here ASAP.  She even dialed the number.  I talked to DS at work and he agreed to come right away.  He was pretty scared, too.  He later revealed that he had been crying on the train ride.

I went back to the OR, told DH that DS was coming and that he was going to do the surgery like it or not.  I signed the paperwork and sent him to a very scary surgery.

It was about 4:30 by then and I needed to take the dog out again.  They said I could go home – surgery wouldn’t be over until about 8:00PM or so. Got home, took the dog, made sure that there were lights on, and headed back to the hospital.  Another pastor from my church called.  He said he’d be by the waiting room later.

Two friends from the church office texted me to say they were coming over to sit with me in the waiting room.  They got there about 6:30 and we decided food might be a good thing.  We headed out, following a variety of directions and signs and walked for a l-o-n-g time.

My knee was killing me.  We got to the cafeteria and found out that it was closed.  the 24-hour one was elsewhere.  We finally found that, got some food and my cellphone rang.  The surgeon would be coming out soon to talk to me.

We hustled back to the waiting room and the surgeon came out about 8:00 with good news.  Successful surgery!  DH wasn’t awake yet but we could see him about 9:00PM.

The pastor arrived about 8:30, then DS got there about 8:45.  Finally, they said we could see DH although he still was asleep.  My friends left, pastor and DS went in to see him in ICU, sleeping so peacefully with so many lines attached.  The pastor prayed, then left.  DS and I decided to stay to see DH awake.

About an hour later, the ICU tech said they were going to keep him asleep overnight so we went home.

Monday

Tuesday, January 29 – DS called the hospital fairly early and found that DH was still a bit agitated so they were keeping him under a bit. I took the dog out and we got ready to head back.

I got a call that he was waking up but agitated.  He kept fighting with the nurses on the day of the week.  He kept saying it was Monday, even though it was Tuesday.  Surprise, surprise.  The calendar on the wall hadn’t been changed.  It still read Monday.  No wonder that’s what he thought!

We stayed all day, though nurses, techs, doctor visits and such.  He was in ICU so was monitored very well.  DH was quite confused and repeated himself a lot.  He wasn’t quite sure what had happened.

Monday

 

Wednesday, January 30.  DH had been moved from ICU into a regular room and we had to follow visiting hours, even though we were family.  We could visit at 11 and had to leave at 1, then back for 6-8.  Actually, this worked out well since I was able to take my first nap since this whole ordeal began.

DH had called DS early in the morning and  said he “needed” his cell phone to make some work calls.  Luckily, DS talked him out of that, saying that he could say some wrong things, given his temporary memory issues.  Thank goodness!  I didn’t want him spending his days talking on the phone.

We got there about 10:45am and they still wouldn’t let us in due to “flu season”.  I’m not sure how we could give him the flu in those 15 minutes before official visiting hours.

I glanced at the whiteboard on the wall where the nurses’ names, doctor’s name and such were written.  Unfortunately, no one had changed this whiteboard since Monday, so that’s what it still said.  <sigh>

We visited – DH got to eat a bit and had started having lines removed.  He thought he might put his shorts on so went into the bathroom to do that.  Unfortunately, he managed to pull the IV out of his hand and bled quite a bit.  The nurse sent him back to bed and said no more of that!

A representative from the group Mended Hearts stopped by with information and a heart-shaped pillow.  They have meetings the first Saturday of the month, so we might go to some of those.

The first pastor dropped by again and we made plans for Friday to pick up DH’s car which was still at the ER.  No one else I know could get it – it’s a standard shift car.

Not much else – visiting, napping, improvements every day.

Not Monday

Finally, it’s not Monday!  Nowhere, nohow.  Just Thursday, January 31 after 4 days of Monday.  Hooray!

DS had a headache so I went to the hospital alone.  He was going to come for the nighttime visiting hours.  As it happened, DH came home this day after lots of testing, last minute X-Ray, discharge notes, complaints about the night nurse…

We got home about 5:00PM.  Yea!

Now the real work began – visiting nurses, medications, doctor visits, rehab.

Since it’s no longer Monday, this post is over 🙂

 

heart-line

Whew!  There was a lot more after the surgery – visiting nurses, cardiac rehab, so on and on.

I am hugely thankful for my pastors, friends, family, people who brought us dinners, all the doctors, nurses, surgeons, visiting nurses, rehab personal, Mended Hearts, ambulance folks, aspirin, nitroglycerin, insurance, Fair Oaks Hospital, Fairfax Hospital, everyone involved in any way with this escapade.

 

 

Oct 18

Giving Thanks, Day 1: October 18, 2017

ocms-logo

 

Today, since it’s a “teaching day”, I’m thankful for my piano studio, my students, and my piano 🙂

 

When I was growing up, my dad was a minister, meaning we lived in whatever parsonage the church chose to let us live in.  The one we had in Pawcatuck, CT had an upright piano that someone had put out in the sunroom.  Not the best place for a piano, but I digress.

Since we had the piano already, someone – probably my mom – decided that I would take lessons.  We had the organist from the Baptist church just across the river in Westerly, RI

Apparently, Clara Pashley was fondly remembered at the church (now Central Baptist Church) since she was mentioned in an article from 2010.

 

screenshot-2016-11-04-10-04-33
25-centsMiss Pashley walked to our house each week and taught me (and my mom who was always listening in) piano for the grand sum of 25 cents.

I started with Ada Richter’s classic Teaching Little Fingers to Play, which has now been morphed into the John Thompson library.

From there, it was the Michael Aaron series, and some sheet music.

There was no music store in our town, so I have no idea where any of this music came from – but I still have it all.

My parents did very well for their quarter a week investment, especially since my mom paid good attention and was able to beef up lessons she’d had as a child.  Later on, she played well enough that she was church organist for a local Roman Catholic Church.

But I digress…

In those days, kids couldn’t do a whole lot of activities, so in 6th grade, I decided I wanted to be a Girl Scout.  Bye, bye Clara.

Girl Scouts didn’t last long but I did play piano in a talent show.  I remember, I carefully cut Burgmüller’s Ballade out of my Michael Aaron book and made a nice construction paper cover.  (I still have this, too)

balladeburgmuller

 

I doubt that I played this well but here’s what it was supposed to sound like:

 

A few years intervened and we moved to Springfield, MA.  The parsonage piano there was in terrible shape and in the dark, never-used basement.  But I decided to make it mine and cleared up the area around it and started “practicing”.

My Junior or Senior year of High School I decided I wanted to major in music in college.  I decided to learn, on my own, a piano arrangement of Aragonnaise by Jules Massenet.  I have no idea why or where that sheet music came from but I started working furiously on this piece.

aragonnaise

Hopefully, at some point, it should have sounded like this:

 

 

I started pedaling (no pun intended!) my music to the Universities of Connecticut and Massachusetts and ended up at UMass Amherst since we were state residents.

Early morning gym classes (usually swimming), then wet hair traipsing across campus to music theory in winter 5 days a week.  AARRGGH!

But I stuck it out.

My wonderful piano teacher, Howard Lebow, was killed in a car accident my sophomore year and I was devastated.  There will be more about him in a post on January 26, 2018 over on https://oconnormusicstudio.com

I took yet another break from piano lessons – but I kept playing.

After DH graduated, we moved to Milwaukee, WI for his graduate school.  Besides working 2 jobs, I found time to commandeer the practice rooms at the University of Wisconsin.  I also found a teacher at the Schaum School of Music.  She was amazed that I had no piano at home to practice on.

When we later moved to Alexandria, VA my DH gave me a choice of new car or piano. So, I found a used piano.  The owner had acquired it in a divorce and wanted it gone.  Yesterday.  She even paid to move it out of her apartment.

The new-to-me piano took up half our living room.  When my parents came to visit, their feet were under my piano as they slept on cots.

I found yet another new piano teacher and she is still my best friend to this day.

That piano moved to several locations before I bought a brand new Yamaha grand piano.  The movers accidentally brought in the wrong one and I made them return it.  The people who lived in an apartment were probably unhappy when they had to return my piano and take their own new baby grand back.

I started teaching as a traveling piano teacher in Silver Spring, Maryland.  I continued that in Wilmington, DE.

When we got to Fairfax, VA I decided no more traveling.  Students would come to me.  And so they have since 1973.

What is supposed to be our living room is filled with music books, electric keyboards, the grand piano, 2 organs, 2 violins, 2 clarinets, a hand-made (by me!) dulcimer and other musical “stuff”.

Piano playing has gotten me through the worst times of my life.  Teaching has been a lifeline for me, as well.

I am so thankful for the students who have stayed with me over the years.

 

Oct 18

40 Days of Thankfulness: Day Zero

 

Several years ago I decided to try Facebook’s 40 Days of Thankfulness and I’m going to post all 40 days here since I know that it will auto-post to Facebook and my blogs.

Although I have had several problems in my life (and who hasn’t?), I’m sure I can come up with at least 40 things I’m thankful for.  So starting later today, I’ll be posting them here.  Most were originally posted here.

 

Oct 09

Columbus Day, 2017

columbus
The day signifies Christopher Columbus’ arrival to America on October 12, 1492

 

Colorado first observed Columbus Day in 1906 as it became an official state holiday.  More and more people and states began to recognize Columbus Day.

 

In 1937, Columbus Day became a federal holiday in the United States.  There are many instances of people observing Columbus’ voyage since the colonial period.

 

In 1792, there were celebrations in New York City and other US cities, celebrating the 300th anniversary of his landing in the New World.  President Benjamin Harrison called upon the people of the United States to join together in celebration of Columbus Day on the 400th anniversary of the event.

 

During the anniversary in 1892, teachers, preachers, poets and politicians used Columbus Day rituals to teach ideals of patriotism.  These patriotic teachings were framed around themes of support for war, citizenship boundaries, the importance of loyalty to the nation and celebrating social progress.

 

In 1970,  Columbus Day was changed to the current observation on the second Monday in October.

 

Sep 29

My Favorite Holiday :)

www.public-domain-image.com (public domain image)

 

If you know me, you know that I nearly always have a cup of coffee nearby, at all times.  I’m glad that coffee has its own day now 🙂

 

The date might not be marked on your calendar, but if you are like more than 50 percent of adults who drink coffee every day, maybe it should be. Today is National Coffee Day, which means you can find free or reduced-priced coffee in many places.

 

 

Enjoy!

coffee-machine

Sep 22

The Best Day

I first read this in Chicken Soup for the Surviving Soul and is posted several places online.

The Best Day Of My Life
by Gregory M Lousignont

Today, when I awoke, I suddenly realized that this is the best day of my life, ever! There were times when I wondered if I would make it to today; but I did! And because I did I’m going to celebrate!

Today, I’m going to celebrate what an unbelievable life I have had so far: the accomplishments, the many blessings, and, yes, even the hardships because they have served to make me stronger.

I will go through this day with my head held high, and a happy heart. I will marvel at God’s seemingly simple gifts: the morning dew, the sun, the clouds, the trees, the flowers, the birds. Today, none of these miraculous creations will escape my notice.

Today, I will share my excitement for life with other people. I’ll make someone smile. I’ll go out of my way to perform an unexpected act of kindness for someone I don’t even know.

Today, I’ll give a sincere compliment to someone who seems down. I’ll tell a child how special he is, and I’ll tell someone I love just how deeply I care for her and how much she means to me.

Today is the day I quit worrying about what I don’t have and start being grateful for all the wonderful things God has already given me.

I’ll remember that to worry is just a waste of time because my faith in God and his Divine Plan ensures everything will be just fine.

And tonight, before I go to bed, I’ll go outside and raise my eyes to the heavens. I will stand in awe at the beauty of the stars and the moon, and I will praise God for these magnificent treasures.

As the day ends and I lay my head down on my pillow, I will thank the Almighty for the best day of my life. And I will sleep the sleep of a contented child, excited with expectation because know tomorrow is going to be the best day of my life, ever!

 

When I’m feeling down, depressed or low, reading this can help me more than anything else.

 

My dear friend, Alice, posted this for me in 2009:

maryo_2009

 

 

Sep 11

We Remember 9/11

9-11

 

 

I originally wrote this on 9/11/01…

I, too, was stunned to hear the news this morning and continuing throughout the day.

It was just something unbelievable.  My husband and I were on a Land Rover 4X4 tour of the off-road areas of Barbados when we first got the news.

At first, when we got the very first news, around 9:30 am, I thought that it was some tale that the driver was weaving…and that there would be a punchline.  As the day wore on, more interest was on the radio than on the tour.  Some of the people in our Land Rover were from New York City and they were terrified for friends and family.

What an awful day in history this is, one of those that we’ll always remember where we were when we got the news.

Like the rest of you, I am stunned, absolutely shocked that this could happen, using our own planes, no less.  I cannot imagine the terror of the people on those planes, or in the World Trade Center…or the Pentagon.

 

The rest of the story:

The year of 911 my mom and my son had been with us for the first week. My son had to be back at college so on Sunday he shepherded my mom through the airport, customs and all and got her back home before he headed back to UMass/Amherst on Monday. Thank goodness they got back before the mayhem started!

On Tuesday we were out on a 4X4 from Island Safari with our favorite guide, Zario. Zario is a fun guy and and very knowledgeable about Barbados and world events. We were very happy to have him again because it was the “luck of the draw” which driver/guide we got.

I remember that morning being kind of stressed already – I was having trouble with one of my contacts and I was just grumpy.

Zario picked us up first, one of the benefits of staying at The Crane – everyone picks us first for everything and drops us off last. Then he picked up another couple from New York City who were staying at Bougainvillea.

The tour started off through the fields, down cliffs as usual. Zario had the radio on in the background. When we got to the first stop he told us that there was a “problem” in New York. That it seemed that a plane had hit a building. We thought that there was going to be a punch line somewhere. There wasn’t.

As the tour went on, the news got worse. The couple from NYC was very worried about relatives.

By the time we got to lunch and met up with the other 4x4s everyone had heard. We were in a little chattal house restaurant, the TV was on CNN and everyone was just watching in silence and horror. Usually this lunch is very festive and fun. Not a care in the world. Not today.

We left the New York people off at their hotel and went “home”. The TV was full of New York news, then Pentagon news. We know people who work at the Pentagon. The news just got worse as we went along.

We were basically stuck in Barbados.  Phones to the US didn’t work well, email was slow to non-existent, all we knew was what we got on CNN, incessantly.  My mother and son had been with us the week before and had just flown back the Saturday before.  I was so glad that they had gotten back home ok, then my son off to college.

We were supposed to fly home on the next Saturday, but if was iffy if that would happen since the airports were closed for the longest time.  We were flying into the DC area. The phone lines to the Barbados airport and to American Airlines were always busy.

Finally, we decided to give it a shot, packed up and went to the airport to see if we could fly out or not.  They could only guarantee the flight as far as Puerto Rico.

The San Juan airport was crowded with Americans trying to get home, flights being canceled due to closed airports, people sleeping all around the airport, using backpacks for pillows.  It was a very difficult time.

We did finally leave for home later that night.  This is what I wrote the next day…

 

I flew on American Airlines last night (9/14/2001).  We left Barbados on time but the connecting flight, originating out of Aruba was very late, and we waited for a long time in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

After that flight had arrived though, we were all sitting around, hoping they’d board the plane soon.  All of a sudden, there was cheering in the hallway.  We turned to look – our pilot and crew were marching up the hallway with a huge American flag.  He stopped and talked to us.  He explained that the copilot would hang that flag outside his window as we taxied out of Puerto Rico and into Dulles.  The flag was making the rounds of American flights all over the country and that the yellow streamers hanging down were being signed by all the American crew members.  He posed for lots of pictures (I have some I’ll post later, when my eyes are less bleary!), then, as they were going to get the plane ready, he asked us in a loud voice if we were ready to fly to Washington and everyone cheered.

Along the way, he thanked us so much for having faith and flying (like we had any choice!).  The headphones for the movie and the drinks were all free on this flight!  He also told us that there were a lot of fighter planes in the Washington to NY corridor and not to be surprised if we were intercepted by one, who would just be making sure that we were “who we said we were”.  I thought that would be kind of neat to see, but I didn’t see them.  We arrived in Dulles (Washington, DC) with a jet fighter escort.  At the time, that sounded so comforting, but it turned out that they had been there to shoot us down, if we’d made any funny moves.

Then, when we arrived at the terminal, the captain said that we were back in “the land of the free, and the home of the brave” and got some more cheers.

It was a memorable flight for someone like me, who is terrified of flying under the best of circumstances.

Us, on 9/10/01. Who knew?

9/14, San Juan Puerto Rico:
After the crew marched down the hallway.

The captain, letting others have a chance to fly the flag.

This young woman lead us onto the plane.

MaryOUSAheart

 

Sep 08

Hurricanes

All this talk about Hurricanes Harvey and Irma reminds me of Hurricane Carol which hit where we lived when I was a kid.

At the time we lived in Pawcatuck, Connecticut, right on the line with Westerly, Rhode Island.  Luckily, we also lived on a small hill.

 

My Mom said “let’s go down and see the waves” so we drove to Misquamicut Beach, about 15 minutes away.

Our car got stuck in the rising tides and we probably would have washed out to sea had we not been blocking the path of a truck who wanted to get out of the area fast.  That truck pushed us to safety.

 

Hurricane-1954

We lived on a small embankment and when we got home, we could see that the road directly below us was flooded and people were going by in rowboats.

Carol, the first named Hurricane to impact the northeast arrived Tuesday, August 31, 1954. 10 days later another hurricane struck on September 11th. Edna caused more localized damage including the Cape Cod area. This promotional feature is from the photo album Hurricane! – published in 1954 by The Standard-Times.

 

 

From http://www.thewesterlysun.com/news/latestnews/5294584-129/remembering-hurricane-carol.html

WESTERLY — Carol Nash and Joe Potter were cheerfully preparing for their wedding during the summer of 1954 when they were hit with a double whammy.

Days before the wedding, on the morning of Aug. 31, Hurricane Carol, the most destructive hurricane to strike Southern New England since the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, came crashing ashore in coastal Rhode Island and Connecticut, causing significant flooding, knocking out power for weeks in some areas, and leaving 65 people dead. The hurricane would forever change the face of Misquamicut.

On the Potters’ wedding day, 10 days later, Hurricane Edna, which followed a track slightly east of Carol’s, barreled into southern New England with hurricane-force winds of 75 to 95 mph, buffeting all of eastern Massachusetts and coastal Rhode Island and claiming 21 lives.

Their stormy beginnings may have brought the Potters good fortune. On Sept. 11 they will celebrate 60 years of marriage. The parents of two daughters, and grandparents of two grandsons and a granddaughter, the Potters have traveled widely and now divide their time between Weekapaug and southern Arizona. Earlier this month they sat on their back deck overlooking the Weekapaug Breachway, recalling the two hurricanes of 1954.

Hurricane Carol destroyed much of Atlantic Avenue, they said, noting that the section now called Misquamicut State Beach was once dotted with summer homes. Joe Potter, who was living with his sister in Ashaway, was working for a man who owned the old Sunoco Station on Granite Street.

“He had some houses and a boat in Matunuck,” Potter recalled, and one of his houses was washed into a field.

Carol, who worked in data processing at the Pawcatuck-based Cottrell’s Printing Company in 1954, remembers how she had to travel to New Haven by train for work since there was no power on Mechanic Street where the company was located, and all the machines were shut down.

The traveling time cut into her last-minute wedding tasks, so she had to enlist her mom, Lillabeth Nash, who took the bus to Providence to pick up one very important item.

“I bought my wedding dress at Shepard’s Department Store,” recalled Carol as she described the rigors of travel to Providence in the pre- I-95 days. “And thank goodness they kept the dress upstairs because the entire basement of Shepard’s was flooded.”

The Shepard Company Department Store was once the largest department store in New England. Hurricane Carol was not kind to Providence, its surge submerging much of the downtown in 12 feet of water.

But Carol Nash’s wedding dress survived, and her mother was able to retrieve it and lug it back to Westerly on Sept. 11, the same day that Edna came roaring into town.

There was a good supply of raincoats and umbrellas on hand that morning for the bridal party and guests, and when Carol and Joe made it halfway down the aisle of Our Lady of Victory Church in Ashaway, the power went out.

The Potters were not only married by candlelight, but their wedding reception was also a candlelight affair.

****

Susan Sullivan Brocato, a longtime library assistant and guidance office secretary for the Westerly School Department, was a child when Hurricane Carol hit the coast. She remembers the day before the hurricane, driving to Watch Hill where her family had a cabana at the Watch Hill Yacht Club, taking her WoodPussy sailboat, Skip-It, out of the water and cleaning out the cabana.

“There seemed to be a lot of concern about the storm,” she said. “It was scary, but there was also excitement.”

Brocato said that back in 1954, the cabanas were sitting right on the sand, level with the beach.

“We waited out the storm at our home in Bradford only to find, when we returned the following day, that the cabanas were destroyed,” Brocato recalled. The Sullivans spent the next summer at Seaside Beach Club while the Watch Hill cabanas were rebuilt.

When they were completed, the cabanas were raised on stilts.

****

Although Stonington native Joe Rendeiro wasn’t in the states when Hurricane Carol slammed coastal New England, he remembers well the stories his father told about the storm and the damage it caused. Rendeiro, like his father before him, is a retired commercial fisherman. On Aug. 31, 1954, he was in the Mediterranean serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Salem. As a member of the shore patrol, his job was to keep an eye on the sailors. He remembers walking into a shore-front hotel on Sept. 1, 1954, and noticing a woman reading The New York Times. When he glanced at the paper, the headline caught his attention.

“The headline said ‘Hurricane Carol hits New England,’” recounted Rendeiro. “For two days I tried to call home and finally I got through.”

When he reached his home in Stonington, his mother, Rosa Rendeiro, gave him another kind of headline: Stonington had been hit hard. There had been an incoming tide, and boats had been lifted up and thrown upon the grassy area of town owned by Tony Longo.

“They told me that boats were spread all over town and that there were sailboats up against the railroad tracks,” Rendeiro said. “It caused a lot of damage to the fishing fleet.”

Rendeiro said his father’s boat, America, pretty much survived, but needed a lift from Chet Perkins, the owner of the local crane operation. His dad’s car did not fare as well.

“My father had a 1952 Pontiac from Joe Brustolon’s,” Rendeiro recalled. “He and Joe played poker together so he got all his cars from Joe.”

Rendeiro said his father thought he had parked the Pontiac far enough away from the rising tides, but he was mistaken.

“It was totally destroyed,” Rendeiro recalled. “When I came home that November he had a brand new Pontiac.”

****

Misquamicut resident Don Gentile, a self-described weather junkie and author of several local history books, including the Arcadia Publishing Company’s “Misquamicut,” was a young boy in late August 1954.

“I remember riding down Atlantic Avenue after the hurricane and seeing all the cottages that ended up in the pond, cottages that had been lifted off their foundations,” said Gentile. “They were there for a long time, too.”

When the Great Hurricane of 1938 destroyed most of Westerly’s waterfront, demolishing structures from Weekapaug to Napatree Point, people were reluctant to rebuild, Gentile wrote in “Misquamicut.” But by the early 1950s, people were less apprehensive, he said, and cottages and smaller buildings like hot dog and ice cream stands began to reappear by the beach. Lenny Malagrino, a local entrepreneur, brought in so-called “Groton Cottages,” small houses that had been used to house military personnel during World War II, and sold them for $500 apiece. People could buy a house and a lot for as little as $1,000, Gentile said.

By 1954, more than 50 cottages dotted the beach in Misquamicut, Gentile said.

“Little did people realize as the rebuilding continued,” he wrote, “a tropical entity in the South Atlantic would again have a say in Misquamicut’s future. Hurricane Carol would soon be visiting Misquamicut and it would not be pretty.”

One of the property owners, the late Henry Morris, Gentile reported, owned a cottage on lower Crandall Avenue (“Hurricane Alley”) that was moved off its foundation and up the street by the hurricanes of 1938, 1944 and 1954.

In total, more than 4,000 homes, 3,500 cars and 3,000 boats were destroyed and 65 lives were lost as a result of Hurricane Carol, according to the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography. With damages totaling over $460 million, Carol was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history until Hurricane Diane surpassed it the following year.

In 1955, Rhode Island Gov. Dennis Roberts introduced legislation to condemn the one-mile stretch of beach and secure it for the state by right of eminent domain. The legislation passed, and in 1959, Misquamicut State Beach was opened to the public.

****

Patty McKinney, whose family has owned property in Weekapaug for generations, was a little girl at the time of Hurricane Carol but vividly remembers the hubbub surrounding the event. On the day after the hurricane, Patty was in the family car with her mother, aunt and sisters, driving down Weekapaug Road to check on the cottage, when suddenly her mother let out such a sound that Patty was startled and scared until she saw what her mother’s exclamation was all about.

“There was a house in the middle of Weekapaug Road,” McKinney recalled. “We later heard that the house had floated across the pond and landed there, right in the middle of Weekapaug Road.”

McKinney said she also heard that the house was moved to Chapman Road, where it sits to this day.

“It’s the second house on the right,” she said. “It’s still there.”

nbfusaro@thewesterlysun.com

I am so thankful for that truck driver that needed to get away from the storm!

Sep 06

Read a Book Day?

Shouldn’t every day be Read a Book Day?

In another of the “Who Knew” Holidays…

national-read-books

 

National Read A Book Day is observed annually on September 6th.

Don’t keep it to yourself.  Share the experience!  Read aloud to anyone who will listen.

How-to_Read-A-Book

Reading improves memory and concentration as well as reduces stress.   Older adults who spend time reading show a slower cognitive decline and tend to participate in more mentally stimulating activities over their lifetime.  Books are an inexpensive entertainment, education and time machine, too!

 

Sep 04

Happy Labor Day!

labor-day

 

Labor Day was celebrated for the first time in New York City in 1882.  It was originally celebrated on September 5th, but was moved to the first Monday in September in 1884.

Labor Day started out as a state holiday, getting voted in by individual states. As the day gained popularity, Congress declared Labor Day 1894.

 

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