By Dom Cioffi
I always used to find it funny when I heard adults talk about reading the obituaries. Scanning the daily paper to see who died simply came across as a morbid activity to me. And then I ended up with a college roommate who changed my opinion entirely.
During college we used to always get a Sunday newspaper and then pass it around in the morning as we recuperated from our Saturday night activities. Normally we would all fight over who got the funny pages and the sports section. However, one of my roommates never joined in – he was quite content to grab a different section of the paper.
At some point one of us noticed his keen interest in this other section and inquired about the appeal. That was when he unveiled his fascination with the obituaries.
He explained that he inherited his interest in the obituaries from his father who believed that every person led an interesting life. His father used to sit him down as a child and read him the life stories of people who had recently passed. Later, when he learned to read, he continued the tradition on his own.
The activity, while foreign to me, sparked enough interest that I started to read the obituaries from time to time. And sure enough, the life stories that were revealed were almost always intriguing in one way or another.
To this day, when I run across a newspaper, I instinctually flip to the obituaries because there, surrounded by news reports of war and crime and poverty, are the life stories of regular people whose deeds and accomplishments more often than not went unnoticed until their death.
One of these obituaries was published this past week. It was for Vincent Crocker – my stepfather – who recently passed away after a long battle with cancer.
Vinny (as we all called him) was a regular man, unremarkable on the surface, but with an amazing story buried beneath.
He was born in Chester, Vt., where he lived and worked for most of his life. His father started a map company called The National Survey, which produced highly detailed maps that were internationally recognized for their precision and beauty.
Vinny worked for his dad’s map company until he was shipped off to fight in WWII. When the military brass realized he was a cartographer (map maker), they immediately began to utilize his talents in preparation for impending invasions.
Once in the European theater, Vinny specialized in the bombing and rebuilding of strategic bridges. It was during one of these missions that a German bomb detonated near him, killing many of the soldiers in his platoon and rendering his hearing diminished for the rest of his life.
Vinny concluded his war experience by fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and liberating prisoners at the Dachau Concentration Camp. Of the latter, he once mentioned how disturbing it was to see the prisoners at Dachau, with their emaciated frames resembling walking corpses.
When the war concluded, Vinny was asked to be the driver for one of General Patton’s top commanders because of his knowledge and skill with maps. He spent months traversing the German landscape as plans were made to rebuild the decimated country.
Upon returning to the States, Vinny assumed the leadership of his father’s business, where he remained until his retirement.
It was a decade prior to his retirement that Vinny met my mother, swooping in out of nowhere to rescue her from the difficult end of my father’s life.
Like most children who experience the addition of a new parent, I was hesitant and suspicious of this new man in my mother’s life. However, over time I came to realize that above everything, Vinny loved my mother and wanted nothing more than to make her happy and secure.
Until his dying day, Vinny remained a strong and loyal man. He hunted and fished and sugared for as long as his body would allow and remained committed to watching his beloved Red Sox and Patriots grind it out on the playing fields.
But as the end closed in, Vinny worried most about one thing: was the world going to survive all the evil and chaos erupting around the globe. He had fought valiantly for freedom and did not want to see that freedom lost for coming generations.
In this week’s feature, “Tomorrowland,” we meet another man who is concerned about the future, so much so that he’s willing to time travel there to make sure it remains.
Starring George Clooney, “Tomorrowland” imagines a futuristic world full of hope, beauty, and opportunity. But this world may cease to exist unless Clooney and a young friend can find a way to alter the destructive behaviors of mankind.
This film had an epic theme but it was unfortunately diluted by a disjointed and unconvincing storyline. I really wanted to like it, but it simply fell flat.
Check this one out if science fiction is your favorite genre, otherwise put your theater dollars to better use. An unrealized “C-” for “Tomorrowland.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at email@example.com.