Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Snow Big Deal

Managed to get out and log a couple of miles in the middle of tonight's snowstorm.  Actually, a rather refreshing, inspirational, peaceful, and invigorating run, if you must know.

It was supposed to have been a group run with my fellow Middlesex running peeps, but the Frost Giants of Jotunheim conspired against us and cancelled the outing, so I headed out in the tundra solo, from my Snow Fort on Dinsmore Street.

Why should anyone care?

Well truthfully, you probably don't, but come to find out, with tonight's couple of miles, I unofficially surpassed the 1,100 mile mark, an achievement I'm not sure I ever notched before in my years of running!  Unofficial because I didn't run with my iphone app during a couple of torrential rainstorms, so those miles didn't tally in the official app log.  That will happen soon enough, though.

Every year, I usually just creep north of 1,000 miles, but I set the bar a tad higher this year, and tacked on another 100 miles to the goal.

For some of you reading this blog, those miles are peanuts.  I know some of you go north of 2,000.

But for this Clydesdale, I'll take the victories where I can grab them.  And the year's not over yet!

I didn't reach the milestone without a bit of help, so without further ado....deep breath...

Thank you to fellow E Streeters and Middlesex Running Crew Andrew Cook, Barry Scanlon, Tommy Scanlon, Scott Spence, Sean Kenny, Carlos Borges, John Piekos, Mike Cassidy, Victoria Hatem, Tom Fleming, Nick Laganas, Judy Photimath, Jon Noone, Devon Brooks, George Asamoah, Marisol Nobrega, Joe Patuto, Gina Spaziani, Tim Boutsios, Mary-Jo Griffin, Donna Corbin, Paula Pitcher, Rebecca Newell, Cherie Comeau, Jonathan Crockett, Jennifer Pisarik, Noreen McGinness Olson, Lisa Doucett, Richard Frank, Pramod Bhardwaj, Scott Graham, Tom Beaupre, and Heather Cook!  (Thanks especially to my wife Jackie, for holding down the fort while I was out gallivanting through all those miles!)

I hope I captured the folks I've logged my miles with this year, starting with the first mile, back on New Year's Day in Westford and capping tonight on the snow-covered streets of Lowell.

Long may you all run!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black and Blue Friday

Black Friday, so it was time for an E Streeters run to burn off the calories piled on the previous day.  Never mind doorbuster sales, we're talking belt buster dinners.
So bring on the miles.
And for those who thought we did nothing but run for exercise, here's a picture to dispel that fallacy - Andrew and Barry showing how to do - and not do - pull-ups.  You decide which one of them has the better form.
Luckily, I had a camera on hand to document this miracle - Andrew running past Casa Blanca Mexican restaurant without stopping.  He clearly was distracted, though. 
Ino the fields we go.  Fortunately, Barry knows these trails like the back of his hand.  Which apparently he hasn't seen much of lately. 
Black Ice Friday 
Despite being on rehab assignment, Tommy flagrantly disobeyed his doctor's orders to stick to flat, boring surfaces.  Picked a good day to break in the new sneaks, too. 
Fresh out of the pricker bushes.  I mean seriously, what kind of father lets his son wear shorts when we're hitting the deep woods, complete with thorns, branches, and the briar patch? 
Tommy is outstanding in his field. 
Once again, Andrew and Barry display the many different manners in which to test their mettle by either hurdling or gingerly stepping over a downed tree.  Both of them were knew what lay ahead. 
Namely, day-after Thanksgiving sandwiches at run's end to negate the 4+ miles of arduous, grueling trails. 
Let us give thanks that Andrew got fed. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Life of Pie - 2013 version

Thanksgiving, and time for the annual E Streeters tradition of freezing our collective asses off on the frozen tundra that surrounds the Lowell Elks for the Thanks4Giving 5K race to help benefit Alternative House, a non-profit that raises money to assist battered women.  A great cause, and one of the things that makes it slightly easier to brave the frigid temperatures along the wind tunnel of Pawtucket Boulevard for the annual outing.
And of course, there's always the post-race pie.
Heather made the trek out there today, and bumped into her bud Virginia.  One of these two girls is about to spend the next half hour running.  The other one is about to spend the next half hour shivering.
A field of Heather amidst the cold
The family Hatem, symmetrical and photogenic as always
You can't miss Clan Cassidy in this crowd 
Frozen Turkeys 
Scott Spence up front, telling the crowd of hundreds to get ready to be schooled.  He wasn't wrong.
Heather was able to get her fingers moving and snap some finish line shots.  Apparently Scott was the only one running on this course today.  Get this - he finished SEVENTH OUT OF 1,200 RUNNERS!
Andrew felt merciful today, and ran the whole course with his old man.  We landed spots in the top 100 at 90 and 91!  Not a bad outing.
Here comes Heather!
Tommy, the only E Streeter foolish courageous enough to do the 10K loop.  Next time Tommy mocks me for telling him I saw Santa out on the Boston Marathon course, I'll remind him of this pic.
Barry and John are all excited because they're not doing the second loop with Tommy
These two are going to fight it out to the finish
Fire it up, Mike! 
With his daughter, DJ, hot on his trail 
Rebecca with sis, pumped about pie 
Afterwards, with pies in hand, and the race behind them, the Heathers are beaming even brighter! 
Andrew and Nicole, Pie Heads 
The Hustling Hatems, hoisting them high.  Except for Elias, whose pie is apparently heavier than the others
In case you haven't figured it out by now, we get excited easily when it comes to pie.
But not just pie, it's the fact that with another Thanksgiving, we're all still here to celebrate the holiday together.
Every year, I take this opportunity to give thanks for the fact that we all still have our health, our families, and our friends with us.  This blog runs all year long, and for the most part, is done with a light-hearted  tone to help keep things fun.
But seriously, grateful as all hell to have an incredible family around me, some fab co-workers who make it easy to show up for work Monday through Friday, and a group of friends that goes back decades.  For many of us, we've been hanging together since high school, and in the case of Mike and I, all the way back to 1973!
May not say it all year long, but really thankful to have all of you around.
Thankful, also this year, that Jackie's sister Annie is on the mend after a tough summer kicking leukemia's ass, and she'll be joining us for a plate of turkey later today.
So seriously, thanks to all.
The snark will resume with the next post.  In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Go enjoy your well-earned pie, all!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Our Hockmeyer Veterans, and One in Particular

In honor of this Veterans Day weekend, I thought it appropriate to share a story about a member of my family whom I never got to meet, because he died 20 years before I was born, paying the ultimate sacrifice during combat in World War II.

It's a long tale that starts with a book fair in Chelmsford, but winds all the way back to a Lowell corduroy mill that's been closed for more than half a century.

The story is about my uncle, Gerald F. Cook, who died at the age of 19 in Germany on September 17, 1944.  He survived the D Day invasion of Normandy, only to perish three months later, while serving as a radio man in the Army Infantry.

Gerald was a hero to my father, James J. Cook, and his death spurred my father to try to fake his way into the Merchant Marines at the age of 15 so that he could go fight overseas.  His true age was discovered, though, and he was discharged, only to return to serve in the Korean Conflict seven years later.  My late brother, Gerald, was named after this uncle.

Up until earlier this year, though, we only had one picture of my Uncle Gerald, and a grainy one at that.  Not much had survived the passage of time, especially in the days of World War II.

That is until a co-worker of my wife came across a book at a book fair being held at the Chelmsford Public Library.  The book, ensheathed in purple-blue corduroy, was entitled simply, Our Hockmeyer Veterans.

A few pages into the book, the co-worker saw one of the first pages of the book and thought the individual in the first picture resembled me.  He was doubly surprised to see that the photo was of a man named Gerald Francis Cook.  On a hunch, he bought the book, and gave it to my wife, who brought it home to me, where I verified that the soldier in the clear picture was indeed, my Uncle Gerald.

The book, it turns out, was dedicated to three men from Lowell who were employees of a Lowell corduroy mill and who died in World War II - Gerald Francis Cook, John Calhoun Hunt, and Edward Peter Michael.

And in the pages that follow the stories of the three fallen soldiers are profiles of another 85 Lowell men who served in World War II and had worked for the Hockmeyer Corduroy company.

Come to find out, thanks to a bit of on-line research, the Hockmeyer Corduroy company was housed in the Waterhead Mills, which are still standing, and are now home to Ramalho's West End Gym on Lawrence Street alongside the Concord River.

The book is entitled Our Hockmeyer Veterans, a commemorative record of the activities of the Hockmeyer Brothers' organization during World War II.  It was printed by the Murray Printing Company of Cambridge.

The book contains a preface written by Victor F. Hockmeyer, company president, Clive E. Hockmeyer, vice-president, and Lincoln Clark, treasurer.  In the preface, the executives wrote "it is with mingled pride and sorrow that we present this memorial - pride in the record of achievement in a just cause by those of our organization who served in our armed forces and those who supplied the needs of those forces; sorrow that we must report the supreme sacrifice made in this service by three of our former employees who failed to return from the conflict."

The preface continues: "Our organization was privileged to take an active part in this great effort and we are proud of our performance.  Many of our employees entered the armed services and we believe it is fitting that the record of the Hockmeyer veterans should be published so that their roles in contributing to the ultimate victory will not soon be forgotten.  May we strive for a just and lasting peace that their sacrifice shall not have been made in vain."

In the introduction, the authors state "There is no need for the Hockmeyer organization to boast of our participation in the war effort.  The facts speak for themselves.  All our planning, all our work, all our machines were directed toward production for victory."

"Millions of service men have enjoyed the clothing comfort given by the use of our products," the executives continue.  "Those who wore the jackets issued to forces in the Southern Pacific were using some of the jungle cloth that we produced in quantity exceeding over two hundred thousand yards.  Navy men who warmed their hands by plunging them into corduroy-lined pockets were enjoying part of our special product of which our plant turned out more than one million yards for the Navy.  Those unfortunate enough to be hospitalized luxuriated in maroon bathrobes for which we turned out over one-half million yards of corduroy for the Medical Corps."

In all, the book offers profiles on 88 Lowell men who worked for the company and served in the military.  Most, but not all of them have pictures to accompany their bios.  Other bits of information included on their bio pages includes their job function at the mill, their branch of serivce, their ranks, assignments, and award, and for many a quote from them as well as some anectodal information about their tour of duty.

Other names listed among the veterans include: Joseph A. Boisvert, Kenneth Buchanan, Arthur Burke, Henry J. Canas, Lawrence K. Carney, Antonio J. Ciaravolo, Warren J. Coleman, Frederick Courtemarche, Roland F. Cutter, Stephen DeMallie, Joseph E. Evicci, William P. Feehan, John C. Ferreira, Lionel G. Gaulin, Roland G. Gelineau, Gerard Gignac, Roger G. Girard, Francis J. Glynn, Thaddeus Gorski, Gilbert Grugan, George Hansen, James Healy, Langdon Hockmeyer, Vincent Hockmeyer, Robert Houde, George Hubert, William F. Ireson, Bronislaw Jaracz, Joseph W. Jezak, Herman Johnson, Stathis Kareores, William Kasilowski, Arthur J. Lachance, John Lake, Victor F. Lebeau, Leo Lemire, Carl J. Lowe, Harry G. Lowe, Philip Maguire Jr., Arman H. Marcouillier, Herache F. Markarian, Earl Marshall, Maurice Masson, Henry McGrath, William J. McNeill, David Muldoon, Francis Muldoon, Frank P. O'Brien Jr., Joseph O'Donnell, Julian J. Olejarz, William Oliveria, Raymond Ouellette, Edward Paglieroni, George Paleologos, Peter Panagiotareas, Alfred Pearson, Joseph Pearson Jr., Theodore J. Fereira, William Pestana, Gerald Proulx, Mortimer Pulsifer, Daniel E. Rallis, Paul N. Robarge, Everett W. Rolfe, Michael Rutina, John P. Ryan, Joseph Sasnauskas, Charles Shacka, Joseph A. Soulard, Alexander J. Stanulonis, Leopold E. Stec, C. Roger Stott, Raymond Stowell, Fred Swiderski, Walter S. Urbowicz, Joseph Versiackas, Walter Viera, George C. Walter, Joseph Whitworth, Paul E. Wilmot, Henry S. Wojkowski, G. Kenneth Wright, George Xiggores, Joseph Yates, and Paul Zannoni.

Anyone who thinks they might be related to somebody on that list or who wants to peruse the book can contact me, either through the comment section on this blog, or via email at patrickecook@yahoo.com

Some final facts I learned about my uncle via this book: he worked in the "finishing" section of Hockmeyer.  He was in the Army Infantry, 26th Infantry Division, Company C, with a rank of corporal.  He enlisted on May 20, 1943, and was killed in action sixteen months later, on September 17, 1944.  He was awarded ribbons for European Theater of Operations, Good Conduct.  He received a Purple Heart, and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.  He trained at Fort McClellan, Alabama.

According to his bio in the book:  "Gerald trained at Fort McClellan for five months, then was shipped overseas and landed in England in November, 1943.  There he underwent further training.  He took active part in D Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.  He was in active combat against the enemy in the push across France and into Germany.  On September 17, 1944, Gerald was killed in action in Germany.  Gerald was the captain's radio man."

I wish more information about my uncle's history existed, especially photos or any other stories of his young life.  Gerald had been raised on Auburn Street in the Flats neighborhood.  Before he left to serve his country, he married Theresa Yates, with whom he is buried.  He also left behind four siblings, all of whom have also since passed away.   A Lowell Sun newspaper account of Gerald's death at the time described him as "a well and favorably known young Lowell man."  More than twenty years ago, the square at the intersection of D and School Streets was dedicated to my uncle.

If nothing else, I hope this blog can help commemorate the life of a young man whose story was almost lost to time.

This Veterans Day weekend, for Gerald F. Cook, as well as all of the other veterans profiled in this book, a grateful country - and in this particular case, a grateful nephew - thanks you.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Parade of Champions

Some of you may have heard that one of the hometown sports teams did alright for themselves this season, turning around their game from being the worst team in the league to the first, with a World Series win that left us all on emotional high this past week.
And for those of us who were in the mix last April when things went awry at the finish line of the Boston Marathon and the Boston Strong phrase was coined to embody the spirit of New England, a victory parade along that Marathon route to celebrate the World Champion Red Sox was an event that clearly, we could not miss.
So with that, it's off to Fenway, beards and all, with cousin John in tow!
Heather is having a banner year at school, just like the Sox 
Proudly touting his Boston Marathon colors 
Two days into No Shave November, and Jackie is already boasting a pretty good beard 
Damn right 
Why yes, we are the Champions 
Horganing with the best of them 
My baseball babes 
We are, indeed
Out on Boylston Street, we united with our Lowell neighbors, the Hatems 
Lowell was well represented at this parade.  Over 2 million people at the parade, and we still managed to find one another! 
Boston Marathon veterans, proudly showing off their gold and blues
Photo-bombing at its best, courtesy of Elias 
One last group shot before the other group comes by on their Duck boats 
Trophy time!
The Destroyer 
A bearded Green Monster 
And finally, the Big Man himself, boasting his three championships - do we have to say his name? 
Congrats to the Sox, and thanks for restoring a nation's faith in the game of baseball