Question: What do a fiddler, former MLB player Bernie Carbo, ‘Four Fat Guys’ and a bishop have in common?
Answer: They all visited the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke in one week to enhance the quality of life for our Veterans. They also each expressed patriotism in their own individual fashion.
I have been the Superintendent of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke for several months and am consistently amazed at the number and variety of activities that go on at the Home. They are a true testament to our recreation staff, and to the commitment of the many volunteers who make Veterans’ experience at the Home incomparable. One week earlier this summer was particularly impressive:
- On Tuesday evening, recreation therapist and fiddler Sarah Michel performed in Soldiers’ Home pavilion during a cook-out for residents of one of the Home’s care centers. Sarah was the featured artist for the Southampton Parks Department and she performed a free outdoor concert, accompanied by five Veterans from her music club who played back-up percussion for her performance. Despite a little rain, the Veterans had a great time and were well received.
- On Thursday, Bernie Carbo, a former member of the Boston Red Sox, famous for his pinch-hit, three-run home run in Game Six of the 1975 World Series; spent time talking to Soldiers’ Home Veterans and signing autographs. Bernie, who has been sober for more than 15 years, has been public about addictions to drugs and alcohol throughout his career and now tours New England promoting sobriety to a variety of audiences. He also agreed to return to the Soldiers’ Home to speak at a future Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
- On Saturday, “The Four Fat Guys Car Club” conducted the second of four ‘cruise nights’ that will be featured at the Soldiers’ Home this summer; they will also sponsor a day-long car show in September. “The Four Fat Guys” was formed in memory of the father of three of the members. ‘Cruise Nights’ at the Soldiers’ Home was conceived by Ray Elton, a former Soldiers’ Home employee who passed away before the first event. The club continues to hold events every year to honor past, present and future Veterans, and in memory of Ray. Veterans love seeing the vehicles, and one inevitably hears,”they don’t make ’em Like they used to!” for days after a ’cruise night.’
- On Father’s Day Sunday, Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of Springfield was the celebrant at the Catholic Mass celebrated in our chapel. Following Mass, he visited with Veterans, their family members, volunteers and staff in the canteen. Despite the devastating destruction of Cathedral High School as a result of recent tornadoes in Western Massachusetts, Bishop McDonnell found time to come to the Soldiers’ Home. He wanted to express his gratitude and appreciation for the service of our Veterans and their role in preserving our many forms of freedom, including the freedom to worship, one of our nation’s founding principles.
The Soldiers’ Home has a sacred duty to care for one of our nation’s most-cherished treasures: our Veterans. I am grateful to Soldiers’ Home staff and volunteers who make weeks like the one I’ve described possible, and who understand that patriotism is not merely waving a flag on Memorial Day. This commitment is also demonstrated daily at the Soldiers’ Home by volunteers who graciously give their time, talents and energy to enhance the lives of the American patriots who reside at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. My life has been enriched by my relationships with Veterans and all of the individuals and organizations that help enrich the quality of life of Massachusetts Veterans. I will be eternally grateful to both.
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