Remembering 9/11: Twenty Years Later

Diane White

The names on the 9/11 Memorial are etched into marble and our hearts. I touched the names and there was something. An echo or reverberation. Like the experience at the wall at the Vietnam Memorial. Tears. You see people grieving next to you and long to reach out to comfort them. Sometimes you do.

On 9/11, I was with Verizon in the Information Technology department on an early morning conference call. Someone suddenly shouted into the phone (More…)

And Now for Something . . . a Little Bit Different

Theresa D’Aiuto Sokol

OLLI Connects is almost three years old, and in its short lifetime, we have shared a wide variety of your fellow OLLI members’ contributions: powerful  stories, rich personal experiences, fascinating nuggets of history, and humor.  We’ve taken you on trips to other parts of the United States and journeys to other parts of the world.  We’ve shared technology, book reviews, poetry and more.  We’ve had posts that were all photographs with no more words than were needed for context.

But we’ve not had a post that was almost all video.  Until today.

Theresa D’Aiuto Sokol has shared two of her blog posts, and now she shares some of her video work.   (More…)

The Greatest Generation and a Misspelled Name

My husband and I have always taken pride in our fathers’ World War II military service. Both served in the US Army Air Corp (now the Air Force). Bill, my father-in-law, was a gunner flying B-24s over Germany (in the “waist” of the plane, the middle side behind the wings); my father, Murray Zimney, was a ground crew engineer performing maintenance on the same planes before and after their bombing runs.

Bill’s last name was Beasom. My husband Buck Beasom (he says he kept his own name when we got married) is actually Bill Jr., but has been Buck since his Vietnam-era Navy days. Buck grew up hearing tales of Bill’s flying adventures, mostly (but not always) sanitized for the ears of the four children. My father Murray was far more reserved in sharing information about his days in the military. Perhaps, according to the norms of the 1950’s, his two little girls needed to be sheltered from all disturbing things.  (More…)

Dubious Military Distinctions

Neil Cosentino

In the category of Dubious Military Distinctions, I like to think I hold the world’s record for the shortest flight in a KC-135A/B between two different airports. (The KC-135 is an aircraft that refuels other planes in midair.) My “world record” flight took place in 1968 between St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (KPIE) and MacDill Air Force Base (KMCF) in Tampa, Florida.

The day started at Plattsburgh Air Force Base in New York where I was told to deliver a KC-135A/B to PEMCO, an Inspection and Repair As Necessary (IRAN) facility located at St. Petersburg – Clearwater International airport.

Like most pilots, I like landing at different airports, especially if I can land a military aircraft at a civilian airport, so it was a good mission. (More…)

Baseball and the Atomic Bomb

Bharat Pathakjee

While researching for my class on the Atomic Age, I came across a little-known human interest story about a man named Moe Berg. The son of a Jewish pharmacist, he was born in New Jersey in 1902.  He loved baseball and was quite good at it, much to his father’s displeasure. He excelled at his high school, won a scholarship to Princeton, and played ball in the Ivy League. He majored in Romance languages and became fluent in no fewer than six.

After Princeton he was recruited by the pros—the Brooklyn Robins–for $5,000 a year ($71,000 in today’s money). More success was soon to follow, and in 1926 he earned $50,000 ($700,000 in today’s money) playing for the Chicago White Sox.  (More…)

Dad’s Dog Tags

Diane Henrikson Russell

A week into 2021, I received a short message from Alan Carlson, the OLLI Connects Editor. Somebody had written a comment on my 2018 OLLI Connects story about Santa Claus. Who would comment on it two years later? Alan sent the comment for me to read before posting it.

The comment read: “Dear Diane, I try to contact you on your Facebook message about your dad. Hope you can see and read it! Kind regards, Sam.”

I checked Messenger and, sure enough, there was a message from Sam with two blurred images. In this age of mistrust and online scamming, I did not open the images and chose not to reply through Messenger.

Instead, I emailed Sam with the following message:  (More…)

Once Upon a Time in Tampa

Neil Cosentino

Rescuing the historic Deutscher-Americaner Club

I have some German heritage on my mother’s side, so I decided to rescue the Deutscher-Americaner Club. It was then a derelict building located in Ybor City on Nebraska Avenue, a block north of Palm Avenue and El Centro Asturiano, the Spanish social club.

The campaign started many years ago on the day I drove past the boarded-up building. My concern was that it could be set on fire someday by the homeless people who, from time to time, broke in and lived inside the building. I enjoy telling this story about Tampa, because of the interesting how-to takeaways.  (More…)

Struggle for Freedom

Junia Ancaya

Chapter One: Lodz, 1942, Ghetto at Baluty

Like the shattering of my family and Poland due to Hitler’s and Stalin’s ruthless power ambitions, my first impressions of life in Lodz in the midst of WW II, my awakening, emerged not as a continuum but as fragmented images and episodes. . . .

I was six. I held her hand and through her fingers felt my mother tremble at the approach of an SS man, but he passed us by on the street. A menacing sky hung close above Lodz’s numerous factory chimneys. Bulky ashen clouds and snowflakes crowded the air as my mother, brother and I stood waiting at a street corner for the trolley. Around us more and more people were caught in the whistling wind. It blew one way and the other and swept in mad pirouettes.

The trolley barreled toward us growing to enormous proportions before it squealed to an abrupt stop. A door opened in front of me, so I freed myself from my mother’s hand and hopped onto the stairs. But the next second she yanked me backwards by my collar. I slid on the snow, and before I had time to think she picked me up and rushed to the last trolley car. My brother raced beside us. We boarded. Mother sat on the one available seat.   (More…)

Cold War Warrior

Don Menzel

The 1960s was a decade of hope embedded in the prospect of a nuclear holocaust. I was there; I was a Cold War warrior in every way imaginable. When I signed up for navigator training in the U.S. Air Force, I wanted to be on the front line, and that meant getting assigned to a B-52 Stratofortress crew. This awesome 8-engine plane was the Air Force’s answer to the need for a strategic bomber force that would win the war against Communism and take down the Soviet Union. This bomber fleet was also an essential component in the planning to assure that the U.S. could survive a first strike and deliver devastating destruction to the enemy—this is the language of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction).

In this essay, I want to describe the training and experience that I had in order to become wedded to a weapon of mass destruction. I also want to share with you the spine-chilling atmosphere that I and many other Americans shared about a nuclear future.  (More…)

Pandemic Potato Salad

Diane White

The Saga of the Pandemic Potato Salad – Comfort Food Through the Generations

Potato saladWhat does potato salad remind you of? To me potato salad is summer days, picnics, family, tailgating at the beach. Happiness.

I am calling this story the pandemic potato salad saga which reached out and brought comfort from the past.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 stay-at-home order, the call went out across the family network. S.O.S! My middle sister wanted to make potato salad. Not just any potato salad – the potato salad from our childhood. The way our Polish immigrant grandmother made it. So, I looked through my recipe files – something else I’ve been meaning to organize. And yes, I found it! Not only do I have it, it is handwritten, in my grandmother’s hand with notes lovingly explaining how to make it, addressed to her daughter-in-law, my mother.

Who was she, my grandmother, to remind us of comfort at this time? Katarzyna (Catherine) Walczak White was born in 1909. She emigrated from Andrychow, a small town in southern Poland, in 1913. She was four years old.  (More…)