Me Pete Pat
Bishop Fallon High School
Class of 1966
When I was talking to one of my classmates at our reunion, I told him that for such a small school and graduating class, ours was unique in the accomplishments of its’ members. He told me that any group of 40 or so guys our age would have similar results. I don’t think so, and here are a few reasons why:
One of my classmates joined the Air force and refueled bombers and fighters in the Vietnam War. While we were in high school, he worked in a movie theater to pay for flying lessons. Most of us were in the same boat economically-on the lower end of an emerging middle class. He was an Air Force officer in the skies above Vietnam refueling B-52 bombers when his plane wouldn’t respond and went completely out of control.
My classmate and his copilot braced their feet against the instrument panel and, fueled with the strength of youth and flush with adrenalin, pulled back on the controls as hard as they could with no result. He finally told the crew they were going to have to bail out into the ocean when he noticed his navigator looking at him with panic in his eyes. The navigator told my classmate he couldn’t swim and was going to take his chances and go down with the plane. My classmate cancelled the bailout and he and his copilot managed to crash-land their plane in Okinawa without any injuries to the crew. My classmate never said it, but in listening to him tell the story, I realized he made the decision that it was all for one and one for all and if the navigator was going to go with the rest of the crew, the rest of the crew was staying with the navigator.
As a young officer, he assumed the mantle of command and performed admirably, even telling some high ranking officer in Okinawa where to go when he suggested the plane was airworthy. My classmate became a commercial airline pilot when the war was over and recently retired.
Another classmate of mine was an infantryman in Vietnam. He volunteered for two tours and was a battle scarred veteran of 24 months of intense jungle fighting. He showed me the pacemaker he has implanted in his chest-his health wrecked by the war. He still has a great optimistic outlook even though the scars of Vietnam continue to haunt him.
One of my classmates had a heart attack in his early thirties. He was in bad shape and a priest came to see him in intensive care to give him the last rites. My classmate told the priest to get out before he could say a word. He told the priest he had a young daughter who counted on him and he was not going to die. His concern and love for his daughter was the fire that kept him alive.
Another classmate of mine, and one of my closest friends, told me as a young child, he would run up the street to greet his Dad when he walked home from work. One day, he noticed his Dad didn’t have the usual spring in his step and he knew something was wrong. His Dad told him he had lost his job, but not to tell his mother and that everything would be okay. The next day, his Dad found another job. My classmate worked with another classmate of ours and they ran a multimillion-dollar company. My friend had a heart attack a few years ago and actually died but was brought back to life by some outstanding medical personnel. My classmate and I talked about our youth and our parents. He reminded me how our parents would tell us we held the world in our hands and pushed us to succeed. Our parents lived through a depression and the Second World War. They worked long hours without complaint and sacrificed for their families. Because of them, their example and guidance, the world was our oyster and any success we garnered in life was due to them.
One of my classmates had a law enforcement career in the U.S. Navy and was so proud of his high school and classmates that he brought his son to the reunion. His son is the youngest Chief of Police in the United States, following his father’s footsteps.
Another classmate went to college in Oklahoma and played college football. He was one of biggest and athletic members of our class and I admired him for the fact that he pursued his dream.
While talking to one of my classmates, I noticed our class president saying goodbye to one of our members and kissing him on his cheek. I always admired the way Italians could unashamedly show their affection to family and friends and still be tough guys. Our class president started his own financial company and still retains the leadership qualities that we all recognized when we voted him our class president.
Another Italian classmate, and one of my three closest friends, is an athletic director, and was the fullback on our sandlot football team when were were high school classmates. He broke his collarbone in one of our games and didn’t complain or even exhibit the pain he was in. He and I went to the same college and he would often give me rides to school and even lend me his car. He is a generous and loyal person.
I asked another Italian classmate-we had lots of Italians and Irish in our class-what he did when we graduated. He told me he went to college, the same one I attended. I told him I didn’t know and he told me he went to night school and worked full time in the day. He married his high school sweetheart and worked in the mailroom of a radio station. He recently sold his business and is a multimillionaire. He is an unassuming guy, no vanity, just a classmate of mine.
One of my classmates told me he didn’t like college and dropped out to become a long haul truck driver. He still drives occasionally and is one of the most contented and happy members of our class.
When I arrived at our reunion, I looked into the room full of the Class of 1966, and they all looked like me-68 year old men. I said hello to the room and they looked at me the same way I looked at them. We did not recognize each other. Once we started talking, the years fell off us and we were 17 years old again. I was amazed at the turnout; guys came back to Buffalo from all over the country. Everyone seemed to realize what a unique and wonderful time we had at Bishop Fallon, and what an outstanding group of young men we had in our class. We liked each other and we took care of each other. We were all from the same basic background and jealously and envy were unknown to us.
I think all of us realized that this was probably the last reunion we would be attending and the last time we would see the classmates that played such a great part in molding us into the men we became. We all found ourselves looking back with fondness, tinged with sadness, at the time in our life when we were, young, strong and invincible.