Valley a quiet port for retired sailor |

Valley a quiet port for retired sailor

Happy Sprinter! I do not know about you but I am ready for some warmer weather. This winter has hung around like an unwanted cousin. I would like Mr. Blue Sky (veiled ELO reference) to evict winter out of the valley.

Recently I had the wonderful experience of sitting down with a local neighbor Jack Delaney. Jack has been living in Johnson Lane since 1987. About the same time, I decided to move into the community.

Jack was born in Troy, N.Y., in 1934 which makes him a young 85 years of age. Jack was raised in an orphanage of about 600 children. Jack tells me there was a book written about it titled “The Throw Away Child” authored by Susanne Maloney Robertson. Reading the prelude doesn’t sound like he had a pleasant upbringing.

My first impressions were of a humble Navy veteran. Jack voluntarily enlisted at the age of 17 because he was bored and looking for adventure. He spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy as an independent duty corpsman on a ship with no doctors or medical staff. Jack served on the USS Missouri, BB-63; USS Oriskany, CVA-34; USS Lexington, CVA-16; USNS Geiger, TAP-197 and the USS Barry, DD-933. Two of his tours were spent with the U.S. Marine Corps. Jack saw the medical field like mechanics. He approached it like fixing a pump, or something around the house. Being without doctors or medical staff I can only imagine the number of lives he impacted. He spent time in both the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Jack served as the “Medical Representative to Cruiser Destroyer Force Pacific” upon his return from Vietnam. That required him to oversee all the destroyers homeported at Long Beach for medical readiness prior to deployment. Jack says “Hope I did well as the crews were what made the ships run well. There was a saying many years ago, I joined the Navy because I saw the ships were so clean and then I found out how they stayed that way.”

When the USS Missouri became a museum at Pearl Harbor, Jack was present for the ribbon cutting. He represented both the USS Missouri Association and the American Battleship Association. Jack tells me his most memorable moment was when a crew of helicopter pilots went on a scouting mission but never returned. Jack states “that’s when I grew up.” One task that Jack and I shared was being a casualty assistance calls officer. Since his service was during the Vietnam War, Jack notified numerous next of kin that their loved ones were killed in action. It is a difficult task, which never receives any thank-you. I for one would like to thank Jack for stepping up.

Jack met his wife Marjorie Delaney while serving in the Navy in Japan. Marjorie was a Navy nurse. Jack and Marjorie were married for 55 years. Marjorie passed about five years ago. Together they raised a son and a daughter. The couple originally settled in Albany, N.Y. After retiring from the Navy, Jack took a job in a hospital doing supply functions. The hospital was in the middle of major construction within six months Jack found himself in the vice president position overseeing the project. He stayed in that position for 17 years until he retired. Jack’s daughter is back East with two granddaughters. Jack has four great-grandchildren.

Jack and Marjorie were driving through the valley to visit their son who moved to Mammoth for a job. When they descended into Carson Valley and they fell in love with the landscape and the town’s folk. Jack and Marjorie enjoyed the attitude and felt the community was “more sedate” than Albany. In 1987, Johnson Lane was being built by several independent contractors. They would build a home and hope someone would buy it. These were called “spec homes” as they were being built on the speculation that there would be a buyer. Most of the homes from Clapham to Vicky were built in this manner. Jack lives on the quiet street of Cathy and likes to help out all of his neighbors.

When talking with Jack about his experiences he lights up when talking about his Honor Flight. If you are not aware of this program, it takes veterans back Washington, D.C., for about a week. According to Jack there is no leisure time. The program takes the veterans to all the memorials at the Mall in D.C. They are feed all meals at no charge. Jack says he “can’t really explain it.” The participants go from complete strangers to being “kissing cousins.” The event he liked the most was the mail call. Elementary students write letters to each veteran and the letters are read aloud. He tells me it brought tears to his eyes.

As we were ending our lunch interview, I asked Jack to name one thing he would change about Johnson Lane and one thing he would leave alone. If he could wave a magic wand, he would clean up the run-down properties. He “likes the curb appeal” of homes and doesn’t understand how someone can have a home and let it get run down. Most of the time is just takes some manual labor to cut back the weeds and overgrowth. Jack wants to keep the charm of the community by not having sidewalks or street lights. He likes to step out and look up at the stars.

In closing, I asked Jack what advice he had and what was his secret to longevity. According to Jack you “have to have goals, keep them low so you can reach them and then go further.” On longevity Jack says it is in the genes, hard work and being positive.

I hope you enjoyed this segment. If you have a neighbor you would like profiled in the journal just let me know. They will get a free lunch.

Thank you, Teresa, for introducing me to Jack and my deepest thanks to Jack for allowing me the opportunity to tell his story as one of your neighbors.

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