Today my father, Rev. Elmo Pascale, sent me a blog post (written on his iPad) with 1956 memories describing how past Staten Island floods made people flee their homes and the relief efforts at his church. Looking at a map I believe he is referring to Midland Beach.
My Staten Island Years and the
Vulnerable Coastline Along the Lower Bay Area
In January, 1956, the New York State Congregational (Church) Conference journal, “Conference Trails,” published an article about my pastoring at the Oakwood Heights Community Church on Staten Island. The article included routine pictures and comments, save for one section that, in light of the current Hurricane Sandy storm, seems rather poignant.
The middle bay of New York City (Oakwood Beach, Staten Island), a short distance from our church was subject to severe flood conditions, and the article about my ministry explained how our Church, with the help of the Red Cross, provided beach residents with overnight retreats from storms and flood conditions. Read more »
It’s Memorial Day Weekend 2012, when we remember men and women who fought and gave their lives, largely to maintain democracy and religious freedom. Each year, I think about my Uncle Sherman, although I think about him lots of other times too, because while he did not die fighting, he made an ultimate sacrifice — losing any quality of life after extreme shell shock suffered in World War II.
These days, as various groups tell people what to believe, how they should worship, who they should and shouldn’t love, and even for whom they should cast a vote, I remember Uncle Sherman, precisely because he went to fight Hitler’s evil world view and the Holocaust. He did this after learning about freedom of religion and persecution of the Jews — in Shelburne Sunday school in Terre Haute, Indiana. He went to war to fight hate.
Sherman had never met anyone of the Jewish faith, but he knew they had a right to live their lives, and were he alive today he would be very puzzled about the many people making hateful comments about Muslims. My uncle was a member of “the greatest generation,” today’s elder-elders who put themselves in grave danger and saw countless friends and family members die in at least one war. Read more »
Bridges, highways, businesses, savings accounts, good schools, paid off mortgages, parks, protective regulations, Medicare, social security, you name it. Even foreign aid to build up countries that had been our enemies during World War II.
The generations that preceded us, and especially the greatest generation, had a finely tuned respect for public service. Civics was important to them, and they understood how building a government, whether national or local, encouraged participation and helped others. Did I mention a love of education?
They also believed in paying their way with taxes — none of this lowering taxes and increasing debt and not paying for wars. I’ve lost track of the number of times my parents and grandparents told my brother and me that ”…taxes are a privilege in a democratic society… for all of us, not just our family.” These were not affluent people talking.
We adult children and those who have followed us have mistreated and trivialized the gifts that were given to us.
I turned on the location part of the map program and then showed my father how look over maps of his neighborhood and town. Next we put in a few favorite places from the — Carnegie Hall in New York City, Branch Brook Park in New Jersey, Rochester, New York, Ocean Grove, New Jersey, a town where he went to college and more. We even visited the Library of Congress.
Each time I showed Dad how he could enlarge the map to a point that allowed him see actual neighborhoods and streets that he remembered. He was just delighted to connect with so many familiar places. As we played together, we probably looked up eight or ten locations where Dad had visited, lived, or worked. Now I know that we can also do this on Google Earth, which not only gets to the street but also to a picture of the actual house or building – but a year ago, pre-iPad — when I demonstrated Google Earth to my parents, it required way too many steps.
If a goal of the iPad is to connect people and media, that is what now happens between my dad and me. His iPad has added unexpected and pleasurable reading to my day as he sends, via e-mail, memories, reminiscences, and musings. This virtual interaction, so different from the other ways we connect with each other, is exciting as Dad passes along family history. The iPad makes it so easy.
In the past Dad, a journal writer for more than 65 years, would go to his computer, wake it up, log in, go to e-mail, log-in, write an e-mail and send it. However, if he wrote a short essay and wanted to send it to me or to a friend, he had added steps of attaching or cutting and pasting his writing into the body of an e-mail message. With so many steps Dad did not always remember one thing or another – not because of memory issues, but rather because Dad has a busy life and does not use the computer enough to make so many steps second nature. It is akin to the way I feel when I return to my work computer after a long vacation.
Periodically a national issue becomes so significant that our elders can address it best — and I mean the elder-elders — the people, now in their 80s and 90s — who fought to stop Hitler and the Holocaust. Elder-elders know what can happen when you demonize a religion, the way some people are demonizing Islam today.
I hope our these elders, those still living, can raise their voices to say, “Stop!” and go on to give a collective history lesson to younger generation, reminding us that the United States Constitution guarantees religious freedom for everyone. Oh, and they can tell people to stop throwing around the word Nazi. The elder-elders have seen — up close and personal — how the Nazis were responsible for the deaths of tens of millions during World War II.
Called “the greatest generation,” these senior elders put themselves in grave danger and saw countless friends and family members die, all in a quest to stop Hitler, stop the murder of Jews, and basically save the world. Those who did not fight found other ways to help.
As a child, I grew up hearing stories about the war and the evils of Hitler. I knew people with physical war injuries and men who were so emotionally injured that they could never live a normal life again. I also knew immigrant Americans with tattoos on their arms. The older generation in my life, today’s elder-elders, taught me that no matter how evil a few people might be, you don’t denigrate the group, and if you don’t understand a religion, show respect and try to get to know the people.
Which brings me to Uncle Sherman, a B-24 tail gunner in World War II and a member of the “greatest generation.”
Daniel Schorr died yesterday at age 93. In addition to being an amazing newsperson for more than 65 years, he also set an example for all of us — aging parents and adult children — who want to stay engaged and keep working long past traditional retirement age. Schorr experienced occasional health issues, and Scott Simon mentioned this morning on Weekend Edition Saturday that he recently started using a walker when he came to National Public Radio. Yet he worked, wrote, broadcast, and gave history lessons — a lot of history lessons — right up to a few days before he died. Boy, did he love his work.
For as long as I can remember my family has always been an informal Daniel Schorr fan club. Just after Watergate, he made a speech in central Illinois, I think at my college, but I am not sure of that. In any event, when my father and mother heard he was coming, they set aside the time for the whole family to join me to hear Schorr’s lecture. When he stood up for principle, we cheered, and of course we really cheered when he found himself on the enemies list and for the rest of his life considered the designation a badge of honor. Once we heard him say, on NPR of course, that the enemies list was almost a greater honor than his Emmy Awards.