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Monday, July 18, 2005

In Memorium

My Dad would've turned 79 today, except for the fact that he died in 1982. Michael P. Cassamas was born July 18, 1926. He died much too soon. In this photo, I would guess that he was about ten.

My brother Mike, Michael S. not P., got married on April 8, 1972. This is my Dad in the monkey suit (his term) with his Aunt Rosie (front) and Aunt Loretta (back). I was 12 and I was there, and I have to tell you, it was one hell of a party. I will always remember my parents dancing, my father graceful and easily athletic and my mother enjoying the ease with which he guided her around the floor.

This is my father's sister, Albina, standing next to his 1934 Ford coupe. The photo is dated November 1946. This was probably taken either on Pieve St. in Pawtucket, RI, or in East Greenwich, RI. I'm guessing Pawtucket because of the flat terrain and the number of houses. My Dad told me that he first drove a car when he was ten. He snuck behind the wheel of my grandfather's Packard, pushed the starter button, and took it around the block. Fortunately for him, his father never found out.

My grandfather was the manager of the Providence terminal of Crown Motor Freight of Paterson, New Jersey. He pressured my father into the family business, and although my father was an unusally good driver, he didn't want to drive trucks. He was actually a top-flight typist and was very good with numbers, but he never got to find out where using those skills could've taken him. He was dutiful, but not fulfilled. I think he enjoyed his time as a pinboy in a bowling alley better than driving trucks.

I have no idea what the circumstances of this photograph are. I don't know why he's on the monument, what monument it is, who the woman or the girl were, or anything. It does show his mischievous sense of humor, though. And he wasn't afraid of heights.

I have the certificate for his First Communion, so I know that this was taken on June 4, 1933. Four years after this, his brother George would be late coming home from his First Communion. My grandfather sent my father to find him. George was still outside the church and was being bullied by three older boys. My father sent him home and then beat up the three other kids who had threatened his brother. He got home in time for Sunday dinner.

I have no idea who the other two fellows are. Probably Army buddies. The first squad he was part of saw their initial action near Remagen. I know this because I was once watching the movie "The Bridge at Remagen" and he simply pointed at the screen and said, "I was there." I think we changed the channel shortly thereafter. My mother told me years later that he was the only survivor of that squad after this initial action. He told me that he got separated from his group. He ended up being reassigned to Patton's Third Army.

The thing I never noticed about this photo until today is that it shows how powerful he was. I mean, he's carrying a full-grown man on his shoulders in a half crouch while tugging on the other fellow's ears. At this time he probably weighed about 165.

He was in Austria on V-E Day and met the Russians. Apparently they had a fine party, neither group of soldiers understanding the other. After that, he was stationed in a town called Traunstein in Bavaria. Recently, it has come to light that the young seminarian who would one day become Pope Benedict XVI lived there at the time. My Dad liked the locals and even learned a few bits of German. Who knows? Maybe he and the young Herr Ratzinger knew each other. Perhaps, had he lived, my Dad would have pointed at the TV and said, "Yeah, I knew him."

He was given an honorable discharge after he punched out a cruel sergeant who was terrorizing other soldiers. Two years later, he was standing in front of the Greenwich Hotel on Main Street in East Greenwich with his Uncle Johnny (who was only one year his senior) when a young brunette walked by. He turned to Johnny and said, "I'm going to marry that girl." Two years after that, you see the result.

When my parents left on their honeymoon to New York, they left their car in the care of Albina's husband, Jerry. Through no fault of his, the car was wrecked. There's probably a pretty good chance theat the car was that same '34 Ford. All good things, eh what?

This is my Dad with his sister Bina in about 1928. They were still living in Paterson, New Jersey at this time. He and Bina, the eldest of six, were always close. It shows in the hug. Or maybe she's trying to strangle him. You know how sisters are.

There's Dad and Bina. I have no idea who the blond children were. I posted this mainly because it's the earliest picture I have that looks like him.

This cat was named Mickey. We had always been dog people until Mickey came into our lives. Good cat. I miss him.

In the summer of 1970, we made the grueling drive across the country when we moved from San Francisco back to Rhode Island, a decision that was as shaky as the camera work in this photo. I can say that because I took the photo. My brother Rick was probably shouting at me to do this and that and the other and the shake you see is just a case of nerves. Either that or there was a tremblor felt only by me in New Mexico or Kansas or someplace that day.

My brother took this one.

Anyway, I just wanted to do something in memory of my father who was a lovely man and who I still miss very much.


Robert G. Margolis said...


This just knockes the cleverness right out of me (for a second, maybe, but it's long enough!). This is so finely felt and presented, and I, for one, very much appreciate it. I'm sure Lao-Tzu's on his way, on his water buffalo, riding all the way from thousands of years ago, just to get a look at these pictures.

Anonymous said...

Very nice indeed. I have a living father and son and hope to be a link in a similar chain of remembrance. Good people and lives well lived should be recalled and drawn upon for pleasure and inspiration and occasional guidance. Sometimes I wonder about the meaning of life (honest!) and I think about all the millions of people who've lived and died without leaving a shred of lasting evidence or a single remaining memory glowing anywhere. I'll bet most of them had some good times anyway. I guess that's the origin of the headstone. I'm hoping for a bronze statue in the park downtown. Or a son who posts my pictures.


arthist99 said...

Nicely done.

Len said...


Thanks. I'm sure that my father and Lao Tzu met somewhere beyond the pass to the Kunlun Mountains.


When I go, I'm expecting dancing in the streets and a festive parade.


I went mad with the scanner. Mad, I tells ya!

Arlene said...

I really love old pictures, and these are priceless, as are the memories you shared with them! Thank you for showing us this special part of your life...BTW, I'm new to your Blog from Miss Stephanies Blog :-)

Len said...


As my wife's most ardent Internet stalker, I'm familiar with your posts there. I know that Stephanie appreciates your comments and misses your blog, a blog that I didn't get to as often as I should have.

At any rate, thanks for stopping by. you're always welcome at Chz Len.

Kandice said...

What a beautiful tribute to your father. I love the old pictures, thank you for sharing them with us.

Robert G. Margolis said...

Anon-of-the-Above's mention of "headstone" reminds me of this now sub-legendary family anecdote, which, at the risk of ruining the mood, I here relate:

Less than two weeks before she died, my Mom and I had a conversation about what to put on her grave stone. She said she'd decided, but asked if I had any ideas.

I replied that I did have a few suggestions:

"We Have To Stop Meeting Like This"

"Let He Who Would Cast The First Stone, Use This One!"

and finally...

"Your Ad Here"

My beloved Mom, sick as she was, laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more...I still hear her laughter. And that, of course, is really what's "written" on her grave stone...

Robert G. Margolis said...

And, oh yeah, Len: you'll recall some months and conversations ago, we had an exchange about Ezra Pound, and I posted the Pisan Canto that says "What thou lovest well remains, all the rest is dross".

And here you and your photographs are: the living poem.

Len said...


Thanks for stopping by. Stepanie's just proving to me that it pays to advertise.

Len said...


I've always liked the one that W.C. Fields suggested to the old, old Life magazine: "All in all, I'd rather be in Philadephia." In the same feature, Dorothy Parker submitted her famous inscription: "Pardon my dust!" And yet the inscription of remembered shared laughter, the inscription on the soul instead of the stone, is easily the best and wisest.


Amanda said...

What a nice post and pictures!
My dad died when I was only three and I have only a couple memories of him (Yes, I do have some memories, confirmed by my mom when I told them to her.) And I cling to those memories because they are all I have of him. My brother was only a little over 1 when our dad died so he doesn't even have those memories. I sometimes think if he'd had just a couple memories of our father my brother wouldn't have turned out quite so messed up.

Len said...


My mother confirmed memories for me, too. She confirmed that I watched Jack Ruby shoot Lee Oswald on live TV when I was 4 and a very vague memory I have of playing with one of my cousins in front of a house with a long screened-in porch. It turned out that my aunt and uncle lived in a place like one I described back before we moved from Rhode Island to California. Therefore, I couldn't have been any more than three at the time.

Which is a longwinded, self-involved way of saying, I know what you mean.

That's an interesting speculation about your brother. It is amazing, the power of a memory, not matter how distant or vague.