Mike Whitney


Who were the people who touched my life and made me what I am today?  It is tempting to say “my parents.” But then what about my grandparents and John Langalis? My choice of John is due to the difference he made in my behavior as well as in my thoughts.


The following come to mind:


1. When asked to do something new to you, always ask the person requesting you to do the job to do it first so you can copy them with a better chance of doing it their way instead of someone else’s method that may not please them as well.


2. Always rinse your feet before stepping on the deck of a boat. The sun erases water from the deck but you have to brush off the sand and dirt from the deck right away to get rid of tell-tale footprints.


3. Always take growing vegetables/fruits such as peas, carrots, beans, corn, currants, strawberries, etc. from underside of plant so that their removal is not detected by a glance at rows of produce all having similar rows of leafy outlines.


4. Never cook eels in a hot fry pan without a cover. Heat makes meat jump even if it is cleaned and chopped beforehand.


5. Always have keys or some toy nearby to distract baby while you are changing the diaper. Cover little boys immediately.


These five examples were taught to me as an active and curious five-year-old by a Lithuanian man who had arrived in the United States as a stowaway. He knew a few English words: “yes”, “no”, “you betcha” and “hungry”.


My Dad brought him home to mother as not only house-man, waiter and chauffeur, but also as cook and nurse to me and eventually to four other children. He was very smart, jolly and thoughtful.


As I got older I realized that he could not read, but that was our secret, never discussed and only known by a few of his friends who were farmers and policemen.


He married the local Scotch laundress, and had two fine boys. One was a successful house painter and the other was a member of the diplomatic corps in Panama.


John died of a heart attack just two days after he became an American citizen. He was probably the loudest singer of the national anthem we ever heard as he led my Campfire Girls at the Memorial Celebration Parade.


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