Where do you start when
your 60 looking back to 1958? A lot of water goes under a kids bridge
just getting here. Who affected your life's decisions? What choices
were made and where did they take you? We all had stars in our eyes
with hopes and expectations of dreams to come.
me we all know I wanted to be an airline pilot. Did that dream materialize?
No, but I had the choice and that is what counts. When I left the Air
Force I had two job offers, one with Pratt and Whitney in Connecticut
and a co-pilot position with TWA. Since I had learned that I wasn't
the kind of guy that liked being away from the family, I chose to become
an Experimental Engineer with Pratt.
Hey, how did Len become an
Engineer? Mort Dennett laughed when Len told him he wanted to go to St.
Louis University, Parks College and study Aeronautical Mechanical Engineering.
Not only did I get accepted (on probation) I completed my BS Degree in
three years not bragging but a 2.9 to me was like a 4.0, I'll take it.
Who cares after your first job anyway. Well unless you want to go to the
University of Michigan for a masters degree. They wanted a 3.0, oh well,
another decision point in your life.
those of you who have not forgotten, Alice DaCosta and I were married
my junior year and college. Our son Chip was born about three months after
graduating from Parks. Chip married in 88 and now we have two grandkids,
Lauren 10 and Eric, 8 but that is getting ahead of my story.
graduation I worked for the US Army as an Aeronautical Engineer working
on helicopter crashes. I learned one thing, I didn't want to fly helicopters.
From there I entered pilot training and Big Springs Texas. I was lucky
to enough to enter pilot training with the need for pilots being at an
all time low. Two thirds of my class was "washed out" and suddenly I found
myself with another decision to make now that my childhood dream came
crashing down around me.
did I know that I was to be given a second chance. I decided to go into
aircraft maintenance so I could utilize my degree. On Christmas eve, I
was called into the base commanders office, he handed me a cigar and a
glass of champagne and told me that there was a congressional investigation
of the Web AFB and that I would be reinstated into the pilot training
completing training I ended up at McGuire AFB in New Jersey where I worked
in the 1612th C-135 Squadron. My daughter Beth was born while I was lucky
enough to fly all around the world seeing many places. I was in Turkey
during Long Thrust 11 just after Powers was shot down in his U2. He flew
out of the same base I was at. Then on to Iran to protect the US oil interests,
Spain to carry ambassadors back to DC. It was fun but these fine assignments
only last a little while to suck you in then they send you to an island
paradise like Guam.
maintenance and flying experience put me on the front line in Viet Nam
where I spent three six month tours setting up forward air bases for our
C-130's that provided rescue and weather support to the war effort. Fortunately
for me the closest I came to bullets was on a flight over North Viet Nam
flying engines to Okinawa. We were diverted for a flare drop.
Viet Nam behind me I found Pratt and Whitney to be a nice place to work
and Connecticut a nice place to live. I worked on projects to eliminate
black smoke form the 727, turbine blade failure that sent shrapnel through
the rear bathrooms and a sand injection program which gave me the opportunity
to blow up engines, great fun.
being content to stand by and wait for eight years for my next promotion
at Pratt I jumped ship when a buddy from college called and said the Army
was looking for turbine engineers as part of their new MBT70 tank program.
relocated to Detroit and found myself flying a 55 ton tank around the
test track and running a 1500 HP turbine engine in a test cell. What fun.
The General in charge of the tank project use to come and visit my test
cell often. On one occasion I told him about my dust tests at Pratt and
asked if he had planned any such tests on the Lycoming engine. He said
he would give it some thought since there was none planned.
as luck would have it, he did, the engine failed and the project died
a slow death. I saw greener pastures with the Environmental Protection
Agency working on the new turbine car of the future. So in 1970 I again
changed jobs. There I remained for 10 years raising a family on a 90 acre
farm not far from Ann Arbor Michigan.
was here that I found a new love, flying sail planes. What a gas to soar
with eagles, well in this case it was buzzards. Michigan didn't have any
a hunting trip to Alaska I decided that it would be a nice place to live,
so as luck would have it a job with the state came up, threw in a resume'
and there I was moving to Juneau working to solve the carbon monoxide
problem in Anchorage and Fairbanks. The problem is still there not at
the same magnitude but still there. I made a career out of it and had
lots of fun traveling around Alaska.
1982, my high school sweetheart decided she had to do her own thing. We
parted friends after 23 years. Alice has since married and is living and
teaching in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan.
found a sweetie named Deborah. Deb who is an Oceanographer, was brought
to Alaska to work on a Petrochemical project. Since this was a political
appointment once she had finished the project they had to find her a home…you
guessed it, working for me. We hit it off and since we both like to hunt,
fish and ski among other things. We were married in 1984
1994, I was appointed by Governor Tony Knowles to a political position
that I really had not aspired to but none the less found it being offered
to me. It was fun being a director, however it was not in my heart to
tear down all the environmental programs that I had worked years to build.
So in May or 1997, I bid farewell to the Alaska Department of Environmental
Conservation and 17 years of fighting for the environment.
Deb and I are running a Consulting Business called V2 (Verrelli and Verrelli)
Environmental and V2 Expeditions a Charter Boat Operation doing fishing
and whale watching.
Sara, Lauren and Eric live in Juneau and Beth is living in Anchorage.
Mom passed away June 1999 and dad followed her this May.
Life has been good, maybe
not as I envisioned it in 1958, but the choices we make through life
are what brings us to reality.
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