Charles J. Lepore, my father, died 23 years ago, this month, but in many ways he remains alive to me as I continually strive to imitate the man. If you recall the John Wayne movie, "The Quiet Man", that was my father; a man of silent strength after years of pugilism.
Born into a large family in Boston, Massachusetts, dad often had to take care of himself. Especially, after a sixth grade teacher made the mistake of pulling his hair. My father reacted with a punch that floored the man. He was expelled from school, never to return.
Learning to live by his fists in a tough section of Boston, my father got into increasingly more scrapes with the law. Finally, a judge said to his parents, "Put him in the Army, or I'll put him in jail!"
As soon as he entered the Massachusetts Army Reserves, his unit was sent to El Paso, Texas to hunt down the famous Pancho Villa. That lasted until the United States entered World War I and he joined up with the Yankee Division and landed in France. The carnage he experienced in that brutal war of attrition changed my father considerably, I am told. The war ended for dad when he was felled by German mustard gas, and hospitalized in Le Mans, France until long after the war ended. He arrived back in Boston in 1919 only to learn that his beloved Red Sox team won the World Series the previous year, mainly through the heroics of Babe Ruth. He consoled himself that his Boston team would win another championship in short order - after all, they had won five World Series in the last 15 years! Dad could not have been more wrong. He never lived to see his team win another championship throughout the long century. But together we did get to see some of the greatest ballplayers ply their trade at our beloved Fenway Park, and narrowly miss the brass ring!
Although my father never owned a home or a car, he did invest himself in the highs and lows of his beloved Red Sox team, and that investment redounded to his children four fold.
Dad had many jobs in his lifetime. The one we loved best was the one at an ice cream factory. When the great Depression hit in 1929, dad was fortunate to work two jobs. One was with the Federal Post Office emptying huge pneumatic tubes full of mail; he never had to go to a gym for a workout. The other was as a bartender in a cafe near our home.
The war and the Depression drained dad of his former proclivity to fight. He became a man of few words, but strong loyalty to friends and relatives. Only once did I see a remnant of his former behavior. While in grade school, my cousin and I decided to collect some scrap wood from a house being remodeled. We had nearly filled our cart with wood when a young man, apparently a watchman grabbed and pulled me into the house. My cousin escaped and ran home to tell my father. While the watchman told me that he was thinking of calling the police, my dad suddenly appeared in the doorway. In a flash he seized the man and threw him across the room. He, then, picked him up by the throat, slapped him hard a few times and said, "If you ever touch my kid again, I'll kill you!" My father released his grip and the man slowly slid to the floor.
Then dad walked me out, emptied my cart of wood on the porch, put me into it and pulled me home. Neither Caesar nor Pompey rode their gilded chariots into Rome with more pride than I did in my red wagon going down our street that Sunday afternoon. It was a great feeling to know that my father had my back no matter what. Every child should have that feeling. To this day, Charlie Lepore is still sorely missed by his son, John Lepore, and daughter, Doris Ford.
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