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At 97 years old, Ed can still remember a time before the city’s skyline was dotted with Art Deco skyscrapers like the Chrysler Building and 30 Rock. Growing up in New Jersey, Ed and his six siblings lived a quiet, sometimes hardscrabble life.
There were always chores to be done, but he and his brothers often found time to go crabbing off the piers in Bayonne. In tin buckets, the boys would carry their haul back home to be cooked for dinner. As soon as he was old enough, Ed took a job with the New Jersey Railroad, hammering steel nails into the tracks. It was dirty and backbreaking, he recalls, but hard work was in his blood.
With the outbreak of World War II, Ed followed his brothers into the Armed Forces, enlisting in the Navy. He was immediately stationed to the U.S.S. Hornet, an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. His job was in ship maintenance, repairing everything from the electrical system to the cavernous system of pipes. Ed remains intensely modest about his service. If not for his hat displaying the silhouette of the Hornet and a framed American flag resting on a nearby shelf, it would be impossible to know Ed is a veteran.
Years of Hard labor have taken their toll.
Ed has tried going for walks, but his legs give out after a block.
Instead, Ed prefers to talk about how much he missed his beloved Clara during the war. The two had been friends since grade school, but with their separation, romance sparked. Ed and Clara wrote hundreds of heartfelt letters to each other while he was at sea. “That was the only way to keep in touch. You couldn’t call,” Ed observes.
When he returned home, Ed discovered many of his letters had been blacked out before they arrived in Clara’s hands. Despite his discretion, censors had removed even minor details for fear of compromising the war effort. Ed went back to working on the railroad and he finally asked Clara to marry him. The newlyweds settled in Staten Island just before construction on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge began. At the time, their neighborhood was still a collection of unpaved roads.
For 60 years, Ed and Clara lived a quiet life filled with countless family barbecues, birthdays and long walks along the shore to watch ships coming and going. When Clara passed away in 2005, Ed was heartbroken. Even today, he can barely find the words to express his sorrow. With Clara gone – and all of his siblings too – Ed was forced to confront his age and declining health.
Years of hard labor have taken their toll. While Ed’s shoulders hurt terribly, the most persistent pain comes from his knees. Both were replaced 12 years ago, but the surgery did little to help. Ed has tried going for walks, but his legs give out after just a block.
Citymeals deliveries have helped Ed immensely. But more than the food, Ed appreciates the conversation with his deliverer. It’s a moment to connect with the world beyond his doorstep.