Remembering with Pride

Dad was proud to serve in the Navy back in the early 1950s. I recall the stories. He had been on an aircraft carrier as a mechanic for four years. He also slept on the top bunk bed and drew himself up to his bunk by the pipes that were incased in an asbestos covering. It was a waiting time bomb.

In June of 1978, 25 years later, he was diagnosed with Mesothelioma cancer. It was devastating to us as we were told he had 6 months left.   It’s tough to look back knowing what he gave to our country.  We were fortunate in having those 25 years back in the town where he graduated from  and taught as an Educator and Coach.  Many Veterans don’t make it back home.

He spent 17 years as an educator/coach, and he touched so many lives.  He is well remembered by many in the Rogue Valley.  Unfortunately, he had no way of knowing that he wasn’t going to be there for his children and potential grandchildren.  Today, I know that he is proud of all of us as he looks down from Heaven.

Richard Wolgamott  left this earthly plane in January of 1979, I was in my early 20’s. As I look back over the last 40+ years, I have really strived to be the person that would make my dad proud. I can recall several conversations as he was going through his teaching/coaching career about everyone needing a good education. This made an impact!

I also had a wonderful opportunity to have him as my teacher and my high school basketball coach. The girl’s team took 4th in State in the AA category.  It was amazing!  As we were nearing the end of 1978, there were many other conversations on the topic of furthering my education.  He was not able  to finish his masters program in education, and this was now important to me.  His last words, he shared with me was  “Don’t worry about it, go back to school.” I never forgot!

We had a wonderful representative at the Veterans Affairs, and because of his illness, the veteran related educational benefits were available to me, my brother and sister.  I received this and received my first degree in business administration in 1983, I was also headed to having a secondary teaching credential, but it didn’t work out at that time.

I later went back to school and received my teaching certificate for elementary education and taught for 26 years, and during that time I did go back and get my masters. His teaching legacy lives on in me, my daughter and niece. My dad really felt that higher education is better for everyone, and believe strongly in teaching people how to think, not what to think and to get out there and be active.

No matter where you are today, and every day, thank a veteran! They signed up to give their everything!  Without that commitment, we would not have the opportunity to receive an education.

Remember, November is Lung Cancer month! If you’re wanting to purchase a shirt in memory of your loved one, you can go to Kickin Cancer ‘s online store, it even helps you choose what color to choose. If you want to just reach out and donate you can do that here.  Remember to celebrate every day and thank a Veteran!

Riki Marie (Wolgamott) Bednar