July 5, 2013

One In A Million

A good example of the kind of experience that gives me purpose happened last week. During a trip across New York State collecting the stories of veterans, I sat down with a man named Anthony Wayne.

Mr. Wayne is 98 years old, and he is the last surviving member of the U.S. Antarctic Service Expedition led by Admiral Richard E. Byrd from 1939 to 1941. His expedition was the last of the age of Antarctic exploration with wooden-hulled sailing vessels.

I sat down with Mr. Wayne for about an hour for a video interview. He had trouble recalling some details of the expedition and his Navy service. He did remember the ice, the cold, and wrestling a penguin.

Thaisi and I joined him for dinner in the assisted living facility where he lives. We sat in a quiet room, Mr. Wayne smiling most of the time. He ordered a liverwurst sandwich, his usual. He had the waiter dab some mustard on the sandwich. We talked about his love for old cowboy movies. Anything starring John Wayne.

He complained about his failing memory and the bland food they serve where he lives. But he spent most of the time smiling. He seemed happy just to have company and to share his story.

You can Google his name and find plenty of information. He’s had a book written about him, a documentary is in the works and there’s a mountain named after him in Antarctica.

I have about 10 videos to edit before starting on Mr. Wayne’s. It’s one of those stories you feel honored just to tell.

It’s also the kind of story that keeps me from cashing in all of my chips, buying a boat, and heading for the nearest deserted island.


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