I look at this newspaper clipping from the Hampton Union a few days before I embarked on this yearlong undertaking, and it's hard to believe that this was 20 years ago. (*You can click on this image and read it in a larger format. In fact, most of the pics in this Blog will have a link to see a larger version.)
20 years is a long time. My dad has been gone for 20 years. That in of itself, is hard to believe. But it's true. If I look a little apprehensive in this photo it's because I was. I had no idea if I could really pull this off. But I had thought long and hard on it before I pulled the trigger on letting my family know, and then my friends, before letting the media know. It was after all, a fund raiser.
And I did raise funds. Some $33,000 for the AMERICAN DIABETES ASSOCIATION to be exact. I'm not going to lie. It wasn't easy.
But like I just said, I thought about all of the pros and cons before I opened my mouth. I knew there would be easy days, and I knew there would be hard days. This had never been done before up here in New Hampshire. To surf every single day for 365 days no matter what? Yeah this was all new ground that I would be walking on. I knew what kind of weather we had to deal with here on the NH seacoast. But there was nothing that I hadn't surfed in prior. So while it was nothing new, it was the day in and day out grind that would be the ultimate challenge. But I was prepared to take it on.
My dad fought some tough battles in his life. From fighting in the Pacific during WWII on the islands of Guam, The Philippines, and Okinawa against the tenacious Japanese. And his battle with diabetes was the toughest of all. I saw the true grit in his fight. I watched him literally lose fingers and toes to the disease, and right up to the end, when they were talking about taking limbs. How much more could he take? His weakened state was all he could handle when the stroke hit him on February 5th, 2000. He died two days later on February 7th, 2000.
His battle was finally over. He was only 75 years old.
My dad turned me onto surfing the summer of 1963. The lights went on in my head that summer day when he called me into the den to show me these guys surfing on our black and white TV.
I was hooked immediately after that. So when I thought about what I could do to keep his memory alive as well as to raise awareness to diabetes, I thought about surfing. It was the first time I would use surfing as a vehicle to both raise money and awareness. As most of you already know, I've used surfing may times since.
The love of a father and his son is powerful. As is a father and daughter.
But this was all about fathers and sons. Like my father, I turned my son onto surfing as well. Max was there with me from day one. The interesting thing about Max joining me on some of those summer, fall, and spring days is, I taught Max how to duck dive that year. (Duck diving is a technique that surfers use to paddle out through the waves). Any surfer will tell you, if you can't duck dive, you can't get out to where the waves are breaking. Mackey got a hands on series of lessons when he joined me in those warmers days.
As a result, he was ahead of the curve by being one of the first of his crew to be able to duck dive. *All you parents who want to teach your kids how to surf make sure you also teach the duck dive. Anyone can push a kid on a soft top into the surf. But take the extra time to teach them how to duck dive.
You can thank me later for that valuable piece of advice.
This pic was taken on the first day. There wasn't much of a gathering there. I'm sure many people thought I wouldn't be able to make it through the year. But they didn't know me well enough. I made it through Vietnam. I made it through sobriety. I made it through all kinds of bullshit that life throws at you. Once I make up my mind, I'm going to see it through. No matter what.
This was after all, about the love and respect
a son has for his father.
Not many people know this. But my middle name is Gus. Actually it's Gustone. But nobody ever called him that. Though he used to sign his letters to me when I was in Vietnam as "The Great Gustone" . I'm ashamed to say that as a young kid growing up I was kind of embarrassed at my middle name. It wasn't until later that I thought it was cool. Gus is my middle name. Named after my father. CATCH A WAVE FOR GUS had kind of a cool ring to it.
That whole year was something that I will never forget.
I could write a book on that year alone. So many things happened
that year. Many of them wonderful and a few not so much. But I learned a lot about myself and more importantly I learned who my true family and friends were. It was something that I honestly believed that I would never ever do again in my life. I did this on my 50th Birthday.
The last photo before I paddled out for my last wave. My late mother was there that day. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life. What happened on that last day was one of the strangest days of my life.
Actually, it's what happened on the day after.
If you spend 365 days tending to a garden, or doing some kind of physical routine, like running, biking, hiking, or surfing. The very next day? You are going to want to continue that. And that's exactly what happened to me. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Sitting in my home office when Max came down. "Are you going to go and catch a wave dad?" I looked at him and said "No it's over." And he walked away and went back upstairs.
I remember looking at the clock and looking outside the window to check the wind. The urge was insane. I could feel it building in me. Like I couldn't
stop it. I finally caved and ran upstairs to get Max. "Let's Go!" He smiled and ran out the door with me. We threw our boards in the vehicle, and headed for the beach. We got to 10th street and realized the tide was too high. "Let's go north and check Sawyers." And off we went.
I pulled over and climbed up on top of the berm. We both stood there watching the small ankle high waves lap up onto the shore. "We can surf those dad." Max said as we both sat down. "We could...but...I don't have to." I looked over at him and simply said "It's over Mackey. We're done..."
We both sat down and watched the tiny waves...with the sun going down. I put my arm around him, and told him I loved him. I'm pretty sure he didn't see the tears in my eyes.
It was truly over.
Or so I thought. Fast forward 10 years later
and lo and behold...
Molly, a little girl who I knew and loved as a member of our local SURF FAMILY ROBINSON tribe got sick and passed away.
Shocking doesn't even begin to cover the widespread feeling across the whole seacoast. I had never had any kid from SFR (Surf Family Robinson) get sick let alone pass away. I was good friends with Molly's parents Buck and Meighan and her little brother Kieran. But like everyone else we were all scrambling trying to make sense of what happened in just six short months. Diagnosed in February of 2009 and she passed in early July. That was beyond anything any of us had to ever deal with. When she was sick there were fund-raisers ongoing to help pay for her hospital bills. Once she passed, that all came to a screeching halt.
But out of that tragic event came the MOLLY ROWLEE Fund.
A program that was hatched by Buck to help families who were/are going through the same thing that they went trough. I don't remember exactly when I thought of it, but I do remember when I brought it up to Cory and the kids. We were driving home from my sister's house on Easter night in 2010 when I let the cat out of the bag. The kids were all in but Cory was in shock. Why?
Because she and I were the only two who knew that I was sick at the time going through a triple Chemo Therapy at Mass General Hospital in Boston.
But my thinking was three fold. One I could keep Molly's memory alive. Two I could raise awareness
to large cell lymphoma ( the cancer that took her). Three. If I could do this again, it would motivate me to get stronger, and to prove that the shit that was trying to kill me, couldn't hold a candle to determination and love.
Suffice it to say, that she finally agreed, and we went public... again.
It was hard to believe that now here I was 10 years later doing it again.
What another amazing experience this was. There were so many incredible moments throughout the year. I did make a documentary called SURFING HEALS ALL WOUNDS. It's the whole story of this yearlong undertaking. It is available on the SURF FREE OR DIE website.
The real question remains. I did this when I turned 50, and then again when I turned 60. Do I have one more in me when I turn 70? My gut says no. But my heart is still silent.
Never say never.
This last photo (below) was taken off of Plum Island this week. It's a small Great White Shark. Approximately about 6-8' long. More than likely looking for Stripers. So if you're one of those individuals who are wondering if there's Sharks out in front of us. Here's your answer. If it's salt water and there are seals in the water? The answer is YES. Now Go On GIT!
"Some words can cut deep, and leave a scar. And some words, if spoken from the heart, can heal those scars." Ralph G. Fatello July 15th, 2020.
"Surfing and Love Heals All Wounds."
This week's Ed's corner is 10 years old this next Sunday July 26th, 2020. I can't tell you how many exact times Ed came out to shoot me during my CATCH A WAVE FOR MOLLY campaign. I can tell you it was hundreds of times. Ed was always there for me. And if this weekly Ed's corner is one way that I can keep his memory alive I will do it every single week until I am gone from this earth. He meant that much to me. Photo by Ed O'Connell
*Click the photo above to see a larger version of Ed's Pic.
Now for Some Local, National and International News
This is one of the reasons why I stopped watching the NEWS 40 days ago. When I saw that protesters defaced the 54th Massachusetts Memorial in Boston, I was literally sick to my stomach. How could they not know this? Remember this day
July 18th, 1863. "GIVE 'EM HELL 54th!"
This is the problem with Mob Mentality. You can't weed out the assholes during these "peaceful protests." I was at the 100th Anniversary of the unveiling of this monument in Boston. Max was with me. Colin Powell was the guest speaker. There were so many prominent black politicians and speakers that day. Including the 54th Reenact-ors. The movie GLORY was based off of this famous all Black Regiment.
When Robert Gould Shaw was killed along with his black soldiers, the Confederates contacted the Shaw family and offered to send his body back to Boston. The family refused and told them to bury him on the beach with his black soldiers. So when the BLM movement protested in Boston and elements from that protest defaced this Memorial I was done with the news. There was NO talk of this. Nothing. If Silence = Violence in BLM what does this Silence represent?
Now for something so ridiculous I almost have no words.
There is not a single photo of any past president sitting in the oval office promoting a product. Yet once again, 45 has broken new ground. You know, try as I might to find good in this man, he always comes out and shoots himself in the foot. I know he has the backs of the Police and some of the Military, but in the name of God, why would he do something like this? Anyone?
REMEMBERING MY COUSIN BOBBY SARNO
He would have turned 69 today. July 18th, 2020. Bobby was a guitar player. He had a black Les Paul custom in the 60's. Bobby served two tours in Vietnam, as a door gunner on a Huey. I remember talking with him after his first tour, (we were both there at the same time. Me in the Marines, and he in the Army) when he told me he was going back. When I asked “Why would you want to go back there?”
He said "My friends needed me."
When he came home after his second tour, he was at an intersection when the light turned green. In a flash he was hit broadside by a motorist who ran a red light. The driver of the other vehicle was a friend of his.
Bobby lived 9 months in a coma before he finally passed. Auntie Lena (his mother) never left his bedside that whole 9 months. Happy Birthday Bobby. I remember our times together. And I'll never forget you.
PLEASE HELP THESE GO FUND ME Post (Below).
Click on the image below to MAKE A DONATION. Greg Smith was one of the BEST surfers to ever come out of NH. If you can afford it, please make a donation. Thank you.
The ANNUAL RALPH'S PIC SURF ART BLOG is next BLOG. Please read the poster for detailed instructions. CREATE ART!
Click on the image above to see a larger version.
ESM (Eastern Surf Magazine) using a READY MAG format did the Best of Ralph's Pic. And while they couldn't possibly use everything thing I've ever done, they did manage to put up some 50 pics of mine, plus two videos. And I was truly humbled by their intro. Mez said some nice things about me. CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO SEE THE WHOLE Spread.
GRANITE GIRLS and The RIVER WOMEN from Ralph's Pic Of The Week on Vimeo.
NOW AVAILABLE on VIMEO ON DEMAND. You have spoken and I have listened. You don't have a DVD player so I made it available Online. Watch it on your Smart TV, your computer, or your cellphone! I can't make this any easier my friends. Unless of course I hand deliver to each and every
one of you.
KSM Photoshop of the Week
With this Blog being about year long undertakings, what if KSM Pledged to go back in time to fight his fellow Muslim Muhummed Ali every day for a year. What would that look like? I'm pretty sure it would look something like this. Though I believe that Muhummed Ali was still calling himself Cassius Clay in this pic.
If this ended up being a successful campaign, maybe KSM could fight Mike Tyson everyday for a year. Now that would be something to see.
And so my friends, please take advantage of this weekly photo shop of the mastermind who planned 9-11 and resulted in the deaths of 3,000 innocent civilians by KSM (Khalid Sheik Mohammed).
*Note to self -must pick up a case of Ali's Favorite Poems "Float Like a Butterfly Sting Like a Bee"
at Home Depot this week.
REST IN PEACE Derek Ho 1964-2020.
REST IN PEACE Ralph (Sonny) Rowell Jr father of Robin Rowell
REST IN PEACE Domenic Rosa March 1, 1926- July 8, 2020.
Thank You For Your 50 Years of Service
John "Grandpa" Rastl July 12th, 2020!
HAPPY 69th BIRTHDAY to my late cousin Bobby Sarno
July 18th, 2020!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Greg Smith July 19th, 2020!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Judith "Grandma" Rastl July 23rd, 2020!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Tami Heidi July 23rd, 2020!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Janelle Donahue July 23rd, 2020!
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY Kevin and Kim Grondin July 23rd, 2020!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Nick Africano
July 26th, 2020!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Mick Jagger July 26th, 2020!
PLEASE Keep Mrs Berardini (Tony's 99 yr old mom) in your thoughts and prayers.
We'd all love to see her make it to her 100th Birthday in December. She's a fighter, but she could use some help. Your prayers can help. Thank you.
PLEASE Keep longtime NH Surfer Greg Smith in your Prayers.
Lenny Nichols & Colin Madden
Co-Directors, NNE District
Eastern Surfing Association
Support ALL The photographers who contribute to
Ralph's Pic Of The Week every week for the last 16 years.
** BUY a HIGH RES Photo
from any of the weeks on RPOTW.
my friends... Surfing Heals All Wounds.
Pray for Surf. Pray for Peace. Surf For Fun.