[ Both in their late 80’s, my father and mother have helped and worked a few hours every day for 8 yrs –labeling flavor bottles, shrink-wrapping and packing flavor orders. And it has a been a very rewarding family chapter. I’ve been so fortunate ~Mick ]
The Supportive Life of John Goclowski, Jr. (born on 3/30/1934)
Having the great fortune of enjoying 88 years of what he’s called “smooth sailing”, John, Dad or Dziadziu has been the head of our small tight family. And until March when he was greeted by a surprise illness, he also said “I was starting to think I’m just going to coast to a 100. But God has sent me this challenge, and I’m going to have to deal with it and try to get past it”
He has been the happy engaged influencer and cheerleader to all of us; and he has always found ways to encourage each of us and to support us individually –as we chased own interests, needs and desires. While we often got stuck looking into our own little picture of life, he always wanted to help each of us by showing a bigger picture to us! He has been a rock in our family and has always encouraged each of us to also step up to the plate to become better people too.
As husband to Dotty, father to Mike, Lisa and John, and grandfather to AJ, Cassandra and Amanda, he has enjoyed 66 years of a great marriage to our mother and grandmother—together with all his children and grandchildren. Its not possible to know when it started, but even friends and neighbors have always marveled at them as “Two peas in a pod”. From the beginning of their parenting phases together, even during separate careers they were in tune with each other, inseparable when together, traveled together via our Mothers’ school trips as well as many of our father’s business trips. And then in retirement for over 30 years you would never see one of them without the other. No one did. They even grocery shop together- always.
And on a more personal note for them, that few people know about, each night they always kiss each other, hold hands and then say a little prayer together. They say it in Polish, and It goes something like this:
Its called Angel of Mine:
My guardian angel, be my protector
morning, day and night.
Protect me from all wrongdoing
and lead me to Eternal Life
As newlyweds in their very early 20s they completed both college and grad school: My mother pursued career aspirations and early motherhood responsibilities, … while my father finished his post-graduate studies at Northeastern and MIT. His first unpaid job was to teach quantum mathematics to the rest of the class when the professor had to leave town for a week. Evidently, he had been the only one to score a 100 on each of the previous tests while the rest of the class was limping by with 50s and 70s. As a young couple they would always rather understate his work, but for 30 years he became the director and advisor of many “egg-head” high-level operations for the Pentagon and the Department of Defense. But you’d have to be like a dentist and probe and dig around to pull out any bits and pieces from him about his work. His short answer has always been “Just tell them I’m an electrical engineer and, of course your mother is a popular but strict high school teacher.
As a man, on both a professional and a personal level, he has been what outside people call “a classy guy” or “a real man”. He’s always been a bit more handsome than he would admit. But his “realness” was his quieter voice tones, loaded with confident opinions from a mind that is wired for true honesty. Once in awhile if you are observant his facial expressions will telegraph that you are about to hear a short humorous observation or comment or a funny anecdote.
But for the people that hired him or worked for him, having John on the team meant that they valued his candor, his special attention to details and opportunities, and the way he always exudes an unassuming aura of morality, an uncommon strength and the side benefit that is always there to find a solution, to support the solution , and to always support the people on his team. He’s never competitive and never preaches; but prefers to teach through his actions. His personality never allowed him to speak or show pride in himself, nor talk about his clandestine supportive roles within the U.S. Dept. of Defense. And, except for celebrating our mother’s accomplishments, no one of heard him boast.
At the beginning, our father received top of the class awards from the Army ROTC for logistics and communications specialties. As a military officer after grad school, the army gave him a security clearance beyond Top Secret —it was the level “Q” and became a Lieutenant as the “Nuclear Weapons Officer”. At Sandia Base in New Mexico, he taught Army, Navy and Air Force Personnel how to assemble, arm and disarm suit-case sized nuclear weapons for the field. (Now, you can just image our mother asking him, “So John? How was your day today?”).
At about mid-war of Viet Nam, he wrote a proposal for the Pentagon that identified a mysterious defect with our F-111 bomber/figher jets; he was the first to say that the Vietnamese were not shooting our jets down; all F-111 were grounded immediately, and soon after his group determined that at supersonic speeds at near ground-level, the wings were actually ripping off, disintegrating and killing our best pilots.
Having earned credibility, he became a vision guy, team-member, director and author for many sensitive military initiatives. One known highlight was that he became a steering member of Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars Project” for about 8 years until the just the progress and threat of Star Wars was so believable and so scary for the Russians that it was a ket factor that it lead to the fall of the Iron Curtain in Germany in 1989 and the collapse of Russia in 1991,. During this time our father was a short-list candidate for the open post as the new Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Army. Instead, he became the acting director of the National Security Industrial Association –which is kind of a scary serious group of the largest private defense manufacturing companies in the U.S. (Some of those executives had their own personal tanks, jets and retired military personnel).
In overlapping jobs Dad also became a director for the International Society of Logistics –where 70 member countries were actively seeking better weaponry relationship with the U.S. Department of Defense and the strengthening of NATO capabilities. In 1988, he was the key-note speaker for its annual conference in Luxembourg and later met with officials in Germany. If anyone on the other side got copies of our father’s mathematically logical style of writing, or listened to our father’s soft-spoken, methodical and matter-of-fact manner of presentation it is no wonder why the Russians started truly believing that the American scientists were quite serious and way too far ahead of them.
He retired in 1992 at the age of 58. For the 30 years since retirement, our father has enjoyed things that others could only dream of having… a very healthy, active, trouble-free and fulfilling family life. As the head of our family, he’s always encouraged each of us to pursue our dreams, but to also stop a minute once in a while, to go to church, to take occasional looks at our priorities, and then tell us to not be afraid to adjust. Even without trying, he has offered ideas, visions and even wisdom into our lives. Since retirement, our parents had even more time for prayer, many annual Polish Christmas parties with priests like Father Gary coming to bless the food. BUT even from the very beginning years ago, their first motto was, “Those who pray together, stay together”. They instilled that in all of us; we’ve always gone to church. And even when life is busy, our father still made time (and showed us by example) his truest roots by joining a couple of Mens’ groups in the church — the Holy Name, and the Knights of Columbus, He also enjoyed being a director in the quasi-religious Polish American Congress, plus he become a Eucharistic Minister beside our mother too.
Today is May 5th. This is my parents 66th anniversary. And even if they cannot sit at the table to celebrate together, or have their traditional Mexican meal and Margueritas on the Cinco de Mayo, we all know that his faith and our mother’s faith is so strong that they have not actually been separated at all. He is still with her and all of us, …and someday all of us will join him together. But for now, his influence will continue, his words and deeds will be remembered. And he will always be a part of us. All he really did was jump ahead of us in finally meeting Jesus and the other great relatives that are already there.
Goodbye for now John, Dad, Dziadziu