Skip to comments.Westborough (MA) senior still in the game (Marine combat vet fought on Okinawa)
Posted on 07/02/2011 9:51:27 AM PDT by pabianice
William Carr of Westborough
Most football coaches don't know how to build a submarine.
Most student-athletes don't get a letter jacket from their alma mater on their 80th birthday.
And most legally blind people aren't working toward a master's degree at the age of 82.
Then again, most people aren't Bill Carr.
"I've been doing things all my life they said couldn't be done," said the Westborough resident.
He's proud of his achievements, but says he's "nothing special."
Just a guy who still works out on the stationary bike and rowing machine a few days a week at the Westboro Tennis and Swim Club. While there, he puts in some time with the weights, mostly "my legs. I still do 70, 80 pounds. It's maintenance now. I'm not going to be Arnold Schwarzenegger."
He's just a guy who volunteers at the Westborough Health Care Center, on top of the 30 hours a week of studying and research for the three graduate courses he took in the fall semester at Worcester State University.
Just a guy who's a "4.0 student at 82."
"I love learning. I like to learn new things," said Carr, who's got "three credits and my thesis" to go before he earns his degree.
"Just to sit and rot, that's not me. I'm not going to sit around and watch TV."
Well, unless it's football.
"Nobody gets around me when my team is playing," he says of the Patriots. He's particularly a fan of Danny Woodhead, the Pats' fireplug of a running back whose physique looks a lot like Carr's.
His passion for football started in his native Athol, where, as member of the Athol High Class of 1946, he proudly wore number 54 as a right guard for the Red Raiders. More than 50 years later, he was back with a Raiders team, this time as a coach for Westborough High from 1997-99.
"The first year was horrible (record-wise), the second year we went to the Super Bowl."
For his 80th birthday, he was invited back to Athol High to receive the letter jacket he didn't get when he left to join the Marines.
Serving primarily in the Atlantic and Caribbean, he found himself as a sergeant at the age of 18, which was "sort of odd," having more than 70 men serving under him at that age, he said.
After his Marine Corps tour of duty, he went back to school and got a degree in forestry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
So where's the plum place to work when you have a degree in forestry?
New York City, of course.
His job was buying wood for AT&T, until "a hurricane came along and blew all the lumber into the Passaic River."
He then went to work for Hamilton Standard in Connecticut, where airplane parts were made. The company and NASA worked together to create the life support systems and fuel cells used in the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
"I was in charge of logistics," said Carr.
"We got on the moon, and I got a call from my old CO. He said, 'I want you to come work with me.' I said, 'I don't want to go back in the Marine Corps.' He said, 'No, I want you to build nuclear submarines.' "
At General Dynamics, "they sent me to school to learn to build a submarine from the bottom up," and though it was a fascinating job, it was also "another 80-hour-a-week job," that left little time for his wife, Joan, and their four children.
He then shifted to Honeywell "in Northborough, until they shut down," then returned to his original line of work, forestry, as a consultant, he said.
Despite becoming legally blind a few years ago, he decided to go back to school four years ago and focus on military history.
Thanks to an optical reader from the Lions Club and rides to and from Worcester from family and friends, he's very close to achieving this goal.
"I love it," he said of school. "I'm interested in going for my doctorate degree. But I'm 82. I may not live long enough to get it.
"I'm an incurable optimist," but "I'm also a realist," he said.
And while most of his classmates are teachers in their 30s and 40s, Carr shares a point of view with college students of all ages.
"The cost of books is horrible."
He'll be doing his thesis on propeller biplanes, a subject of interest since childhood.
His father, who had a plumbing business in Athol, also owned a plane. Carr remembers former World War I pilots getting together with his father and swapping stories about their feats, as well as occasionally putting their skills to the test in the air.
"I've had the opportunity to be involved with a lot of exciting things," he said, and he hopes to have the chance for a little more excitement.
His "big dream (is) to go to Europe," with his wife of 55 years. ("She's a wonderful girl.")
"Eventually, I'll have to let go of some of these dreams."
But first, there's that thesis to finish. And places to walk to, people to visit and stories to share. Perhaps another Super Bowl victory for the Pats to savor. And a few more booming laughs along the way.
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