Saturday, February 25, 2012

Harry Barton Bailey - old friend!

In his 1998 book The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokow epitomized the the quiet, steady heroes that served, fought and sacrificed, not for fame and recognition, but because it was the right thing to do.  From this generation were the men and women who fought in WW II and then came back to build America as the great Superpower. The heroes the media or entertainment industry glamorize could not be farther from the truth! The real heroes are those among us who served, or as East Hampton recognizes now with yellow ribbons, those that serve today.

Last week, an old friend, one of those from the greatest generation - Harry Bailey - passed away. I'm sure not many of you knew Harry even though he lived his entire 89 years here in East Hampton. Upon graduation from one of the first East Hampton High School classes, he became a tool and dye maker, his career interrupted by WW II. Enlisting in the U. S. Marine Corp, he served in the Pacific Theatre and was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat. Coming home, he resumed his trade working at the J C. Barton Co. for 47 years.  Most of us don't realize the skill or significance of the tool and dye making profession.  Virtually none of our consumer products - automobiles, refrigerators, cell phones or what have you - are possible without their talent. But that's another story.
He raised a family - his son Barton, one of my best friends! Harry was one of those genuinely talented people who could make things with his hands. An avid surf fisherman, he turned a VW van into a beach buggy in the 1960s to travel far out on the sand dunes in Rhode Island or the Cape in search of the big striper bass. The trick to traveling over the beaches and sand dunes - deflate your tires. But what do you do when you get back to pavement? Long before compressors plugged into a cigaret lighter sockets, Harry retrofitted an old machine compressor to his VW engine. So successful was this, he assisted many of his fishing friends to install their own. I'm sure he was pleased with the success of rejuvenating the striper bass populations in recent years. He might even had said that this was something Government got right!

He became a certified pilot. My first flight was with Harry. Barton and I were passengers taking off from East Hampton's airport which is now Skyline Estates. In the 1960s it was the "hub" of the northeast. He remained active with his 3rd Marine Division comrades. Barton and I even attended one of their reunions in Washington D.C. I believe in August 1965. 

Harry and the men and women like him will be missed.  We salute him for a job well done and a life well spent!

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