My grandfather truly lived a full life. Gregory Goloski was born in Syracuse, NY on April 17, 1924. Today we speak tragically about health care, government spending and the general sad state of our economy. Always outspoken about politics, I can almost hear what my grandfather would say today. He had seen firsthand our country’s darkest economic days, the Great Depression, through the fresh and politically unbiased eyes of a child.
During my grandfather’s youth, my great-grandmother would give him just two pairs of clean socks to last the entire week. Half way through, the socks would be salty stiff from dried sweat. The shoes of that era were not built to breathe like the modern wonders we wear today. His mother would mend the socks frequently, but once they were beyond repair she took the needles shown in these photos and wove the elastic tops of the socks together to make rugs. It was a time when nothing was wasted. My grandfather continued the tradition to save things that could be used throughout his life. This was evident by venturing inside his shed and workshop, literally filled to capacity with tools, nails, screws and small parts.
He was drafted into the United States Navy at 18 years old and served as a motor machinist mate on the USS Hazard and USS Hilarity. Both ships were admiral-class minesweepers that trolled the seas, dodging kamikaze aircraft and enemy subs to clear the waters of deadly mines. Ensuring the safety of the entire fleet, minesweepers were the first in and the last out. My grandfather spent most of his tour on the USS Hazard, a ship that earned three battle stars.
His favorite task was detonation detail where he spent many hours with a Springfield rifle in .30-06, firing at visible mines. The goal was to either detonate or pepper the floating bombs with enough holes to sink them. The USS Hilarity earned two battle stars and was my grandfather’s ride home after his service. Later in life he and my grandmother traveled to Hawaii and to various ship reunions including Omaha’s Freedom Park, resting place of the USS Hazard, one of the most intact warships that survived World War II.
After the war, he went to Trinidad, CO to learn the gun smith trade. While there, he took a position in P.O. Ackley’s Custom Gun Shop as a stock maker. He met my grandmother, Anna Ione “Oney”, ice skating at Schiller Park in Syracuse, NY. They were married in August of 1949. Their enduring marriage would last over 60 years. He also studied at MIT in ballistic engineering before returning home to become a father. My dad, Peter Goloski, is the first of five children. He was followed by Thomas, Barbara – who passed shortly after birth, James and Joan. Ten grandchildren and a great-granddaughter, my little one, round out a family that he was always proud of.
My grandfather loved machines and learning how things worked. He was a machinist, planner and computer programmer for N.C. Machines. He was a manufacturing engineer for 30 years at General Electric (GE). He was involved in GE’s military applications and helped write the first programs for computer controlled machines. He retired in 1984, but the tinkerer in him continued to study the inner workings of everything from an upright player piano to remote control model airplanes. He was fascinated by flying and from his collection of toy planes to computer flight simulators, his interest in such was an indicator of the inner daredevil within.
As a young girl I remember fishing both on his boat and on the ice. Our family spent time at cottages on Lake Ontario and Oneida Lake. My sister and I loved to lie in the hammock he strung between two trees. We didn’t know then that he had spent many nights in the Navy sleeping in a hammock topside. If the ship struck a mine, the thought was that one had a better chance to survive blown from the ship instead of being trapped below. Visits to my grandparents’ home in the summer were special. We sat outside on metal chairs chatting away over a can of boiled peanuts. I remember our fun relationship, that I was his “little witch” and he my crotchety grandpa. He was always so proud of me and my accomplishments, whether it was performing in musicals and concerts to shooting in competitions.
He was fiercely tough. If you ever engaged in a debate with my grandfather, you had better have your facts straight and be steadfast. In his later years he had hip and knee replacement surgeries. He also battled cancer with chemotherapy and radiation treatments. All of these hurdles are known to have devastating affects on the elderly, but he seemed to brush off these challenges. To him, it was all just a part of life and he would be damned to let it get the best of him. Doctors gave him a best case scenario to live until December of 2008. He would live 15 months beyond, mentally sharp and spirited.
I know my daughter won’t remember meeting him, bundled up as an infant or later on when she explored my grandparents’ front porch before she took her first steps on her own. She won’t know the smiles she brought to his face when we shared photos and video long distance. She won’t hear him call her “dolly,” a loving term reserved for all the special girls in his life. But, I hope one day she will read this and learn a little more about the tough, remarkable man who was her great-grandfather.
Gregory F. Goloski
1924 – 2010
Rest in peace.