Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bob Hall's life Story

I wrote this for the Collingswood (NJ) High School Class of 1964 50th Reunion May 10, 2014, since I can't attend. I post it for anyone interested. ~Bob


I grew up in southern New Jersey and my parents divorced when I was young. My dad remarried when I was eight. He, my step-mother and my two brothers moved to Connecticut when I started 10th grade, so I lived with my grandmother in Collingswood (sleeping on a pullout couch) while I finished high school in the Class of 1964
I was very patriotic and I wanted to serve my county, so in 1964 on my 18th birthday I took the bus to the Federal Building in Camden, registered for the draft, and then walked down the hall past the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and into the Marine Recruiting Office. A SSgt asked, “How can I help you, son?” I said, “Where do I sign?” – and in August I was off to Parris Island. Fortunately for me, the Marines sent me to electronics school in San Diego to be a Radio Relay Tech, which wasn’t my choice - I wanted to be in the infantry. After a year of school, the Corps sent me to the 10th Marines, and artillery regiment at Camp Lejeune--with no Radio Relay gear! In June, my outfit was going on a six-month cruise in the Caribbean but I volunteered for Vietnam. At first I was told they didn’t have orders for me, but when I requested to meet with my regimental commander,  orders came through—along with a promotion to Corporal. I was on Okinawa at first, then with HQ, 26th Marines at Khe Sanh in Vietnam until September 10, 1967. My tour ended before the Tet Offensive and the Siege of Khe Sanh, so I was lucky again. I say the NVA were scared to attack while I was there!

I had intended to be a career Marine, but when I came back from the war I was convinced it had been screwed up due to the politicians. I decided to go into politics so I could “fix things.” (I was 22 and naive!) My parents were now living in Massachusetts, so I went home to live with them while I attended college. I had been a “D” student all through high school and had terrible attendance at CHS - I tell people I graduated in the top 95% of our class. I applied to Mount Wachusett Community College, after being turned down by Fitchburg State, and scored in the 98th percentile on the SAT exams. I worked all through college at least 20 hours a week—one semester for 35 hours a week, while taking six courses, getting A’s in 5 of them, and at the same time I was student council president and Lunenburg campaign organizer for a congressional candidate. I also played first board for the chess team and was school champion.

I transferred to the University of Massachusetts, where I served on the student senate, graduating in June, 1972 with a BA in Government/Political Science. Being a Vietnam Vet in college in those days wasn’t a problem for me because few care to cross Marines. I ran for state senator in the Third Worcester District of Massachusetts that November and beat the incumbent by nine votes out of 60,000 cast, with the last town to come in putting me ahead at 6:30 am. This was the first time a Republican had been elected in that district since 1938. Fitchburg State then had to come to me for help with their budget, and while I always helped them, I never let them forget that they had turned me down for admission in 1968.

I won my second election in 1974 by 10,000 votes, carrying every city and town in the district. My third time running in 1976 I was nominated by both the Republicans and the Democrats, defeating a Democrat in his primary on write-in votes. I have a Worcester Telegram political cartoon from that election of me debating myself in the mirror. I think I have always had good political instincts, and thanks to the Marines, I have a disciplined work ethic. My 50-year old debt to my Marine drill instructors, Sergeant William Harris, Sergeant Michael Martin, and Sergeant Ezekiel Owens, Jr. continues to grow—they gave me the priceless gift of self-discipline. (I was very saddened to learn of Sgt. Owen’s death in December of 2013.)

In 1977, I rejoined the Marine Reserves, so during the week I was a state senator serving in the Massachusetts State House and on weekends I was a Corporal sweeping the floors. By 1983, I was a Staff Sergeant, but had to leave the Reserves due to conflicts with my new career. I also went back to college at night while in the senate, and in 1980 I received an M.Ed. degree in history from Fitchburg State University.

I served five two-year terms as a state senator, but I was burned out by 1980. I was spending 95% of my time on trivia and getting re-elected and 5% on what I was supposed to be doing, so I decided not to run again. My parents had moved to Florida and I was sick of winter so I didn't run for reelection in 1982, and moved to Florida myself.

I was hired to be the Executive Director of the Florida Psychological Association in Tallahassee. At the time, the Association was being clobbered because they had lost their licensing law. Essentially anyone could move to Florida and apply for an occupational license for $25 - people were getting their hamsters "licensed" as psychologists. Although I knew very little about association management, they wanted my political experience. The only office equipment they owned was a stapler! When I left 10 years later they owned a debt-free office building, and membership had tripled.
I got into Scottish Country Dancing in Tallahassee and met my wife Bonnie when she came to one of the classes I was teaching. She was a widow with two teenagers and I was a 46-year-old bachelor. None of my friends gave it more than three months but we’ve been together for 21 years. The teens were tough--payback I guess, but I now have a 13-year-old granddaughter, Britnye, who I love dearly. I proposed and we were married 18 days later in a full Scottish wedding with bagpipes, dancing, two Celtic singing groups, Scotch and haggis. During this time I also designed the Leatherneck Tartan for US Marines. It’s registered in Scotland and is being worn worldwide by Marines.

From 1982 until I was forced to retire due to pulmonary fibrosis in 2013, I worked for a several associations as executive director, a couple of which were turn-around situations. Every association I’ve worked for had more members and was stronger fiscally when I left than when I arrived. I moved to Madison, WI to work for the American Association of Cosmetic Dentistry in 2002, then moved in 2008 to the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons in Illinois, my last association.

One of my passions is writing. I’ve published hundreds of articles and opinion pieces, plus some short fiction and poetry. I’ve also published 11 books, mostly through Amazon. ( All author royalties from my books go to charity, including the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund and the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. I produce a conservative political blog (The Old Jarhead Blog, and get as many as 5,000 page views a week. Two of my books are poetry. One is Old Jarhead Poems. The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation gave it the Robert A. Gannon Writing Award for Poetry in 2012. I met the Commandant, several other generals and many Marine heroes at the dinner—a thrill for an old SSgt. My three secrets of good writing are to 1) Read a lot. 2) Write a lot. 3) There is no such thing as good writing, there is only good re-writing.

I was diagnosed in 2006 with early stage pulmonary fibrosis, which got my attention because my mother died from it when she was 69, but I continued to work, pulling an oxygen tank behind me for the last three years, and never missed a day due to feeling sick. In March, 2013 it took a dive and I was using 10 to 15 LPM of oxygen from Oscar the Oxygen Tank just to walk slowly. I retired as AAHKS Executive Director on October 1, 2013, though worked from home as an advisor until November 30. On December 23, 2013, I received a right lung transplant through the VA. I did great for six weeks but now there are some problems with the new lung, so I had debridement surgery three times and a stent put in between March 3 and March 13 when they released me again, and have more scheduled, so I cannot travel to NJ for the reunion. I wrote the administration of both the VA and the University of Wisconsin Hospital that there was not one medical professional on the staff who I wouldn’t be willing to have care for me in the future. However, there are factors in play with my lung beyond the skill of the best team. One in five lung transplant patients die in the first year (and it's now 50-50 which group Ill be in), one in two in the first five years, so I'm not out of the woods and likely never will be--this is a life long management situation. But at the rate I was declining in December before I received the lung, I doubt I'd have been here now--so I'm playing with "House Money." As a history major, I know that at 68 I've lived longer than 99% of the people ever born. Because I was born in the USA, with a free market, property rights economic system, I've also lived better than 99% of the people ever born. So I have no complaints, whatever comes.

I'm sorry I can't be with you, but such is life--and I'm glad to still be here.


1 comment:

  1. Hey Bob, My name is Crystal Laramore. I publish a VERY patriotic and conservative newspaper in Texas. Most of my family, from generations back and to today, have served in the military. I served in Iraq for 18 mos. with the DOS. That is where my love for the Army waned and my love for the Marine Corps. grew. I have a section in my newspaper called Military Minutes and I would love to include some of your articles there. Please. For me. I came across your blog by doing a little research on the "I'm 63 and I'm Tired" blog. It has resurfaced once again and has brought me to you. Hope you are feeling well today. Happy Good Friday Sir. Semper Fi. My email is We are on twitter @damgoodtimes and on facebook The Dam Good Times, LLC. Our logo is an Eagle reading a newspaper.