Bill Fuchs

            I have been living comfortably with my lovely wife Marilyn (wed October 22, 1972) in Islip , NY , and we are the proud parents of two children. One daughter, Lori, is married to John and they own a pizza parlor in Rocky Point. They have one daughter Melanie. My granddaughter will be going to St. Anthony's high school in the fall. My son Bill lives in Maryland with his wife Terri, who has a Master's degree in Marketing. Bill works for Black and Decker Dewalt ­– Corporate Headquarters. Their daughter Emma is almost two. I still work for a printer in Plainview .

             I am one of five children of parents who are now deceased. My older brother, Mike (‘59 Hicksville High School) was the first employee at Carvel on Jerusalem Avenue in Hicksville and happened to be working there when the tornado hit. My older sister Jean (‘63 - Hicksville High School ) married Gerry Gilson (‘61 Hicksville High School) and they put 4 daughters through Hofstra University after all four had graduated from Hicksville High School . Jean and her husband still live in Hicksville . My younger sister Debbie (‘75 Hicksville High School) married Rich Kwas (‘73 Hicksville High School) and both their son Brian and daughter Kellie graduated from Hicksville High School . Debbie is the Assistant to the head Librarian in the Hicksville Library. My younger brother Joe (‘77 Hicksville High School) lives in Nesconset with his wife Lois, son Joey and daughter Lauren.

            My mother worked a night job for OE McIntyre in Hicksville . My father was the first manager of King Kullen in Queens where, in the basement of the store he would use an iron to package produce and cheese with cellophane. He kept asking John Cullen (King Kullen) to get a patent, but John kept putting my father off. One day, two men saw how my father was packaging the products, and they took the idea and went out and got a patent. That is how Kraft Foods began.

            Originally located in Queens, we moved to Hicksville in 1950 into a Levitt house at 413 Division Avenue (the other one) across from Fork Lane school. When I was seven, my mother put me into Little League (Abe Levitt field). At that time I was very small. However, I was able to catch and hit very well for my age group. So the manager made me the catcher. Keep in mind that at that time the kids were actually pitching with a hard ball. I played Babe Ruth and Connie Mack leagues, and I played until I was 21 years of age.

            I made a lot of friends – Bobby, Hank Ristow, Gene Burke and Alex McAuley, just to name a few. In Little League I played for the Pan Am Pilots. We were a good team and by the time I was ten I made The All-Star team as shortstop.

            That was a wonderful time in my life. In those years Hicksville was a great place to grow up. I played stickball at Fork Lane school. I went to a variety of schools, Fork Lane , Lee Avenue , Hicksville Jr. High and then they built this great big high school on Division Avenue . We had lockers and in the gym the basketball court and glass backboards. I believe it was one of the first schools to have a glass backboard. During this time I would go over to Glenbrook Homes and play with Steve Blust. Lots of fences were put up all over this area which cramped our style greatly as we could not cut through the houses and backyards after that. Those fences eliminated many of our shortcuts.

            During the summers I would go to the West Village Green pool where you needed to show a tag to get in. The tag was an elastic band with a plastic number attached and we used to strap the tags around our ankles or wrists. There were always exciting things going on at the pools for the kids to participate in. During the summer I could not wait for the Pool Show. One year I was in the show, dressed up as a clown. I would dive off the highest diving board and catch my partner on the way down. It was exciting. First we performed at the West Village Green pool and then the next week we went over to the Levittown Village Green pool.

            High school was a great experience for me. I enrolled into the printshop for four years. I also worked at Bohacks  by Old Country Road and Newbridge Road (where CVS Drugstore is now). That is where I first met my best friend, Tom Higgins.

            Later, I decided to become involved in sports and played soccer for four years with Hicksville ’s first team; I also played basketball and baseball and through sports I met some more friends, Dick Flynn, Howie Shack and Ed Caesar. I chose to go to summer school for Mechanical Drawing. By the time I was a senior I needed only 6 credits to graduate so I decided to spend most of my time in the gym working out! During high school I would go to the Sweet Shop on Broadway in Hicksville and Casa Allegra Restaurant. During this time Fran Decabia approached me to join Bo Boski – the Boys Club. In order to be accepted I had to collect 100 girls names and phone numbers. For some time I was the most popular guy in the school. Hmm, I still have that little black book! I introduced Tom Manaskie to Janice and during high school and later on Tom Higgins to Michele at the OBI. I must be some Matchmaker, since both couples are still married!!

            After graduation the Hicksville Print Shop was able to place me with a company called Mineola Lettershop, where I worked for several years. At that time I frequented many bars – PJs, Narraganset Inn, Mollie & Me, Ryan’s Pub, Bill’s Meadowbrook (where I met Joe Namath), Mid Island Bowl with Ed Caesar, Tom Higgins and Bob Ryndfleiseh (’60  Hicksville High School).

I also met Joy Gannotti at the Harmony Bar by the Newbridge Road shopping center. At that time I was bowling in a CYO League at the Market Lanes in Syosset with my father. A friend of his suggested that I join the Navy Reserves so I arrived at Floyd Bennett Field to enroll in their Helicopter School program. They told me that the test would be very hard and even college graduates had a tough time passing it. (I did not have a college degree but many years later I was able to get one through the GI Bill.) However, I passed the test with flying colors and only the physical still stood in my way to enter pilot training. That night I was reading the papers about Vietnam and decided that I would not join the Navy Reserves. It was not until many years later that I was to learn that the whole squadron was wiped out in Vietnam .

            Several months later I was drafted into the Army. The night before, I spent my time in a nightclub off Hempstead Turnpike by Wantagh Parkway in Levittown listening to one of my favorite groups. When they started to sing “Soldier Boy,” my friends pushed me up onstage, where before I realized it I was singing with The “Shirelles.” What a treat!

            During the medical exam at Whitehall Street , the doctors requested a urine sample. When I was unable to fill the cup my friend Bob Ryndfleiseh (always a great giving friend) gave his sample to me – mine was approved and his was not – Bob never went into the service!

            During Basic Training and MP Training at Fort Gordon in Georgia I became friends with the 82nd Airborne guys, who tried unsuccessfully to recruit me into their group. But at that time I could not see jumping out of a good running airplane. I was sent to Germany , embarking from the NYC dock. My father gave me a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red, which I used to drink at night in bed when I could not get to sleep. The first night out the captain gave a small speech on the loudspeaker stating that the ship we were on had sunk during World War II. Then he welcomed all of us to USS Patch’s eight-day excursion to Germany . My orders were changed aboard the ship three times and I knew something was not right. Finally, I was sent to Baumholder in Germany (the hellhole of Germany ) where Hitler trained his troops in World War II. There is where I was approached by several men who told me that my personnel file was screened and asked if I would like to join an elite group of military personnel. If I agreed I would travel and police all over Europe and for most of my assignments I would be unable to talk about them.
I signed all the classified paperwork. Sometimes I was able to talk about situations, such as the time I delivered two baby boys which both mothers named after me, but mostly I did not have the liberty to discuss them. The first month I went through special training I met Frank Serpico, who later exposed corruption in the NYC police force. He was a very cunning and scary person at the same time. He taught me undercover work.  I also remember that one time a group of us were sent to Frankfurt for a military

show starring Homer and Jethro, who were introducing a new singer who had some outstanding paternity suits against him. I was assigned to stand in front of the stage in plain clothes when this performer began to sing.

            A young man with a loaded gun approached the stage where I was standing. At point blank range, he was preparing to fire at the performer. I reacted immediately, grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back forcing him to drop the weapon. I then turned him over to the German authorities. After the performance, the singer who, by the way, was

Tom Jones, asked to see me in his dressing room. He thanked me for saving his life and offered to give me tickets when he performed back in the States. It was not until years later when he was playing at Westbury Music Fair, that I approached his manager and collected on that promise and I received front row tickets. During his performance, he introduced me to the audience and told the life saving story to a packed house.

            I spent one year traveling all over Europe with this assignment. My close friend Tom Higgins was going to Medical School when I was on leave in France, so we hooked up and in my volkswagen we drove all over the country. We visited Monte Carlo casino on New Year’s Eve where we had to borrow suit jackets and ties at the door.

            The last six months of duty I traveled all over Europe picking up prisoners and bringing them to Rhein-Main Airport in Frankfort , Germany  where they were then flown to Leavenworth in Kansas .

Established in 1945, Rhein-Main Air Base was the primary airlift and passenger hub for U.S. forces in Europe . It was billed as the "Gateway to Europe ". It closed December 30, 2005.

Many of the prisoners we escorted are still in Leavenworth . After two years in the Army I was discharged and traveled to Penn Station, NY, then went to Hicksville via the Long Island Railroad. I almost missed the stop because the station was elevated. What a shock! Then I walked home to see my mother and father, which was a very pleasant surprise for them as they did not even know I had been discharged.

            The Government and the New York City Police Department sent me many letters trying to entice me to come and join them but I decided that I had enough of law enforcement and politics. As it turned out, this was a lucky choice for me since many of my friends had gone to different agencies and were killed.

            I went back to the printing trade. I tried to contact my old friends that I used to hang around with but a lot of them were not around. Tom Higgins had joined the Navy and now flew planes. During his training he invited me down to watch him land on a flat top (carrier). I met several Blue Angels at parties the day before they were going to fly. I asked one of them how he could fly after drinking all night and he told me that once he got into the cockpit all he had to do was suck in the oxygen and it would sober him right up.

            Summers my friends and I went to Fire Island or the Hamptons . I met a lot of new friends in the Hamptons . We rented a summer house with ten other guys (The Deck House) right by Hot Dog Beach and Tianna Beach Club in Quogue. We used to have parties every weekend and invited everyone we could. All they had to do was BYOB. It was a great gimmick as we never ran out of booze or beer! In the winter this same group would head to Hunter Mountain where the party continued.

            In 1982, when my son was five years old he wanted to play soccer. Up until he was ten years old the coaching was OK. However, then I noticed that the coach did not know how to handle the players so I decided I would step in to coach. I played soccer while I had been at Hicksville High school for four years and knew the game. At that time my son was on the traveling team, where, again there was a lot of politics involved. That is why I decided to break away from travel and stay with the original team, East Islip Redmen. In tournaments we played against traveling teams and beat them.

            I had a lot of problems with the East Islip league because I brought players in from different towns to strengthen my team. I had to go to the Long Island Soccer league to get permission to put these players on my team. The League approved my decision and that was how these towns had better regular teams than travel teams. Once the boys reached 14 years of age they were good for me to coach, so I asked parents for their commitment and backing to hire a professional coach and put together a four-year package and we would ask the  new coach  to make a pledge that he would do everything he could to get a college scholarship for each player. We hired Paul Riley from the new Professional LI team, the Rough Riders.

            I set up different committees for travel, expenses and communications as I was now an administrator instead of the coach. For the next four years we traveled all over the country, California, Minnesota, Texas, Boston, Washington DC, PA, and Florida, showing off our players to different college coaches. Most parents took their vacations to coincide with the soccer team schedule. We made many new friends and had a great time enjoying our sons playing soccer and developing them as fine young men. In 1995 East Islip Soccer team won the U-19 regional, state and local tournament. We were considered to be one of the top five teams in the country, which was an honorable and proud achievement. The four years paid off as each of them received college scholarships to a variety of colleges – Boston U, Brown, Loyola , North Carolina , Delaware , etc. At that time colleges were very expensive, so the scholarships released many financial burdens from the parents. There is a lot of money around for each sport, you just have to find out how to use the system to your advantage. My son attended St. Anthony’s high school and when he graduated in 1995 he was the all-time goal scorer for schools. He then attended Loyola of Maryland on a scholarship and played four years. We enjoyed traveling around the country watching him playing. He graduated in 1999 and Black and Decker Dewalt hired him right from college. After 10 years he has moved up in the company working in Baltimore – at the international headquarters. If it was not for a sport he would never have been able to attend Loyola.

            In 1999 I was diagnosed with a large benign tumor on my upper spinal cord, between my thoracic 3 and thoracic 4. Also, a cyst wrapped around my spinal cord from my cervical 2 to my thoracic 9. The day of the operation I drove to LIJ hospital and was operated on at 8:00 am. It was supposed to last 3-1/2 hours but wound up lasting 8-1/2 hours. At post-op, when I awakened, all I could do was move both of my big toes. I was assured by the head neurosurgeon that this was a normal occurrence. He told me that we would discuss rehab the following day. I had selected St. Charles in Port Jefferson and I was there for eight weeks. During that time, I requested to enroll in all the therapy they would allow me. This was two hours morning physical therapy and two hours afternoon occupational therapy. Within three weeks I was standing and using my walker. When I was discharged from St. Charles I was able to walk with a cane. Then I had outpatient therapy until the insurance company decided they would not pay any more. My son, as a present, enrolled me into Bally’s gym where today I have a lifetime membership, going four times a week – pool therapy and physical therapy. The key is to stay in shape, a theme which has done well for me for my entire life. When I was at St. Charles I was fitted with an AFO from Hanger Company, which is a plastic leg brace. This allows me to be able to get around better. I have certain feelings in both legs; however, some of my motor sensors are not communicating with my legs. I have weakness in my right leg and stiffness in both legs. I have nerve damage. I am happy to say that all my plumbing seems to be in fine working order! I consider myself to be very lucky.

            Since then I am very active with stem cell research. I belong and support several spinal cord associations. In Germany now they are performing stem cell operations (X-cel Company) by taking out stem cells from your bone marrow, then separating them in a lab, and injecting the area where the stem cells will do the most good. By using your own stem cell, there is no rejection. I sent all my personal papers to Cologne , Germany . Their reply was that they were unsure if I would be a good candidate because they want to know if the spinal tumor was hereditary or environmental. They still need to do more research to find out.

            Last year I decided to do something about the spasticity (stiffness) in my legs. My neurosurgeon implanted a Baclofen pump in my stomach which is the size of a hockey puck and weighs about eight ounces. There is a tube running inside my body to my spinal cord. They can control the amount of fluid going into my spinal cord by setting the pump, which is computerized, with different amounts of fluid during the day. Also, they fill the pump every three months with a needle; normally it takes 15 minutes in a doctor’s office. The pump can stay in the body for three to five years. This is working well, and has relieved most of the stiffness in my legs.

            In the last few years Hanger Company has come up with a product called WalkAide System, which consists of a small lightweight cuff worn just below the knee. WalkAide produces gentle electrical stimulation that activates the peroneal nerve and raises the foot at the appropriated time in the walking cycle. Less effort is required to walk. This velcro cuff has two electrodes that are placed over the peroneal nerve which is what stimulates the nerve. I decided to go for an evaluation. The test lasted 45 minutes. I was told by Hanger Company that not everyone is a good candidate for this product. However, after setting up a computer and walking with this WalkAide I was able to walk better. I was told now Hanger has to submit the test results to the insurance company. After waiting one month, Hanger told me that the insurance company needs more information – my medical history – so I sent off the paperwork that Hanger had requested. At this time I am awaiting approval.

            If I have learned anything it is that it is extremely important to stay physically and mentally fit, by eating the right foods and doing daily exercises of some kind. Walking is an excellent exercise and it is also always important to keep your mind active and alert.