Robert Casale

Class of 1961

 

In high school, I was known as “Speedy.” It was an affectionate named given me by ?????. Could have been one of the guys on the track team…I was gifted with speed and could motor pretty quickly. Now I have trouble walking. It’s age.

I was born in December of 1942 in Brooklyn . My mom and pop were living in Philadelphia at that time. The reason I was born in Brooklyn …mom wanted the same doctor who delivered my sister, Eileen, to bring me into the world.

We lived in Philly until the end of 1949. Pop was working for the Army as a civilian employee at the Signal Corps then located in Philly. He was propositioned in 1945 to go into a private business with several friends. It was a hardware store that did fairly well in the beginning but was being destroyed by his partners who were not working hard enough. Pop applied for a position again with the Army and they told him to go to Pittsburgh for a year, then when the new facility in Astoria , New York would open, they would transfer him to New York . So, we moved to Pittsburgh .

As it turned out, the year was only about six months. His transfer was made toward the end of 1950. We moved to Brooklyn and lived with Grandma and Grandpa Falborn for about six months. Dad found an apartment in Bayside in 1951, so we moved again and lived at 223-15 69th Avenue . In 1953, we moved to 64-48 218th Street , also in Bayside. Stayed there for 2 years and moved to Hicksville in 1955. I was in the eighth grade and had Mrs. Miller for a teacher. The first people I met were Gene Froelich, Joe Hawxhurst and Cynthia Roberts.

Graduated Hicksville High June 1961. Spent almost nine years in the navy. Was most fortunate to have an opportunity to do some traveling while in the service. After Boot Camp in Chicago , I went to school in Pensacola , Florida . Graduated in December of 1962 and received orders to Bremerhaven , Germany . Didn’t realize this was only a temporary transfer. In February of 1963, I had new orders to transfer to Nicosia , Cyprus . While there, I lived in a hotel, wore civilian clothing all the time and had an opportunity to tour communities that dated back to the days of the Roman Empire .

In July of 1963, I was selected by the coach of the Cyprus station softball team to go to Naples , Italy to play in the European Tournament. Later in the year, I was selected by the coach of the basketball team to go to Rota , Spain to compete in the European Tournament. Then it was back to Naples in July of 1964.

I left Cyprus in August of ’64 and headed back to school again in Pensacola . This time it was for a course in cryptology. After graduating, I was assigned to the USS LIBERTY and flew to Portland , Oregon to pick up the ship. We were sent to Bremerton , Washington and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for final fitting out after the massive renovation of Liberty from a troop transport ship to a intelligence gathering platform. The equipment aboard was worth in excess of 40 million dollars. When the ship was subsequently attacked by Israel in June of 1967, and shot up by Mirage and Mystere jets and Motor Torpedo boats firing torpedoes, the ship was a total loss and most of the equipment was destroyed or put out of service.

When leaving Puget Sound, we entered the Pacific Ocean with a final destination of Norfolk , Virginia . Out route was to head down the west coast until we found the Panama Canal . The ship would go through the locks overnight and exit into the Caribbean . I volunteered for the special sea detail that was being assembled to send lines to shore that were necessary to pull the ship through the locks safely. The 48 mile trip takes awhile and it was an exciting and memorable adventure that I will never forget.

Prior to the attack, the ship made several tours of duty patrolling the waters off the west coast of Africa . While on tour, we made stops in Santa Cruz de Tenerife , the Canary Islands; Dakar , Senegal ; Abidjan , Ivory Coast ; Lagos , Nigeria ; Luanda , Angola and Capetown , South Africa .

I left the ship in 1966, a full year before the attack, and went to Instructor School in Norfolk . I completed the four week course and went to Skaggs Island , California that is located in the Sonoma Valley outside San Francisco . I was an instructor in the Naval Reserve Program. We convened two week courses that were designated Simulated Operational Training (SOT). As part of the instructional staff, I was assigned special duties related to training. Along with several other instructors, we wrote some pretty sophisticated programs designed to acquaint the students with cryptography. Most of our students were high ranking officers who were getting their first assignments in this tricky field and needed some background.

I was discharged from the navy in December of 1969 and moved back to Hicksville . Spent 1970 until 1977 in the trucking business (carpet delivery). Opened a plumbing and heating supply in Hicksville October 1977. Did that until retiring in June of 2008…31 years.

Was married to Joyce Gabrielsen (class of ’61). We have two children, Dawn born in 1970 and Chad 1972. We have three grand kids, Chad Christopher Casale Jr., six, Sarah, five and Aidan will be three. We count our little blessings and look forward to their high school education and their own biographies. Currently live in Augusta , Georgia .