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A recent posting on a site related to the East Providence Police Department, where I served for 20 years, brought back many memories. A police clerk with the department, Alyssa Cadoret, did a magnificent job of memorializing department members—many of whom I worked with—who have since passed away.
This got me thinking about how our lives often take routes one would never imagine, and how I went from Cumberland, RI, to become an officer with the East Providence Police Department.
For most people, there is always a place you consider home even if you no longer live there. For me, that place is Cumberland.
Of the 66, soon to be 67, years I’ve lived on this planet, it seems strange to me that the place I’ve lived just 12 of those years is the place I still think of as home. It is the automatic answer—one I have to catch and correct myself—to the question; where are you from? I haven’t been “from” there in a very long time.
It wasn’t the place of my birth. That was Pawtucket, RI. Home from the moment of birth until I was 5.
It wasn’t the place I’d lived the longest. That was Seekonk, MA, for 18 years. Yet it is Cumberland that still seems like the foundation of what I consider home.
The Cumberland connection played the most significant part in setting the course of my life. But this life-altering effect needed a few things; a Latin class, a hernia, and a blizzard.
Upon starting the transitional year of 8th grade—the bridge between grammar school and high school—I would meet a few people who would have a lifelong impact on my life. This story concerns just one of them. And it is the serendipitous happenstance of that friendship which, when one reviews all the elements, seems so remarkable considering the lack of connectedness between some aspects.
In that Introduction to Latin class, the teacher assigned me the Herculean task of raising the dismal grade of one Ralph Ezovski. While I am uncertain if my efforts paid off or if the kindly Gregorian Chant-loving teacher, John Needham, just took pity on both of us, we both survived the class.
Ralph passed the class, and a lifelong friendship began.
Here’s where it gets strange.
Upon graduation from high school, Ralph enlisted in the Army. I went to PC. These career choices didn’t pan out for reasons that remain a mystery. Me for lack of discipline in the free world of class attendance, Ralph, because of a pre-existing but undetected hernia.
The Army gave Ralph a choice: get an operation to correct the condition and recycle back to week one of basic training or simply be honorably discharged. In a preview of Ralph’s later brilliance as a police officer and union negotiator, Ralph opted to return home. The Army was all the poorer for it. For me, it altered my destiny.
In the meantime, I decided the United States Air Force, through the Rhode Island Air National Guard, seemed an excellent way to change my bad habits.
Fast forward to 1978. Ralph is now a Police Officer in East Providence, RI, and I am awaiting the beginning of the interview process for the Rhode Island State Police. All seems right with the world.
Then, the storm of the century hit Rhode Island—the Blizzard of ’78—and they canceled the interviews. Then, after the state dug out of the mountains of snow, the State Police postponed the planned academy.
Once again, my Latin buddy connection rose to the occasion. “Apply for East Providence PD,” he said. Of course, being the typical Rhode Islander, I said, “I’m not even sure where East Providence is.”
So Ralph got the application, tracked me down to sign it, and submitted it on my behalf. And this led to a most enjoyable and exciting twenty-year career with EPPD.
Yet, if John Needham had made a different choice for Latin Buddies. If Ralph hadn’t somehow suffered a hernia before joining the Army. If the blizzard of ’78 had never happened. Who knows what might have been?
And when I watched the video showing the faces of so many members of the East Providence Police Department with whom I worked, it reminded me how fortunate I was to be a member of that highly respected department.
A Latin teacher, a hernia, and a blizzard set me on a course I could never have imagined and wouldn’t change for the world.
Serendipity hardly comes close.
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