I like roofs more than most people. I married a roofer’s daughter. My father-in-law, Cecil Shustick, had a roofing company in Columbus, Ohio. He was an orthodontist before being a roofer. (Look it up. It’s true.) He was an orthodontist in the early 1950s. His father owned a roofing company. Cecil had a wartime neck injury, so he didn’t relish standing all day at a dental chair, so he became a roofer. Also, orthodontia wasn’t, as yet, a big moneymaker in central Ohio in the fifties. Cecil did mostly estimating. He ran a 27-man, 9-truck company.
Gutters are interesting: copper, galvanized (the worst) and coated. Cecil didn’t offer me the biz. He should have, my father always said. My dad swore Cecil should have at least given me the opportunity to say no.
Dad, I ain’t moving to Cow-lumbus to run a roofing company!
When Cecil retired, he sold the business to Don The Goy, who ran the biz into the ground. Cecil lost a lot of money on that, and so did I, indirectly.
If I had taken over the business, I probably would now be in a nice house in Bexley, Ohio, with a stack of workers’ comp claims in front of me. (A lot of roofers are overweight drinkers with back problems.) That wouldn’t be much different than the way I did wind up!
Cecil was a bon vivant, who kept a quart of piña colada by his bed for dry throat, due to antihistamine overuse, he claimed. He liked top-shelf goods: Chrysler Imperials and Chivas Regal. And he didn’t like sweating. Cecil said, “If man was meant for jogging, he’d have hooves.” Golf was his game.
I didn’t know the early Cecil. I knew the retired Cecil — the guy in the velour warm-up suit with the Marlboros.
Don Whitehead, an A.P. correspondent, filed a dispatch, Dec. 3, 1943, with the Fifth Army south of Rome:
In one large, roomy cave Capt. Cecil Shustick, Columbus, Ohio, and Lt. Samuel Clarkson, Lebanon, Ky., set up a medical detachment station. On the little ledge, a charcoal fire was burning to take the damp chill from the air . . .
The Italians had used the caves as storage places for vegetables, fruit and grain. When the Americans came along, they moved into them and used them as command posts, medical stations and billets.
This is a valley of hell – a man-made hell of thunder and lightning . . . The guns never cease their striking. Whole batteries of them roar in unison with a concussion that shakes the earth.
Cecil Shustick came home a major with a Bronze Star. He fought at the Battle of Monte Cassino, Italy. Cecil kept things light and bright. You’d never know about Italy.
A version of this first appeared 1/12/11. This one is for the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day.