In 2018, Montclair, New Jersey celebrated its 150th anniversary. The book, 75 Plus: Seniors Life Stories, is a compilation of the vignettes of over 40 seniors, all of whom are from Montclair, who tell their tales about life. The authors, Tony Naturale and Grange Rutan have known each other for over 65 years and Grange’s grandfather graduated from Montclair High School in 1901. Their love and devotion to Montclair runs deep.
They began the book with the idea that everyone has a book or at least, a story in them. They were spurred on by observing how often the youth of today seem far more absorbed in smart phones than in the advice and wisdom of their grandparents. After two years of arranging and conducting interviews, they sat down to write about what became a journey.
Over 40 tales are told, often involving stories long hidden, forgotten or not thought important. The span of ages covers those from 75 to 105 years of age. The list of individuals and the stories they tell are in a word – fascinating. The cross section of people is amazing and vivid recollections are painted and phrased in engaging prose.
There are harrowing stories of the Second World War; reminiscences about growing up in the depression and the games played by children who didn’t have money, but who had plenty of imagination. There are tales of civil service by police officers; stories of offspring and one writer had all three of his children appear on various televisions shows. Elbows rub with celebrities and long-closed venues and theaters are reopened and brought vividly back to life.
You will meet one of the 100 wealthiest men in the world and gain his unique perspective on what is truly important in life. The book’s oldest writer still competes (and wins medals) in the Senior Olympics and years ago styled the hair of movie stars Gloria Swanson and Jayne Mansfield.
One of the short stories is by a published author whose writing will make readers shudder, even though the events took place 74 years ago, as he describes the Battle of the Bulge. Other veterans from the Korean and the Viet Nam wars have their own stories to relate. One tells of the Battle of Chosin in Korea, a different war in a different land, but also one where unspeakable cold gripped the men. The few who survived are called “The Chosin Few.” Another Montclair resident was part of the U.S. military guard for President John F. Kennedy, who stood at the head of his coffin for many hours as the slain president’s widow, family and dignitaries payed their respects. There are stories of faith, where tragedies emerged that could tear a family apart, but with faith in God, the family members pulled through and became better people for it.
One writer was a baseball fanatic early in life. With his passion and drive, he not only became a doctor, but retired as a colonel from the U.S. Army. If that wasn’t enough, he also invented Corian, the ultra-hard counter surface. Another of the 75 Plus Seniors, a professional musician provides a fascinating account of the art of playing jazz on the upright bass and the unusual physical demands that it places on the musician.
There are plenty of amusing stories in the book, some of which involve the first jobs that the writers had, often working in some area of the family business. Try to imagine in this day and age, a child not yet in his teens, whose job it was to ring the necks of chickens for customers, as well as sell them moonshine! It was a different world back then.
If there is one theme that seems to pervade the stories within the book, it is that virtually everyone has stayed as active and as fit as age permits. Most of the writers were involved in athletics from a young age and returned to physical fitness, some while in their 50, 60s and even 70s, proving that age is a number and determination is a strong partner. The two most popular sports for those in the book were softball and bowling. There is wisdom galore within the pages and while some stories are humorous and others serious, there is a lesson to be learned by each one. A fun and fascinating book, 75 Plus Seniors will be captivating for readers of all ages. 75 Plus: Seniors Life Stories is 464 pages and is available through Amazon.
About the authors
Anthony Naturale, whose story is included in the book, is the author of four other books “You’ll Never Believe It,” “Let’s Talk Fitness,” “Cop Eyes” and “All Cops Don’t Eat Donuts.” He is a former lieutenant with the Montclair Police Department.
Grange (Lady Haig) Rutan is the author of “Death of a Bebop Wife” and also included her story to the book. A world traveler, it is Montclair that is always her home.
The authors will be conducting a Book Signing on Sunday, February 24th from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm at Tierney’s Tavern, 138 Valley Road in Montclair. Beer, soda and food will be complimentary for all those who are purchasing the book for signing. 75 Plus: Senior Life Stories is $24.00. Come on over and see if you or your family member is in the book.