Here is Melrose

Rare innocence among us

... innocence is often hard to find but, this man was the rare one.

by Len Dalton

In our several lives we often somehow collide with something that, as luck would have it, we both cherish and understand. Life is busy and so one is fortunate to pause and ponder sneaky elements that could easily be overlooked or just passed by. I was lucky.

As children we learn of the good guys and the not so good guys; the pure in heart and the heroes. Peter Rabbit, Snow White and many others. In time, way back in our minds, we understand that all those teaching stories were about innocence. That is an element that tends to fade in our consciousness as we grow older, but it is never lost entirely, as we read and hear of the continuing contest between good and evil.

Here in good old Melrose, we had in our midst the only truly innocent man I ever knew. This person was struck down by meningitis as an infant. His posture and gait were forever changed for the worse. His intellect was a bit slowed but his spirit, with teachings from top-notch parents, remained upbeat in spite of not being similar to his classmates. At Roosevelt School, a not well-motivated kid hit him with a metal edged ruler, drawing blood! After several of us made sure that would never happen again, we were conducted to the office of Mr. Charles Woodbury, our revered principal. After we explained, Mr. Woodbury actually complimented us, but also told us to please keep the peace.

He once made a date with a girl at school and when he appeared to take her out to the movies or wherever, she proclaimed, “Oh! It was just a joke!” Our friend understood and went home, no doubt depressed.

In Melrose High School he was a member of the class of 1948. As a freshman he was rather an extreme introvert; shy and almost incommunicative at all times. The courses he took were the easier ones and since picking on him or making fun of him was altogether too easy, the classmates chose to buoy him up, protect him and support him as time in school went by. With encouragement by both teachers and classmates, he became a member of the cross country team, coming in dead last in every race, but he persevered with the power of the support from everyone he knew. Upon graduation he was ready to face the world as a genuine extrovert.

As the Korean War developed, he somehow joined the Army and spent his enlistment in Germany. Later, upon honorable discharge he was hired by classmate Sid Fields, then head of the Melrose Parks Department. For 33 years he worked there and retired. In that time he was a regular at Bruins and Celtics games, traveled here and there on tours and did well. In May this year, 2007, our single innocent man of Melrose died. He was Hollis Restall. He brought out strength of character in our Melrose High School Class of 1948 that I have never witnessed elsewhere and here I honor that Class for it. The Class recognized innocence and the need to preserve it in Hollis.

November 2, 2007

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