MITCH BARLOGA: Visits to grandfather inspired my career

2013-06-13T00:00:00Z 2013-08-14T17:57:07Z MITCH BARLOGA: Visits to grandfather inspired my careerBy Mitch Barloga nwitimes.com
June 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

This time, it’s personal. People ask me quite a bit about my passion for what I do, so here’s one explanation how it came about.

My mum was born in London, and immigrated to Canada, and then the States in the 1950s. By chance she met my dad, a blue-collar East Chicago-raised steelworker, on a blind date in South Chicago. Just these facts alone curtail the odds of my existence, but then there is the story of my grandfather, Maurice.

He was born in Wales in 1895, and survived the great “Black Flu” which ravaged Europe at the turn of the 20th century. He was one of 16 children – and only one of six to make it past infancy. Eventually World War I erupted, and Maurice was enlisted into the Royal Medical Corps. He served as a stretcher-bearer in the trenches, and then on a medical ship. He was shot twice and lived through a bomb blast.

After the “Great War,” Maurice began a successful dentistry practice in London. Once again war struck Europe, and Germany took aim on London during the infamous “Blitz.” While my mum was safe in the countryside with other children, Maurice stayed behind to keep an eye on his house, which lost its roof and sustained significant damage during the raids.

Several years after World War II, Maurice retired to Eastbourne, a city on the south coast of England along the English Channel. The fruits of his success were realized with a flat, or condominium, right on the coast. Out front of his residence was an extensive multi-level promenade which stretched for several miles in either direction. Along this was a bandshell and formal garden arrangements – making Eastbourne a popular destination for “holiday” travelers.

Our first trip to visit him was in 1978, and then my family made frequent visits over the next decade.

I became enchanted with Eastbourne. A favorite hangout was the pier — a wonderland of arcade games of all kinds. This pier was a good mile from Maurice’s flat and the hotel where my family stayed. I walked to and from it. A lot.

During my visits I also noticed Maurice owned a vintage 1950s Rover automobile. However, I can only remember him using his car once. My mum later told me my grandfather would walk up to five miles a day — most likely to his favorite pub and back. This certainly counteracted his robust diet of up to seven alcoholic drinks a day, and liberal use of fatty foods such as pure cream. He also smoked most of his life.

Maurice passed on in 1996, at age 101. I attribute his long life to the amount of exercise he incorporated into his daily routine — which counteracted his “English” diet.

Eastbourne is replete with opportunities for non-motorized travel — encompassing all parts of the city — and all within walking distance. Like Maurice, I encourage you to find your paths to long life as well.

As always, please feel free to contact me at mbarloga@nirpc.org or (219) 763-6060 ext. 133.

Mitch Barloga is non-motorized transportation and greenways planner for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission. The opinions are the writer's.

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