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A local hero
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Step out your door and begin walking and you will likely not go very far before you pass one of the many heroes living in this area who have yet to be recognized and rightfully praised.

Just look a bit closer, for example, at the following life of a local man who fits this category all too well, and then judge for yourself if you would also call him a hero.

From his earliest days, he had no doubt that music would be a necessary part of his life.Back in the 1940s and 1950s, as he helped to build army tanks at Baldwin Locomotive Works, he was working along with, and playing music for, Mario Lanza, who was still studying opera at that time.

He went on to play guitar in the Westinghouse band, and then bass in a variety of other bands, with noted stars like Billy Holiday, Cab Calloway, and Dave Brubeck. But all of those impressive times did not, of course, make him a hero. That would come later. Much later.

After working at Westinghouse, building generators for battleships, he then moved on, and, for the next 36 years, he owned and ran a car lot until he finally retired. From that point on, he had to cope with the next big challenge in his life, his advancing age.

All the way up through his 70s and 80s, he held his own quite well. But when he reached the age of 90, things began to fall apart. That job at Westinghouse, building generators, included a good amount of asbestos dust filling the air, at a time when that threat to health attracted little attention, fluid began to appear in his lungs. And then he actually began to fall.

During the next few years, he fell eight times, breaking his ribs and both shoulder blades. Aspirin was prescribed for the pain, and that gave him bleeding ulcers. On one of his falls, he tore off most of the skin from his left elbow down to his wrist, leaving a large area of the flesh beneath exposed. His skin by then had dried out, and it became so fragile that simply touching it too hard would cause a pool of blood to appear beneath it.

Now comes the amazing part.

His name is Vito Prudente, a little guy, 137 pounds, and, up to this very moment, after all that life has inflicted upon him, he not only keeps going day to day, but he does so always with a cheerful word and a smile for everyone he meets.

He keeps moving among us, with a cane and a shuffle, and with that sly little pixie look of his, so full of joy at simply still being alive that he brightens every room he enters.

Vito is one of the bravest individuals I have ever known. At age 94 now, and still going strong, he represents, by any definition, that category of a true hero who persists, with all the odds against him, to conquer each day with his own joy, and to readily share that joy with others.

Bill Glasser
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