HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO
FRED J. GILLESPIE
Brookhaven, Long Island, N.Y.
Other than in the Michael & Lena Gillespie House in Tangier LI ( located in the plaza where the Mastic - Shirley train station is today ), the news around the world was not too good on Tuesday October 10, 1916. As a glance at the front page of NY Times will bear out. The United States was just 6 months away from entering the conflict that would unfortunately get the title the Great War to end all wars...now known as WWI........... on a better note Fred may be the only person to ever have Tangier on his birth certificate.
BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT THIS LITTLE BIRTHDAY SALUTE IS ABOUT...
No sireee..... Last winter I had the pleasure of speaking on the phone for the first time with Mr. G. I was introduced to Fred by Marty Van Lith who had taken an oral history from him a few years ago on Brookhaven hamlet. Brookhaven is the village that Fred has resided in for most of his 88 years, save for the time he was off in Europe flying during World War II.
My main reason for calling was to ask him about the little known character Frederick J. Quinby whom Fred is named after. Fred's father worked for Quinby and was involved with the construction of the original Tangier Boulevard and Bridge in 1911. Today they are known as The William Floyd Parkway and Smith Point Bridge.
As our conversation progressed I inadverntaly learned new things about Quinby and so much more, like the Marion "Isle Of Palms" Knapp story that just knocked me flat! If you haven't read that one, click it after you finish up here. A follow up conversation with Fred last spring revealed even more about what a small world it really is if your lucky enough to live in it for a bit. I had mentioned I was corresponding with Jacque Chapman formerly of East Moriches who in the 1930's was probably the youngest licensed pilot in the US. Turns out Fred flew with Jacque back then!!! That was just the start of it....
This past August I had the pleasure of meeting Fred and his wife Yvonne at their home on Pine St.
Fred & Yvonne Gillespie Feb 2003 ...Our Birthday Boy & His Bride !
Marty took me over to the Gillespie's last August and we had a great visit. A few weeks earlier Fred had been in Washington DC., for the dedication of the WWII Memorial. Fred was a flyer in Europe and told us a few stories that would put the hair up on your neck. Including the one about just after landing from an English Channel crossing, being asked if they saw any planes down in the water. The plane they were looking for was the one that Big Band leader Glenn Miller disappeared in.
F. J. Gillespie....One Of Tom Brokaw's "GREATEST GENERATION"
Just down the road from Fred is "Cannon Corner" The intersection of South Country Road & Fireplace Neck.
The connecter at the triangle has been named for Fred in tribute to his help in the restoration of the cannon.
We talked of many things that day both large and small and it was such an honor and a privelage for me to meet this gentleman. It made me think about knowing what I do now, how I wished I could still talk with so many other elder folks that I have crossed paths with along the way. Folks like all my grandparents for starters. My grandpa Jack Spooner most likely knew Dodi Knapp in NYC and probably J P too for that matter. My grandpa Walter Joseph who moved to Mastic Beach in 1940. Or Willie & Honey Schluder who worked for Dodi Knapp in Mastic Beach for at least ten years or longer. Or Ella Dana or Johnny Libaire. But I am greatfull and very lucky to have spoken with the few folks still around who were there when a lot of changes happened. So as much as it is a Birthday Salute To Mister G... I also want to salute all my elders who have made contributions to this history project. Estelle Schulz, Greta Tucker, Emilie Muse, Cut Redin, Rollie Penney, Jacque Chapman, Van Field and any others I may have have the privelage of meeting in the future
Shootin' The Breeze......August 17, 2004
photos: Marty Van Lith