GEORGETOWN – Quietly, peacefully, a former naval seaman makes his way to a local coffee shop. He takes his seat on a short stool at a curved counter, smiles to a familiar server, shares quips and views on the past day’s events and the morning papers. As he sips his coffee he banters with friends, cupping his ear and leaning forward to hear.
Everyone knows the man, George-town’s former Fire Chief and current Electric Light Commissioner. The proprietor of a small clothing store. A familiar face, a friend to many. Another day for Arthur Rauseo, age 82.
Peeling away the years, one stands in awe at the simplicity, the determination, the sincerity, the energy, the Americanism of this gentleman citizen. At age sixteen and a half (although his photos from the era make him look more like age 14), Mr. Rauseo enlisted in the armed forces. We were at war, and, like so many in our Country, this young lad stepped forward with deliberate eyes to serve our country. He kissed his mother goodbye, and that was the last time he would ever see her. She died before he could return from the war. “I never saw my mother again.”
Mr. Rauseo sports his familiar cap: U.S.S. LOWNDES A.P.A. 154, IWO JIMA – OKINAWA. A reminder of challenging times as he related the events of a long-ago journey to bring an end to hostilities.
His brother Joe was a U.S. Marine. “A miserable bastard when they wouldn’t let him fight!” Mr. Rauseo said. “My brother George, he flew. We were all fighting. There were seven, seven of us kids, Georgie” his eyes began to well up a bit, “Georgie was, well, we, my brothers, we all, we did, we all served.” His siblings: Nicholas, Angelo, Joseph, Michael, Mary, and George. Arthur was the youngest. One sister, five brothers. Mother Marian Maringello, father Pasquale, Italian immigrants.
On board the U.S.S. Lowndes, Mr. Rauseo served as an electrician’s mate. “I fixed things, and sometimes I shot things. We did whatever we needed to do. They trained. We served.” He received medals. He received a Combat Action Ribbon. He lived war.
“Saipan. I was there,” he said with a big long, drawn sigh as he pointing to old photographs showing staging areas. “That was just one place. We were preparing, you know, for assaults. Assaults. You know, supplies,” he said. “Lowndes’ a transport ship. I served on two ships. See. Supplies, soldiers, thousands of them. Okinawa. You know. They shot at us. From the sky, from the sky.”
Boxing gloves? “Yeah, in the navy. Those are mine,” he offered as I turned them over. “In those days, they would keep you for training, you know, until, until you know, you’re supposed to be 17, O.K., so I get into Boston, and I was supposed to be, well, we were in war, they just sent me (to active duty),” he explained.
Medals. Medals in boxes, dusty in a basement. Photographs. Folders. Aerial photos, scrubbings. Treasured memories hidden away. “Yeah, some of this stuff, I guess I should show” he said.
Decades of service on the Georgetown Light Commission, past chairman of the Cable T.V. Advisory Board, past member of the finance committee, a former water commissioner, former real estate broker, construction supervisor, electrician, and having served in many other capacities within the town, Mr. Rauseo is a life member of V.F.W. 7608, and the American Legion.
He helped start little league baseball in town. A former president of the Georgetown Student Athletic Fund, the Georgetown Fire Dept. Inc., and Georgetown Shoe Sales, Inc,. Retired from the Georgetown Savings Bank board of directors this past June, after serving as a bank director sine 1991. He was a member of the Massachusetts 100 club, a charity organization that provided thousands to children … a lifetime of work and volunteerism. His proudest involvement is his 55 years with the Georgetown Fire Department’s Central Fire Company.
Everyone who’s been in Georgetown for more than a handful of years seems to know Mr. Rauseo. He’s seemingly done every position except selectmen. “I wouldn’t do it. They put me up to it. I said no. I can’t do it. You know what you get. I run a store. I don’t want it. I don’t want it. So I killed it, and said no. I wouldn’t take it. And still, they voted for me. I can’t have it with the business. People. You know. It’s too much,” he explained as why he avoided that one position.
Ah, the smile as he shuffled and lifted the heavy old fireman’s coat. A big grin. “This was mine. Chief. When I was chief” he said. “Original. These, they protected you. Heavy like this. You know” he said. Wife Marjorie, son Jim, daughter Sharon. Four grandchildren, all girls: Catherine (16), Alex (15), Megan (14), and Sarah (12).
Pouring through more photographs and old documents, he showed one of small ships around larger ships. “See, we were the small guys, we went in here,” he said pointing towards some unidentified shoreline. “I don’t want a kid to see a photo like this,” he said showing wounded soldiers. “You see we were getting the s*** kicked out of us. How can I show that to a kid? I don’t want to.” Again, you could see history scanning across his face. A mix of dedication, sorrow, and energy. Good energy. Friends and service. Service to his country, a patriot. A hero.
“This is the hardest thing you had to do,” he said relating to a photo of sea burial. We paused.
Mr. Rauseo returned from the war and did what many others have done. Raised his children. He seldom spoke of the war even when prodded his daughter Sharon said. “He didn’t, most of them. That generation, they didn’t want to talk about it too much. Look, he has so much. I tell him, people should see this,” she said. A loving daughter. “Dad, this really should be someplace,” she said holding another memento. “Ten years ago, they wouldn’t talk” she said about the war heroes. “I saw a documentary they’re doing. Now, they’re starting to talk. They’re at that point. They know they have to. I never heard some things when I grew up. Now, I see these, and he tells more now.”
Turning over another package of photos, Mr. Rauseo exclaimed “everything but the kitchen sink,” his ship delivered to the front. “That’s going in. I kept these in pretty damn good shape,” he said” showing yet another set of photos.
The Valley Patriot is proud of the heroes in our midst. And we are especially proud of those who served in war, and then continued to serve in our communities, adding to the fabric of our lives, helping in whatever way they could to help others. Engaged in the community, serving, helping. Working with others. “Enjoying life,” he said. As the long-time proprietor of Georgetown Clothing, his shop, now manned by his son Jim, serves yet another generation. Long gone is his cobbler’s shop. And long-ago memories from Sharon’s sewing lessons at dad’s store. “I used to take a shoe box cover and run that in the sewing machine. That’s one of my earliest memories,” she related.
Mornings at Theo’s coffee shop. ‘Arthur’ gets called out by many, raising their voices so he can hear them, deaf in one ear now. Talking of the day’s events, he shuffles a paper. Just another day in a small town. Sitting alongside a hero. A hero in our midst.