By: John Cuddy – Oct. 2020
Braintree, Massachusetts native, Robert Lucas, led a very interesting life, from pitching for the Boston Braves Farm system, to serving during the Korean conflict in the US Army infantry, to being on duty as a State Trooper on Martha’s Vineyard on the night of “Chappaquiddick”! Bob was selected as the 15th athlete to be inducted in the Braintree High Hall of Fame, he played football, basketball, and baseball for the high school. As a youngster, this three-sport athlete was also at Fenway Park on July 25, 1948 to see the great Satchel Paige pitch against Red Sox legends Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio.
Bob was drafted by the Boston Braves out of high school and pitched for their farm programs in West Virginia and Wisconsin. He spent time in Wisconsin with another player in the Braves Farm system, a decent hitter, named Hank Aaron.
While in the Braves’ Farm system, Bob was drafted by the US Army. Serving with the 3rd Infantry Division, assigned to the 7th Infantry Regiment. Bob told me about him and his buddy, both Infantryman assigned to a fighting position on the line during the Korean War. A US Army truck came up with breakfast, his fellow soldier wanted to eat, Bob did not, but was convinced to walk down the hill, to at least have a coffee. Both soldiers grabbed their rifles and headed to the US Army truck for their hot food and coffee. When they returned to their assigned spot after eating, their dug in fighting position and all their gear, other than the rifles they were carrying, were gone. Their position on the line had received a direct hit from a Chinese mortar. Morning coffee had saved both of their lives! Private First-Class Bob Lucas left the US Army with two Bronze Stars and a coveted Combat Infantry Badge.
Returning from the Korean war, the Boston Braves released him, after he spent another year of playing baseball in the minors. When his professional baseball career ended, Bob took a job with the Dedham House of Correction. He later served as a Massachusetts State Trooper, including eighteen years on Martha’s Vineyard, at the Massachusetts State Police Oak Bluffs Barracks. On July 19, 1969, he, along with 200 million other Americans were waiting for our Apollo 11 astronauts to land on the moon, when the phone lines went “crazy” at the Martha’s Vineyard Massachusetts State Police Barracks. Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy’s car was found submerged with twenty-eight-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne inside. After two recreational fishermen discovered the car at 8 a.m., John Farrar, a captain on the Edgartown Fire Rescue unit and a trained scuba diver, arrived at 8:45 a.m. The Edgartown Fire Department retrieved the car from the water in minutes. A coworker of Mary Jo’s, Rosemary Keough’s purse was found in the front passenger compartment of the car, leading Edgartown Police Chief Jim Arena to initially misidentify Kopechne as Keough to the onsite media.
Captain Farrar, who recovered Mary Jo Kopechne’s body from the submerged car, believed that she died from suffocation, rather than from drowning or from the impact of the overturned vehicle, based upon the posture in which he found her body, in the back seat of the car, where an air pocket would have formed. Inspector Bob Molla, of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, who investigated the crash at the time, said that parts of the roof and the trunk appeared to be dry. The “on scene” Fire Department Scuba Diver John Farrar has publicly asserted that Kopechne would have probably survived, if Senator Ted Kennedy had called the police when the accident happened. Both Bob and I believe (but of course, cannot prove) that there was no way Senator Kennedy was in that car when it went into the water. Both of us had rescue training, Bob with the State Police, me as an EMT, on extracting someone from a submerged car. We both were trained to remove a window, because the water pressure would hold the doors shut. How did Senator Kennedy get out of a submerged car?
After retiring from the Massachusetts State Police, he worked as a private investigator in Maine, doing mostly Workman’s Comp Fraud cases. Bob was married to his wife Mary for over thirty years. They have a daughter Betsy, and two sons, Robert Jr, who died earlier this year, and Dan. The couple also has two grandchildren, Ben and Charlotte. My second interview was conducted after this American hero had just finished hitting golf balls for the day!
The Dracut American Legion asks all World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War Veterans, to call (603) 518-5368 and sign up for an Honor Flight to the Memorials in Washington DC! Veterans of all eras are asked to go to the American Legion’s Web site www.legion.org, and join the American Legion, preserving our Veteran’s Benefits for future generations.
John Cuddy served in the US Navy’s Construction Battalions (also known as the Seabees) after retiring from the Navy; he earned a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in economics from the University of Massachusetts on the Lowell Campus. He has been employed in Logistics at FedEx for the last 23 years. If you know a World War II veteran who would like their story told, please email him at John.Cuddy@Yahoo.com. ◊