An inspiration at 93, friends and family host a blues-inspired party for Abington’s Chet Marsh, a decorated WWII veteran and regular on the South Shore dance scene
By Patricia Abbate
Rockland – A community that’s come to know, admire, and love Abington’s Chester “Chet” Marsh, turned out in force last month to raise funds so that their friend’s smile could return in all its brilliance. The event, highlighted by performances from some of the best blues bands and musicians in the area, took place at Players Sports Bar and Grille in Rockland. Chet’s well-wishers traveled from far and wide to share food, enjoy dancing, and compete for great raffle prizes, all while raising the funds necessary to ensure that Chet’s smile would keep beaming. The extensive and complex dental work that Chet endured over the past year was only partially covered by his insurance, but proceeds from this fundraising party covered the rest.
Days after the party, Chet is still overcome with emotion, and finds it difficult to describe his feelings. “It was an awesome day! I am truly humbled. I am a very lucky man…and I can enjoy a good steak again!” he says with true feeling. “I am still a little overwhelmed. It’s great to have friends.”
At 93, Chet’s friends are, in most instances, decades younger than he, but that doesn’t stop him from being the life of the party–or better yet, the dance floor. When asked how he got to know so many area folks who care so much about him, he offers, “I dance at the Page (The Next Page Cafe, E. Weymouth), here at Players, Maggy’s (Maggy’s Lounge, Quincy), and maybe the Great Chow (Quincy) two or three nights a week. At my age, I’m very lucky I can still get out and dance like that so often. I’m in good shape and have lots of energy.”
He follows blues bands all over the South Shore and especially loves Soul Box, Willie J. Laws, and the Steve Tobias band. “Steve plays a great guitar,” he enthuses. Chet meets eager dance partners everywhere he goes and appreciates their friendship. “I love these ladies and they know I love them…but not romantically.” Chet yearns for a romantic partner and misses the day-to-day companionship of a woman. He lost his second wife several years ago, and says he’d “do anything to turn back the clock and have my first wife back with me. But that’s the way life is, one of you has to go first.” Chet says it’s difficult to find a suitable partner, as most women his age can’t keep up with him on the dance floor, or anywhere else. He also has some advice for women who constantly work to disguise or hide wrinkles. “Wrinkles are naturally beautiful and reflect years of good living and accomplishment. Don’t hide them, they are beautiful!” he says.
As a WWII veteran, Chet never would talk about his war experience or the for Bronze Stars he was decorated with for fighting in four of the five major battles taking place in the European Theatre, including the Normandy Invasion…until recently. “I talk about it now, for the kids that didn’t come back. I love to raise the awareness, as kids today don’t know about Normandy and what happened there. All the kids that died. I wasn’t alone over there. So many never came home. I want people to remember them. If they can be remembered through me, that’s great,” he says with a catch in his throat.
“On Christmas Day, 1943, I turned 18. On January 15, I was in Basic Training in Paris, Texas. Then we went overseas. I was stationed in Wales for a while until the June 6 invasion. There were five major battles, and I was in four of the five battles. Normandy was the first one, when I was 19. It was a throw of the dice or an act of God, but I am lucky to have lived through it all,” he reflects.
Last year Chet’s Electrical Workers Union, IBEW Local 104, wanted to fly him to Normandy, France, to participate in a remembrance ceremony, but he turned down the offer. “I cannot go back there. It’s more than I can deal with,” he says emphatically, “So I hang on, and keep going.”
Considering his good fortune of enjoying a strong and healthy life for so many years, Chet muses that it might be attributed to drinking scotch and not beer. He became an electrical lineman after the War and remained active and fit right up to retirement.”I became a lineman after the war, before bucket trucks, and you had to climb a pole on hooks. I climbed a pole and got paid for it when I was 72,” he boasts. “I put my tools on and hiked up the pole. I’m fortunate enough to have been able to do that. The only difference between me and the other lineman is that they drank beer and I drink scotch. Might not have anything to do with it, but they are dropping like flies. Yes, I’m a lucky guy.”
Chet lives by himself in senior housing. He cooks, cleans, and fends mostly for himself, but credits his daughter, Lois Marsh Fagan, with being “more than my right arm. She is wonderful in so many ways.”
Looking towards the future, Chet muses about his ideal woman. “She’s got to love to dance, be physically active, and must have wrinkles,” he says with a broad smile.
If you’re lucky, you may run into Chet at a South Shore club or restaurant where musicians are playing the blues. You’ll recognize Chet, as he’ll be the guy twirling a partner around on the dance floor, and he’ll be wearing a very big smile that will light up the room.
Reprinted from the May 2018 edition of the South Shore Senior News.