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Sunday, December 12, 2010

WWII Pictures

These are just some of Grandpa's pictures from WWII 1943 in N. Africa. He has over 100 pictures along with the diary. enjoy

Friday, December 10, 2010

On Patrol Article- USO

In case you have not seen this, I submitted my story to the USO magazine and was featured in their Web magazine, On Patrol. I am attaching the article. Please pass it around and post to you Facebook so everyone can read it :)

Happy holidays


November 30, 2010
A Granddaughter's Story

by Robin Garofalo

My grandfather, James Garofalo, was a top turret gunner in a B-25 Mitchell aircraft, also known as the “Desert Warrior,” while serving in North Africa during World War II. He rarely spoke of his time at war but when he passed away three years ago he left me all his memorabilia including a diary, which chronicles six months of the war -- April to September, 1943.

James Garofalo poses next to the tail of a B-25. Courtesy photo.
He was fighting with the British army to push back Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox. He logged 193 hours and 73 missions, and throughout all this time he kept his diary, in which he describes fear, loss, pain, hope, and death. It has become a catalyst and a source of values for me in my life.

In the diary, he writes about the end of the North African War, the invasion of Sicily, being shot down twice, and flying General Patton. But perhaps none of his entries seemed more distressing then the loss of his best friend “Mack.”

Mack was lost over Sicily on July 10, 1943, leaving my grandfather to battle alone without his comrade in the hot Sicilian sun. The diary entry for July 10, 1943 reads:

“This is one day I’ll never be able to forget – It beats ’em all. We went out to bomb the [aerodrome] at Trapani – God what [Anti-Aircraft Gunfire] and lights! We started our bomb run and ran right into 24 search lights – they had us – but good [thing] he put the ship over on its nose and down we went.

“We hit over 400mph. The guns went off – everything went flying. Talk about being scared – man alive – what an experience – took 10 years off my life. We got out at last. Full of holes, but okay. Lucky guys. We lost Mack though [and] Lieutenant Fredd never came back. Guess they got him. Poor Mack. I gave him my cigarette ration just before we took off. Sure does get you."

My grandfather was so sad. His only friend was gone and there was nothing he could do but pray and hope he returned safely. He wrote in his diary for days that he hoped Mack jumped out of the plane in time and was walking back to base with his parachute in hand. But day after day would go by with no word. My grandfather’s pain for Mack’s loss was enormous and came right through the pages, but he continued fighting the war – mission after mission.

There are pictures of him and Mack together right before that fatal mission, and after reading through his memoirs, I began to catalogue all of his pictures, albums and diary entries, but I could not stop thinking about this “Mack.” Who was he, and where is his family today?

To begin my search, I had to find out exactly what happened to Mack on July 10, 1943, if there was any hope of finding his family. I researched everything I could find about “Mack” or “Macarson” as my grandfather indicated in his picture album was Mack’s full last name.

James Garofalo (left) and Alvin "Mack" Macarson (right) pose for a photograph the day Mack was shot down. Courtesy photo.

Eventually I stumbled across a picture of an older woman receiving the Purple Heart for her son Alvin Macarson who was killed in World War II and listed as a staff sergeant on a B-25 Mitchell bomber – same as my grandfather!

I searched more and found a November 25, 2000, posting on by Alvin’s niece, Sarah Moore. She was searching for information or pictures anyone might have regarding her uncle’s death. I quickly wrote Sarah back, hoping perhaps she might still be on this site after nine years. She was. She is now 82, but she responded instantly – amazed that after all these years that she now had new information on her uncle, Alvin Macarson.

She wrote to me, “It is unbelievable that we can learn something new about Alvin after all these years. His younger brother is now 89 and recently went to live at a care facility. I was a high school student at the time he was reported MIA. I am 82, have mobility problems, but still alert.

After all these years, to be presented with a new photographs and memories – new pieces of their brother and uncle they never knew existed – is just amazing.

“I have often heard of stories of people finding people and secretly hoped that I would be that lucky some day. Now I can say that I have experienced the thrill of finding someone important! Your grandfather is a jewel for keeping all of these treasures. And you are the lucky one to be the recipient of his careful keepsakes. I hope you do write a book about his treasures!” Sarah added.

Alvin "Mack" Macarson poses for a photograph in the crease of a bunker. Courtesy photo.
She called me the next day to talk more about her uncle Alvin and how my grandfather held memories her family never knew existed. She told me how Alvin was a fun-loving, sensitive uncle who fought for freedom in both the Navy and Army during World War II.

As tears came to my eyes, Sarah asked me “Now tell me about your grandfather and his life.” I was numb and quickly felt selfish. My grandfather was one of the lucky ones and he was able to create a life for his family.

I feel like I ow it to Mack and Sarah to do more everyday -- say thank you to people, smile more, tell my friends and family I love them, and above all, give back to others.

That is why I’m writing a book inspired by my grandfather’s World War II diary titled, “A Granddaughter’s Story.” It’s about how a grandfather’s words from 64 years ago can change the course of his granddaughter’s life. It is a way of giving back to one family and hopefully millions more.

Robin Garofalo is a keynote speaker in overcoming adversity and transformation through a memoir she is writing based upon her grandfather’s diary from WWII. She holds a B.A. in Human Relations from St. Joseph’s College and her M.B.A. from the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Facebook Page- Be a Fan Today!!

I would love for you to be a fan of my facebook page, My Grandfather's Love. I am attaching the link below. I post all comments, pictures, excerpts from the diary on the fan page. Please pass it along to everyone you know.

Thank you for the support and I will be blogging over the holidays

Happy Holidays


Sunday, October 31, 2010

NYC Marathon update-Just one week away!

Well, it has been a long training season filled with excitement, injury's, upset stomach's, ice packs, fatigue and most of all happiness. I started this journey on August 1st in honor of my grandfather and his best friend, Mac from WWII. I thought to myself what better way to honor these two heroes than to run an event such as the NYC marathon with Hope for the Warriors charity organization. I have raised $3,000 for this organization that helps wounded soldiers transition back from the war. But I still feel a sense of fear for this 26.2 monster that lies ahead in just 7 days. What if my injury acts up? What if I get tired and don't make my goal time of 4:45? What if the pain is just to much? Yikes, what if I can't do it?

All these thoughts run through my mind as I run over the 59th street bridge, turn the corners of Central Park and run up first avenue in practice of the big event. Then it hits me. My grandfather's laughter and voice saying " I'm so proud of you. Wow- a marathon. How amazing" That's when I realize the only fear I have is him not being here to cheer me on. Sometimes I wish I could turn back time and be a better granddaughter to him. Talk to him more, play cards all day, ask him questions about life or go with him on his daily walk. But I was just too busy. Too busy getting my MBA or working for a company that I loved more than my own life sometimes. But when i did call, it was all about me. My grandfather was so proud of me and wanted to know everything that was going on. He was so smart about business and we would talk about the stock market and stocks. You could hear in his voice that he was so happy i was leading perhaps a better life than him and he was able to give it to me. I was financially set and needed no one in my life- except my grandfather. Only I never really realized it until he was gone. The diary has changed my life. It made me reconnect to my grandfather after his death. I just wish i did it when he was alive but I know I am not alone and when I set out to run in 7 days he will be right next to me. Guiding me home towards the finish line.

Here's to Grandpa and Mac! 26.2 is for you!

Happy Halloween and please tune into the NYC marathon. I have submitted this story to the news coverage so you never know if they will run up next to me!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Running for Mac and James

26.2 miles. That’s the distance of a marathon. It takes some 3 hours and others 6 hours. It is long, exciting and at times painful miles with one foot in front of the other in sheer determination to make it to the finish line. Doubt creeps in your mind asking yourself over and over again to stop running and just give up. Just give up! Please! But then I wonder if my grandfather even gave up on Mac?

My grandfather was a top turret gunner in 1943 fighting WWII in N. Africa. He was fighting with the British army to push back the advances of Rommel, the Desert Fox. My grandfather was shot down twice, flew General Patton, received several medals and conducted over 193 missions. Throughout all this time, he kept a diary of the above events which was given to me upon his death. The diary accounts for 6 months of fighting as he describes fear, loss, pain, hope and death. This diary has become a catalyst and a source of values for me in my life.

On my 40th birthday this year, I began to read pages of the diary again to feel a sense of purpose in my life. To feel that I have achieved something and I am someone with a deep connection to life or at least I hoped so. It was at that moment I turned to the page of the doomed mission where my grandfather’s best friend Mac was lost over Sicily. My grandfather was so sad and filled with emotions about losing Mac. There a pictures of my grandfather and Mac together right before the fatal mission. His only friend was gone and there was nothing he could do but pray and hope Mac returned safely. He wrote in his diary for days that he hoped Mac jumped out of the plane in time and was walking back to base with his parachute in hand. But day after day would go by with no word from Mac. My grandfather’s pain for his loss was enormous but yet he continued on fighting the war mission after mission. It was then when I realized my pain, procrastination, and agony was nothing compared to my grandfather and Mac. I wanted to do something that would push my limits, test the boundaries of my convictions and challenge me to push my mind, body and soul further. I decided after 4 years I would run another marathon in honor of Mac and James( my grandfather)

I ran my first marathon in Richmond, VA on veteran’s day 2006 right after my grandfather passed away and before I received his diary. It was 85 degrees and HOT. I remember the last 3 miles vividly and passing my coaches as they scream my name with words of encouragement. All I could do was give a “thumbs up” sign because anything else would be more energy than I could give at the moment. The “thumbs up” was my grandfather’s signal that all was OK when I went to visit him in the hospital during his last days. I did not even realize I was doing it until my coaches told me that was the only sign I would give them that I was OK. I can remember the end of the Richmond marathon and feeling elated as I crossed the finish line on Veteran’s day in honor of my grandfather. But I was in pain. My knees, hip and back were throbbing. I felt elated but yet also alone. No one was there to wave me in, hold up a sign with my name on it or give me a hug at the end. It was just me and my grandfather. I swore I would never run another marathon! My body just does not like to run 26.2 miles. I will never do it again! Until the diary came in my life and showed me courage, fearlessness and above all the love of a friendship.

So, I signed up for the New York City Marathon- what better place to test your wits and honor two of brave soldiers. I felt alive at 40 and ready to see if I could do it all over again. But in NYC you can only get a spot in the marathon if you completed a certain number of races the previous year (which I did not) or through the lottery drawing. I entered my name in the drawing and just my luck my number was not called. Rats! How do I get a number to honor Mac and James? Through a charity organization I was told at the New York Road Runners web site. Charities have numbers that you can raise money in honor of that charity and they give you a NYC marathon number. Ok, but I have to feel the charity- it has to be a cause I care about and that can satisfy my goal to my two soldiers. I found one- Hope For the Warriors.

Hope for the Warriors goal is to enhance quality of life for US Service Members and their families nationwide who have been adversely affected by injuries or death in the line of duty. Hope for the Warriors actively seeks to ensure that the sacrifices of wounded and fallen warriors and their families are never forgotten nor their needs unmet. It was perfect! I will be running the NYC marathon for the charity Hope for the Warriors in honor of Mac and my grandfather who will never be forgotten in my heart. Mac or Alvin Macpherson was an honorable soldier who fought proudly for this country. It took me over 2 years to find his family and share with them the diary and pictures. I found Sarah Moore, his niece, who is now 82 and living in N. Carolina. She was astonished that after all these years something was discovered about her favorite uncle. She can recall him leaving to go to war in N. Africa and saying his goodbyes. After hugging and kissing the family, he walked to the end of the driveway turned around and smiled to his favorite niece, Sarah. That was the last anyone saw of Alvin. Until my pictures and diary were given to me and I in turn gave them to Alvin’s family.

On the first Sunday in November, I will line up on the Verrazano Bridge with my Hope For the Warrior teammates and run 26.2 miles through the 5 boroughs of New York City. Through the pain of a reoccurring injury- I will press on. Through the temperatures throughout the day- I will press on. Through the self-doubt- I will press on! And through the excitement of the city streets- I will press on. But most of all I will press on for the friendship of Mac and James. The true heroes of the day!

If you would like more information on the book I am writing about my grandfather’s diary be a fan on Facebook at: My Grandfather’s Love.
And Follow my Blog:

Hope to see you cheering me on!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I feel a little Eat, Pray, Love!

Well, I just returned from Italy (with my mom and close friend Karen) and I feel like Elizabeth Gilbert in the the book Eat, Pray, Love. I spent two fabulous weeks eating my way through Italy and learning about my Italian roots. I arrived in Rome and quickly hopped on a high speed train to Florence. My grandfather always said his favorite city in the world was Florence and he was right. We walked along the Ponte Vecchio bridge, saw the David in all his glory, and had a private wine tour through Tuscany. As I was experiencing all of this and truly trying to be present with the moment, I thought about my grandfather. How did he see this beautiful city? and what about it made him love it? I felt like the craziness of NYC was starting to disappear and I was connecting to my Italian ancestors. We left Florence and headed cross country to Montorio

Montorio is a small town on top of a mountain almost 700 feet about sea level. We drove for over 8 hours from Florence to Montorio with very little expectations. We were going to visit close family friends who were on holiday in their hometown of Montorio. The journey was not easy. We were deep in Italy where no tourist would travel and English was not their first or second language. We got lost, then found our way, then got lost again until we saw a town on top of this enormous mountain. All we could see was the top of a Church. Could this be it? Who lives up there and how do we get there?

From the distance the church was getting closer and closer but still so far away. We finally arrived at our destination and this small town had the most amazing charm, elegance and beauty I have ever experienced. The people's warmth towards complete strangers was something I just was not used to. I started to slowly let my New York guard down and allow them in. I ate gelato in the living room of an Italian women, drank homemade wine,walked the town in complete awe and drank water from a man made fountain. The history was beyond anything I imagined it would be in Montorio. After one day, we all wanted to stay longer in Montorio. We changed our plans and stayed for another 2 days. I swam in the Adriatic sea, had lunch on the beach and danced in the piazza to Italian music. I was free!

I felt free- free from society's rules, works deadlines and above all free from myself. The limitations I put on myself because of fear. I did not have one fear at all for 2 weeks. I allowed myself to just be. It is incredibly hard to maintain this feeling inside of you. A feeling that I can do anything I want. Quit my job, move to Montorio, finish this book and just try to find me. Discovering life and really feeling the joy of who I've become.

I always felt myself and free around my grandfather. He was simple, loved life, loved his country and loved me. He never asked for anything more than he needed. He would say "it's not necessary" and that is how he lived his life. I'm not sure in the end he felt free throughout his whole life but reading his diary he was fearless. I could sense his passion for fighting the war and his feeling of being completely free to carry out his dreams. I pick up the diary just to feel it and remind myself of Montorio and the experience I had. An experience of asking yourself, can I be really free?

The two weeks are over and I am back to reality in a sense. Back to work, the subways being late, training for the marathon, and of course the awful jet lag! But in the end, I ate in Italy and Prayed(meditation mostly on the beach.) I did not find love but that's OK because I feel love and I love the person I am



Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Floating Flag

As I watch the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancover( which I have to admit I am addicted to) I am proud of the American Teams and athletics that have dedicated their lives to a particular sport in order to achieve greatness. One in particular was Evan Lysacek. I watched Evan receive a gold medal for men's figure skating and during the medal ceremony the American Flag was raised and our anthem was played. The pride in his face, the glow in his eyes, and our flag in its glory. It reminded me of a time when I saw the American flag and it was floating in my pool. I am not sure what happened but the flag fell off the flag pole on the deck in the backyard of my home and it dropped in the pool on top of the pool cover in the cold winter of NYC. I watch most of the winter go by and the flag move from back to back in my in-ground swimming pool in a body of water. I watched it through rain, snow, and heavy winds and still it remained on top of the pool covered in water.

Finally, a warm spring day arrived in NYC and everyone was out and about either running, walking or just being outside. I had finished my daily run when I looked out the window to my backyard to see my Grandfather (At this time he was staying with my mother and I in my home part-time while being nursed back to health.) He was leaning over the pool trying to fish out the American Flag that was floating by all winter. At first, I wanted to run outside and tell him to stop I would get it but it just happened so fast. I watched as my grandfather finally got the flag out and sat down on one of the dirty lawn chairs outside. He ran his fingers across the flag with disbelief that it was outside for months. It was dirty and ripped. After looking at the flag for sometime, my grandfather sat up and walked in the house. I thought for sure he was going to yell at me or say something. He didn't. He never mentioned the flag at all to me that day.

Three days later, I was looking out the window into my backyard thinking about heading outside to do some yard work and I see my grandfather again. He was sitting down on the dirty lawn chair with the American Flag on his lap and a needle and thread in his hand. He was sewing the flag back together. It was cleaned and pressed too! When he finished sewing he walked over to the flag pole hanging the flag back up in its rightful place. He never mentioned a word to me. But the pride in his eyes for that flag and what is symbolized needed no words. It was so apparent and clear. He loved his country and his country loved him.

God Bless America!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Robin and James

Well, I just finished watching Julie & Julia and it had so many similarities to my story and the book. If you have not seen the movie I won't ruin it for you I promise but basically a modern day, 30-something NYC women stuck in a boring goverment job decides to mirror Julia Childs life through cooking. She will cook I believe 600 + recipes in 365 days. Julie, the NYC women, writes a blog everyday describing the ups and downs of each recipe and wondering how her icon Julia did it in France so many years ago. Julie begins to change as a person. No longer shy, timid, or unsure of her being she evolves into a person very comfortable in her own skin through this amazing journey. Well, I felt like I was watching me and my grandfather. It was not until I got the diary from my grandfather and read each page did it move me. It moved me to be inspired! To feel different about my life and be more comfortable in my own skin. Before reading the diary, I felt as if I was moving through life in a very slow pace with two huge buckets of mud strapped to my feet.. There were days I was unsure why I was working 18+ hours in a job that I don't feel passionate about or inspired. I constantly wondered "what is my purpose in life, and is this it? Is this my life, really?" I am supposed to be a single, relationship failure as well a success career women all is one? It can't be. Then the diary came along and every day I read a page from the diary and I did research. I felt inspired and I still feel inspired! I look at the words on the page as my grandfather speaks of life, death and fear amidst of so much uncertainty. I connect to the words and feel the same emotions as I walk the streets of NYC.

I have decided to begin sharing every page of the diary on this blog. So, 6 months of about 20 entires is roughly 120 blog entries. I will be blogging every Sunday and sharing the entry along with my comments. So, project Grandfather and Granddaughter is about to begin........ I really hope you like it...