Autobiography in 1,000 Words

On the Back Porch
Fillmore Street

LAKE MACBRIDE— At 6:56 p.m. on Dec. 28, 1951, I was born at Mercy Hospital in Davenport, Iowa to Mr. and Mrs. Jack H. Deaton. Curiously, my mother’s full name is not on the birth certificate, although the attending physician, Howard A. Weis, M.D., is. We lived at 1730 Fillmore Street, a duplex shared with my maternal grandmother, down the street from where I was baptized, and three blocks from the hospital. A few photographs and memories of that time survive.  I believe I had a normal city childhood among people who never had much money, but had a well defined culture centered on family, work and church.

Soon after, we moved to a house my parents bought at 919 Madison Street. While there, I was hospitalized for a head injury from a swing set in the basement, and still carry the scar.  My sister was born in 1955, and my brother in 1956. In 1957 I entered Kindergarten at the Thomas Jefferson Elementary School on Marquette Street where my teacher, Ms. Frances Rettenmaier wrote about me, “he has good work habits and is willing and able to accept responsibility in the room.”

My parents sold the house on Madison on contract, and we moved to a rental behind the Wonder Bakery on River Drive. I attended first grade at Sacred Heart Cathedral where Sister Mary Edwardine, B.V.M. was the first of six nuns, along with two lay teachers, who taught me in parochial grade schools. I recall this because Mother kept all of my report cards. During the spring of 1959, my parents bought the house where I lived until leaving home to attend college in 1970. I transferred to Holy Family School in the parish of the same name, and spent some of the best years I recall as the Polish-American odd duck among children who were mostly the descendents of German and Irish immigrants. I met my best friend in the seventh grade and our friendship has endured. I entered Assumption High School during the Fall of 1966.

My father died in an industrial accident on Feb. 1, 1969, and the company he worked for gave me a four-year scholarship which I used at the University of Iowa beginning the Fall of 1970. My grades were lackluster in college, and I drifted, but graduated in four years with a bachelor’s degree in English, listening to the commencement exercises on the radio while I tie-dyed some shirts in the basement of our rented house on Gilbert Court in Iowa City.

When Richard Nixon resigned the presidency on Aug. 9, 1974 I felt a weight had been lifted. I had a little money and decided to tour Europe after college, visiting Canada, England, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany and Holland. While in Rome, I had an audience with Pope Paul VI.

I worked a couple of low wage jobs in Davenport upon my return to Iowa. When the Vietnam War ended with the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps and enlist in the U.S. Army that winter.  I began basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C. in January 1976, took Officer Candidate Training at Fort Benning, Ga., and was assigned to a mechanized infantry battalion in the Eighth Infantry Division in Mainz-Gonsenheim, West Germany.

I served in the Fulda Gap, attended French Army Commando School, and was an exchange officer with a French Marine regiment in Vannes, France. On two occasions, some of my Iowa friends were able to visit and we made brief tours of Germany, France, Spain and other countries.

In 1979, after military service, I returned to Davenport and was accepted into the American Studies Program in the graduate college of the University of Iowa. I received my master of arts degree in May 1981, achieving a 4.0 grade average and feeling I had made up for my lackluster undergraduate years.

In order to stay in Iowa City after graduate school, I secured a job at the university, where I met my future wife, Jacque. We were married on Dec. 18, 1982. I began a career in transportation in March 1984 at CRST, Inc. in Cedar Rapids. Our daughter was born in 1985 in Iowa City and brought home to our house on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids. We relocated to Merrillville, Ind. in 1987, where I was a terminal manager for two years. I left the company to work for Amoco Oil Company in Chicago and eighteen months later, returned to CRST. I was transferred back to Cedar Rapids in 1993 and retired on July 3, 2009 as director of operations for CRST Logistics, Inc.

During the time after Nixon’s resignation until the 2000 Al Gore v. George W. Bush election, I remained mostly inactive in politics. The election and George W. Bush’s administration, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks, incensed me enough to get involved again. Beginning with the 2004 election I was very active in partisan politics and contributed in a small way to significant victories in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012. My political life culminated in getting elected as a Township Trustee during a write in campaign in 2012 while I managed an unsuccessful campaign for a statehouse candidate.

When our daughter left home to attend college in 2003, I began to get more involved in our community, and was appointed to the county board of health for two terms. This led to meeting friends around the state and country, and I became involved in a number of organizations, including Physicians for Social Responsibility.

I contributed to advocacy efforts to pass the Smoke-Free Iowa Act, to stop the coal fired power plants in Waterloo and Marshalltown from being built, to ratify the New START Treaty in the U.S. Senate, and to stop a nuclear power finance bill proposed in the Iowa legislature. In August 2013 I graduated from Al Gore’s training as a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Having helped organize to protect our environment on the first Earth Day in 1970, I have come full circle, making environmental advocacy the center piece of my volunteer time today.

Importantly, I began blog writing in November 2007.