JULY is a special month, because other than celebrating the nation’s democratic freedom, it’s also my time to commemorate my father on his birthday, July 4, 1917. Laurence “Larry” L. Mabini is who I dedicate this article to – a modest man with a great sense of humor, who brought me up with the resounding message of civic responsibility and hard work.
The day after my father’s 80th birthday, I interviewed him to gather historical details of his life. Then four months later, he was gone. I reflect on the astounding stories he shared, and choose to share a bit of Larry’s story with you.
On Itchy Feet – Larry came from very humble beginnings in the Philippines. He shared funny stories about his inability to keep still, pointing out his “itchy feet.” He would escape to the beach and jump onto small fishing canoes to spend several days in the open sea, hoping to bring back fish to his family. One time, he fell asleep and woke up astonished to be floating in the dark ocean. Fortunately, a fisherman heard the splash and grabbed him in time before sailing away. He was less than 10 years old.
On Vocation – His parents sent him off to a relative, hoping he would stay in school. It didn’t work, because he needed “busy-ness.” Thus began his vocation in carpentry. My father’s resume included carpentry work for the Japan Imperial Army during their occupation, then later for an American manufacturing company. He said both were good and kind employers. But that didn’t make up for some of the horrors of WWII.
On the War – Larry explained how he guided his family for miles through the jungle, and coming upon a railroad track with Japanese soldiers. Bowing and begging for mercy, they carefully began retreating into the jungle. To everyone’s surprise, American planes appeared and destroyed the Japanese coal train. Covered in soot, they continued into the jungle and found shelter among farmers.
On Guam – Fast forward, my father’s carpentry skills landed him a contract position to work with the U.S. Navy civilian public works. He relocated in the 1950s, eventually settling his family on Guam. My younger brother and I were born on-island, and Guam has been our home. Growing up, my father would tackle multiple home projects, read the newspaper, and often took us to the beach. He also enjoyed watching CNN, the Rush Limbaugh show and the nightly local news.
On Education – Larry was involved throughout my education. He was there to test my spelling, or build things needed for school. He crafted a wooden clock with movable arms as an instructional tool, and another time a wooden bulletin board for the classroom. It was about then when I found my “itchy feet.” I began “teaching” neighborhood immigrant children, volunteered after school to tutor Vietnamese refugee students, and also worked at a veterinary clinic. I was about 10 years old.
On Community – I now realize my father’s significant influence. In his quiet way, he fostered my interest in service, community involvement and education. So, Larry Mabini lives on through my efforts. I wondered why I chose to interview my father almost 14 years ago. Perhaps, it was so I can share a bit of his story today.