Gen­tle gi­ant: That was my friend Wayne

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - NEWS - OWEN CAN­FIELD

No one I ever knew could work with the earth — that is — grow a veg­etable gar­den, more pro­duc­tively than the late Wayne Ber­lin­ski. Wayne, who for a life­time I counted among my dear­est friends, grew up on his fam­ily’s dairy farm in Bur­rville. He knew grow­ing food, live­stock and all the other things farm­ers know, and so much more.

Built like a bull, Wayne was one of the strong­est guys I ever knew, and one of the gen­tlest and kind­ness.

We were the same age and went all through Bur­rville School, North School and, un­til our ju­nior years, Tor­ring­ton High. At that point, the farm house, where Wayne lived with his wid­owed mother and fam­ily, burned to the ground. Luck­ily, no one was in­jured in the fire, but ac­com­mo­da­tions had to be found for his mother, younger sis­ter and one of three older broth­ers. A great deal of the re­spon­si­bil­ity for the op­er­a­tion of the farm fell to Wayne. He was equal to it, and then some.

He slept in his Nash (he loved driv­ing and re­pair­ing Nash cars and Hud­sons) or in the barn on colder nights. Of course, he had to leave school dur­ing the re­cov­ery, but, although he had fallen be­hind, he re­turned the next year, caught up and grad­u­ated on time. Wayne was bright and val­ued ed­u­ca­tion.

Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, we all shook hands and went our sep­a­rate ways, most of our gang into the ser­vice, some to col­lege. Wayne was drafted into the U.S. Army and gave Un­cle Sam 6 years be­fore tak­ing his honor­able dis­charge, re­turn­ing to Tor­ring­ton and be­gin­ning a 50-year ca­reer as a crane and bull­dozer op­er­a­tor, first with the Bon­va­cini Con­struc­tion Com­pany and then with C.H. Nick­er­son and Sons.

Ber­lin­ski’s nat­u­ral gifts with heavy equip­ment and build­ing in gen­eral broad­ened his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and he be­came so valu­able to his em­ployer that when he fi­nally re­tired, Brian Nick­er­son spread a map of the world in front of him and said, “Pick a place.” Wayne and his dear wife, Sylvia, chose Spain.

What got me think­ing about Wayne was a stand of toma­toes I drove by on Fri­day morn­ing. Wayne’s toma­toes were prize win­ners and of­ten, when I would pop in on him, he would sup­ply me with some of his red beau­ties, which he would col­lect and place on a nearby bench – handy for free-load­ing friends like me.

Wayne planted his gar­den on his side lawn, which sloped gen­tly to­ward his lovely brick house. We vis­ited each other of­ten when both of us had re­tired. He’d stop what he was do­ing – al­ways do­ing some­thing – put two chairs in a shady spot and we’d sit and chit-chat for half an hour or so. Sto­ries, laugh­ter, drop around when you can. So long.

When one needed a fa­vor, the other stood ready. Wayne brought me all the way to Walling­ford, Ver­mont to pick up my car af­ter I had an ac­ci­dent and the lo­cal garage had done the re­pairs. And I went with him to a re­mote place in our state to get his car, which had bro­ken down. He was go­ing to tow it home with his pickup truck, and said, “Here, you sit in the (nice, warm) truck and do the tow­ing. I’ll steer the car.”

That didn’t work. I could not make my­self rev the truck into the nec­es­sary impetus to move for­ward on the icy road. We swapped places.

“It’s aw­fully cold in that car,” Wayne said. I said, “No prob­lem, let’s go.”

Well, yes, we made it with­out in­ci­dent. I was frozen when we ar­rived, but tried not to show it.

Wayne brought me home in the nice warm cab of the truck and said “Thanks” when he dropped me off. I said, “You’re wel­come.’’

I could cite 100 more ex­am­ples, but that’s what friend­ship is and that’s the way it was with us.

Friends, see? He’s go­ing to have a chap­ter, a long one, in my book, yet to be writ­ten.

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