Richard M. “Dick” Bartlett isn’t superstitious.
The Boston native who was raised in Newburyport and has lived in Warwick since 1967, doesn’t believe in any form of “paraskevidekatriaphobia” like bad luck comes in threes, don’t’ walk under the ladder or black cats crossing your path.
However, Friday the 13th has been unique in the former U.S. Air Force veteran’s life.
So much so, in fact, the last week Bartlett turned back the hands of time to Friday, Sept. 13, 1967. It was on that night he sustained serious injuries in an automobile accident as a passenger while heading back to the U.S. Army base located just outside Butzbach, Germany.
Bartlett never made it back to his Third Armored Division’s headquarters. He was rushed to the 97th General U.S. Army Hospital in Frankfurt where he spent six weeks being treated for a broken jaw and cheekbone, serious eye injury and immediate loss of hearing in his right ear.
While his jaw, cheekbone and eye injuries healed, Bartlett still had no hearing in his right ear. He was released from the hospital after numerous treatments and tests but returned to the 97th General U.S. Hospital on Nov. 22, 1963 when doctors informed him there was nothing they could do and that he’d be permanently disabled.
Ironically, Bartlett had only two more months to fulfill his four-year military obligation but was allowed to complete his time before being honorably discharged.
Last Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, Bartlett was in Providence at the Veterans Administration Medical Center Audiology Center to show his appreciation for the ongoing kindnesses he received during a half-century of examinations and treatments.
“I’ve been dealing with the VA for 50 years,” Bartlett said. “I used to have to go to Boston and it was sometimes bureaucratic; but this [Providence] clinic has been such a breath of fresh air since it opened in 2008. The people here are so dedicated to helping veterans. If ever I had a problem, I’d go to the VA clinic; these people would help me.”
With the 50th anniversary of his “nightmare accident in Germany” fast approaching, Bartlett called Anita Solomon, who manages both the Providence and New Bedford VA Audiology Clinics, and asked her if he could come in and say thank you to her staff.
“I also asked Anita if I could bring a token of my appreciation,” Bartlett said. “I asked if I could bring some Allie’s Donuts.”
Solomon welcomed the idea then told Bartlett that a staff member “really likes Allie’s Donuts and was excited about his visit.”
Bartlett, though, did more than just bring an assortment of Allie’s Donuts.
Enter Anne Briggs Drescher, the late Allie Briggs’ daughter who now owns and operates the famous North Kingstown-based donut shop at 3661 Quaker Lane with her husband Bud Drescher.
“Anne suggested that we really do something special as well as unique,” Bartlett said. “She said let’s make an ear – with a hearing aid!”
After making coffee and setting up the mini-conference room at the Providence VA Audiology Clinic last Friday morning, Bartlett, who wears a hearing aid in his right ear, welcomed nearly a dozen staffers. At approximately 10:15, he opened a large Allie’s Donuts box that contained a huge ear-shaped coffee bun that Anne Drescher decorated with white and pink frosting and blue letters that read: “At VA Audiology, we hear you!”
VA staffers Scott Marinaro, Dola Conceicao, Lisa Dwyer, Emily Manley, Laurie Diefenbach, Jackie Tavares, Brianne Silva, Mike Clarke, Kim Marcotte then joined Solomon in admiring Anne Drescher’s clever creation and accompanying words that could perhaps become an official VA Audiology slogan.
Whether or not the Audiology Center adopts those words remains to be seen. But, it’s safe to say that Friday, the 13th will always be unique for Bartlett.
Bartlett’s day began last Friday morning when the alarm in his car went off.
“I couldn’t shut it off,” Bartlett said with a smile. “I spent 10 minutes trying to shut it off. Finally, I drove to my friend Harvey Davies’ house and he finally got it shut off.”