Did I Ever Work for a Living?

Mervin F. Roberts – October 2015   

Now, in my 94th year, I am occasionally asked just what I worked at for a living. Repeatedly, I rethink it, and each time I conclude that to date I’ve done little or no work for a living. Yes, I certainly did work, but I did not work for a living.

I worked to put out fires, both literally and figuratively. I worked to satisfy my curiosity, to solve problems, and to answer my own or other people’s questions. I worked to create new products or to improve something. I worked to expose scams.

So, yes I worked, but I didn’t work for a living. I worked mostly for a challenge or for fun. Frequently, there was someone who paid me for what I did or tried to do. Did I always succeed? Not always but often enough. I attempted taxidermy and failed, also failed with painting, dance, music and the typewriter. Did I cheat or fake it or steal someone’s ideas? No. Did I plagiarize? No. Did I spend my life in the field of my formal education? No. I did get jobs from three employers because of my degree, but rarely did I actually apply my special training in glass technology. Soon after I started to repeat something, I found another challenge.

I was never employed to manufacture anything. So then what did I do? I invented a color sorter to recycle glass bottles. I helped govern a town. I taught school. I monitored two nuclear power plants cooling water intakes for fish, consulted in aquaculture, wrote about 40 books and booklets about tidemarshes and pet care, did feasibility studies for benevolences in Ecuador, Brazil, India and elsewhere, improved electric switches, pioneered in the development of frameless aquariums, invented a water pump, experimented with perfect binding, photographed pets, aquarium fishes, jumping frogs, shot strings and bumble bees in flight. I rebarrelled shotguns and fixed mantle, pendulum clocks.

I did spend a couple of years experimenting with the phenomenon of oxygen as a “wetting agent” affecting the surface tension of molten glass, and I also helped develop a plasma for melting porcelain enamel, all funded by the U.S. Navy (Bu. Ships) and by the Office of Naval Research. This work was the one rare direct application of my college training in Glass Technology.

I designed and built photoflash equipment. I served the U.S. Navy as an officer during WW2 in the Pacific, and I earned two combat stars. I was a licensed Third Mate in the Merchant Marines, any gross tons, any ocean, steam. I navigated a ship across the Atlantic. In college, I kept two or three horses, shod, rode and drove a buggy before I could drive an auto.

I chaired the Connecticut Marine Resources Council and was president of the Connecticut Association of Conservation Commissions. I also founded the Old Lyme Conservation Commission and the Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Commission. I am, and have been for over 30 years, the Old Lyme Shellfish Commission Chair. I’ve been awarded “Citizen of the Year” by the Town of Old Lyme. I’ve been recognized by American Men of Science.

 I owned and navigated the 68 foot, 45 ton motor yacht Shell-Fish for about ten years and cruised between the St. Lawrence and the Carolina mangroves.

I’ve hunted ducks, fished commercially, and served actively in the Old Lyme Fire Department since 1968, first as an attack truck driver, and now as Chaplain.

I’ve been a church trustee and property chair, and have married about 100 couples as a Justice of the Peace. Together with my wife, we parented six children.

Even today, I don’t work for a living, but I do work, and it’s still fun.

There is in Kerala, a state in southwest India, a Catholic Bishop with whom I cooperate to alleviate poverty. He addresses me as “Reverend”. I think because he learned that my middle name is Francis.