"My father passed away on February 14, 1961, when I was 11 years old. And I should add that my dad never smoked.
"My dad worked as a brakeman and conductor for a railroad company when he was diagnosed with lung cancer—I don't think the term asbestosis was used back in the 1960s. They called it carcinoma of the lung. They removed one of his lungs but didn't put him on disability. He went immediately back to work with one lung and then he got a pulmonary embolism in the remaining lung—he died shortly afterward.
"They kept asbestos in the railroad yards—the brake pads were made of it, so if you are a brakeman for eight hours a day you would be breathing in those fibers. I remember him coughing up blood. He wore a white shirt with a pocket and right after he coughed he would pull out a bottle of medicine from his shirt pocket. He knew he was dying but I guess it was hard to tell me. He never sat me on his knee and told me, he never talked about it, just like the war. He was a World War II veteran and he never talked about that either.
"I know that he didn't have lung cancer when he came home from the war—there was no way that he had a pre-existing condition. Believe me, the VA checks everything. When you get discharged they give you an Admission and Discharge examination and I have that document.
"I know that my dad never got any money from the railroad company. I got the papers from the Veterans Administration and the Railroad Retirement Board that confirmed he never got any disability. He got a regular paycheck and a little stipend for being a veteran. He worked 16 years for the railroad, right after he came home from the war. It was the only job he had and I know he was healthy when he started as a brakeman, otherwise it would be on his VA report.
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"I guess the statute of limitations doesn't stretch back 40 years but they took away my father; the railroad left four kids without a dad. We lost our home and then the juvenile court separated us—there were a lot of terrible consequences. I wasn't an orphan but I was put into two orphanages and they wouldn't let me see my mom. I was 18 years old when I got out. My sister and I went to the same orphanage and my brothers went to another one. Patty, my sister, got adopted and I didn't see her for 37 years.
I don't ponder over this a lot, but it still hurts. All because my dad was exposed to asbestos.