Everybody’s Port

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Like Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Everybody’s Port Has Retuned.

As I was saying…oops, now, what was I saying? Geez, I forgot. Well, it was about a year ago. Hey, no one’s perfect – especially me. I don’t know where I was.

This situation reminds me of the Broadway musical Hello, Dolly. Dolly Levi decides to visit a posh restaurant where she once was a regular. A white-hot spotlight catches her upstage center at the top of a three-step landing, dazzlingly dressed to the nines. She sings “Hello, Dolly”, promising “Dolly will never go away again.”

“Well,” you ask, “why does your hiatus and return remind you of Hello, Dolly’” I say, “In a way, it’s similar. Sing the following words to the melody ‘Hello, Dolly’ and you’ll see what I mean:

Hello, neighbors.

Well, hello, neighbors.

It’s so nice to be back writing this for you.

I hope you’re well, neighbors.

I think you’re swell, neighbors.

You’ve got spirit and I cheer it

For the good you do…

Okay, I’ll stop. But I do want to give special thanks to the lady who said about Everybody’s Port, “It’s so Port Washington.”

One thing about Port Washington: We never run out of news. Some of it good; some of it sad. On the good side: Councilwoman Dina DeGiorgio’s go-to-gal, Meagan Parker McCarty, and PW Police Officer Brian McCarty welcomed Alice Carol McCarty a few weeks ago, weighing in at 8 lbs. 9 oz.

And more good tidings: the Port Washington News has a new editor, Carolyn Levin. She’s a first-rate editor/writer and teacher, who lives in Port and has kids attending local schools. Welcome, Carolyn.

On the sad side: Port Washington lost two ladies who helped make Port the joy that it is. One was Bobbi Straus, who previously was the subject of a remembrance in this newspaper. The second of the two had to overcome some major obstacles to survive. So I am writing to celebrate the life of this courageous, indomitable lady who was anything but sad. (“She was a great role model,” said her daughter, Bonnie.)

Her name was Isabel. But for all intents and purposes — other than for official business of any kind — she was Libby. Born on April 15, 1922, she was raised on Gibraltar with her five younger siblings. When she was about to turn 17, WWII reared its ugly head. The Italian Navy was busy trying to sink British ships, but they were not too busy to move Libby, her mother, sisters and brothers from Gibraltar to Rabat, Morocco. There, they were forced to endure horrific living conditions.

Libby Doran
Libby Doran

After France surrendered to Germany, Libby and her family were herded into a cattle car headed for Casablanca. Forget about Humphrey Bogart, “Rick’s” and Dooley Wilson at the piano singing “As Time Goes By”. Instead, they became prisoners of war. However, the Brits made a deal with the French to trade their French prisoners for Libby and family. Once in British hands, they found themselves in the hold of a freighter bound for Canada. What happened next was the result of something good or bad — depending on how you look at it.

Ordinarily, it would be safe to say that being a helpless passenger in the hold of a ship that was hit by a couple torpedoes in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean was not exactly what one might call fortuitous. But that’s just what it was. Libby’s life was about to change for the better. Because of the torpedo damage, the ship changed its course and headed for England, where it docked at Liverpool. And from there, Libby and her family were put on a train that took them to London.

It was from hold to hotel, two rooms in the Ivanhoe Hotel — near Kensington Gardens to be exact — where they lived with parents, grandparents and aunts. With Hitler’s unrestrained bombing of London, Libby joined St. John’s Ambulance Corps. One of her jobs was to go to the roof of a tall building and report fires resulting from the bombs so that remedial action could be taken.

Because of the blackouts in London, nightlife was nonexistent. For servicemen and women, there were tea dances. At one of them, while Libby was dancing with a GI, she caught the eye of a handsome U.S. Army Air Force Sergeant whose name was Frank. Like an eager beaver, Frank promptly cut it on Libby and her partner. Libby and Frank took a few steps and her former partner cut in on them. Undaunted, Frank cut in on him again. The cutting in continued until the other guy threw up his hands and and walked away.

That was April, 1944. On September 27, 1944 — at Ballymote, Ireland where Libby’s family had relocated — Libby became Mrs. Frank Doran. They lived in a room in London until the war ended and Frank was discharged from the Army Air Corps. Eventually, they settled in Port Washington, raised four daughters and were actively involved in community affairs. Frank’s exemplary career included service in town, county and state government. Libby served as a Spanish translator for the courts, in addition to her work as a Girl Scout Leader and member of the St. Francis Hospital Guild, St. Peters Alcantara Church Guild, and Port Washington Yacht Club.

So hats off and cheers for Libby Doran! No one who knew her will ever forget her. I know I won’t.

 

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