This is a story about time and the past.
"History is an instant ago. Everything that is in the past is history," Gerald Heffernan said.
Gerald loves history, spending most of his waking hours documenting and cataloging artifacts at the Bristol Historical Society.
He knows his stuff; just ask him.
"There were 13 people who died," Gerald said.
The year was 1914 and a Bristol man-made a living selling alcohol. Mistakenly, he sold wood alcohol.
"Lots of others who got very, very ill," Gerald said.
Gerald's history began over a decade later. He was born just one town away in Starksboro.
"I was the oldest Heffernan," he said.
Reporter Joe Carroll: You were not a rich kid.
Gerald Heffernan: That's an understatement, yes.
But he was rich in many ways, very close to his brothers and sisters and with a loving mother. However, he had an abusive father.
"He would take his belt off and beat the hell out of us like if we did anything like lie," Gerald said.
Joe Carroll: Were you determined not to become him?
Gerald Heffernan: Yup. Absolutely. Yeah.
Gerald was a kind and studious kid. Some of his best memories were at a one-room schoolhouse just up the road. An innocent time, but soon the world would be at war.
Victory in the Pacific was close, but there were still ferocious battles. At boot camp he heard this:
"The priest said you better be in the state of grace because probably 75 percent of you will be dead by Christmas," Gerald recalled.
He was just 17. Thankfully, the war ended a month later. He was sent to Japan as an occupational force. With the benefit of the GI Bill, he went to college, becoming a teacher in Vermont and later a guidance counselor in Connecticut. The lifelong bachelor loved the art and music scene, just a train ride away in New York City. But after retirement, Gerald came home. His family and his history beckoned.
The past is meeting up with the present. Today, the 89-year-old is stepping into the one-room school house that he loved so much. It's the first time in almost 80 years. It's now a private residence being renovated by Mark and JoAnn Siminipus. They welcomed us in.
"There was a storage room here," Gerald remembered. "The stove was about here."
Joe Carroll: How's it feel to come back?
Gerald Heffernan: Oh, I'm thrilled! Oh, I never had an idea of coming back.
For a student of history, this place is paradise.
"It is a treat," Gerald said. "I'm so happy."
A bygone time of a Super Senior-- updated.
Joe Carroll: History is important.
Gerald Heffernan: It's important; it's my life.
PO Box 4508