SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

July 12, 2013

After 43 years, two Vietnam vets reunite in Salem

BY TOM DALTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — They were Army infantry soldiers — grunts — who last saw each other 43 years ago in Vietnam.

They were kids assigned to the same company who became close friends during a war, a bond formed over the oddest connection. They both wore dental retainers.

Jeff Motyka was a radio telephone operator in Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry.

Marc Levy, whom everyone called “Doc,” was a decorated medic in the same company.

They last saw each other on April 23, 1970, the night Motyka was wounded in a mortar attack. Levy had just helped a wounded soldier into an underground bunker being used as an aid station. That’s when he looked up and saw his injured friend being lugged in by two soldiers.

“Jeff,” Levy said.

“Doc,” Motyka replied before passing out.

The RTO was sent home to a hospital in Washington, D.C. The medic mailed a letter and the paperwork for Motyka’s Bronze Star citation, but it took months to arrive. They made attempts to communicate over the years but couldn’t find each other, so they went on with their lives.

Until a few months ago, when a postcard arrived at Motyka’s home in Nashville, Tenn. It was from “Doc,” who moved to Salem a few years ago and found his friend on the Internet. Motyka recognized the handwriting right away. It was the same handwriting on the letter he kept all these years, the one with smudges of red clay.

This week, they reunited in Salem. Motyka flew up and got a room at the Hawthorne Hotel. When they saw each other for the first time, four decades just melted away.

“It wasn’t a handshake,” Motyka said. “It was a hug, and there were tears.”

Remembering Vinnie

They are celebrating the life of Vinnie Furfaro tomorrow at a 9 a.m. Mass at Immaculate Conception Church.

Furfaro, a former city councilor and aide to Mayor Jean Levesque, died unexpectedly last month at 66.

He was one of those larger-than-life characters who made the whole world smile. The smile, of course, came along with laughter.

There were a lot of nice notes about Vinnie on the O’Donnell Funeral Home website, including one from former City Councilor Joe Centorino.

“Vinnie was one of those rare people who, no matter the circumstances, could always make you feel better about life,” Centorino wrote from Miami, Fla. “He was gentle. He was warm. He was humorous. He had a big heart ...”

Amen.

Sail date

It’s not often you get a chance to take a sunset cruise and support a good cause at the same time.

But the Salem Children’s Charity, which has helped hundreds of struggling children and families in its 20 years, is hosting a summer fundraiser on the evening of Saturday, July 27, aboard the Hannah Glover. There will be a DJ, food, a cash bar and raffles.

Tickets are $20 and may be obtained by calling Julie at 978-741-0046 or Brendan at 978-744-3856 or via email at readspeak@comcast.net.

And, just in case you need a reminder, the Salem Children’s Charity is one of those totally volunteer organizations where every penny goes to local kids in need. What a refreshing change.

Opus day

There has been a lot of buzz this week about the “soft” opening of Opus, the city’s newest restaurant.

They planned a VIP night for Wednesday but had to delay it a day when they ran into a problem with a vertical chair lift. In no time, however, they got it running. It passed several key tests, including the most important one, successfully transporting Building Inspector Tom St. Pierre.

Mayor Kim Driscoll is having a big political bash at Opus this Sunday night, July 14.

That’s an odd day to hold a political event in this French-American city. Isn’t that Bastille Day? Isn’t that the day the people rose up and overthrew their government?

Opus, by the way, officially opens Tuesday.

Flag day

At a formal session of the state Senate just before the July 4 holiday, Sen. Joan Lovely showed her fellow senators an unusual American flag that was knitted by a 77-year-old grandmother in Iraq. The flag was given to her twin brother, Joe, an Air Force veteran now working for the federal government who assisted last year with the exit of U.S. troops from Iraq.

He was given the flag as a thank-you by a woman he befriended. The flag now hangs in Lovely’s office.

“I’m going to take good care of it,” she said.

Super Tully

Former Patriot linebacker Tully Banta-Cain was at the basketball court at Palmer Cove Playground on Wednesday talking and jamming with local kids. In addition to sacking quarterbacks, he is a pretty mean rapper and musician.

Banta-Cain is good friends with Callie Lipton and Aaron Katz of the Salem-based band The Dejas. The pair are music directors at The Plummer Home For Boys, the On Point program and The Salem Boys & Girls Club.

Isn’t it nice to hear some good news about the Patriots for a change?

Star gazing

Folk legend Joan Baez and her family visited the Peabody Essex Museum a few days ago, apparently to see the red-hot Faberge Revealed exhibit.

An eagle-eyed member of the staff — rumor is it might have been our own Tom Furey — spotted her entering the exhibit and did a double-take.

There was a report she was overheard humming “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” while riding an elevator. We’re still trying to chase that rumor down.

Department of common sense

While discussing RCG’s plans to build a big hotel development along Dodge and Washington streets, City Councilor Bill Legault had a good idea.

He mentioned how dangerous the two Washington Street pedestrian crossings are at Mill Hill and New Derby Street and suggested that if this project gets built, the city add a new crosswalk right where everybody crosses Washington Street anyway — the direct line from Steve’s Market to Dodge Street.

While admitting he is not a certified city planner, Legault proudly described himself as a “professional pedestrian.” Maybe we need more of those at City Hall.

Plummer power

The Plummer Home for Boys is really amazing.

It’s hard to think of any local entity with stronger support, as evidenced by the 300 guests who turned out two weeks ago for the Plummer Home’s biennial bash. It was a great night of laughter and lobsters under a large tent.

Oh, yeah. They raised $80,000.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.