One of the major male role models in my life was Hugh Knorra. Mr. Knorra, as I called him was my mothers boyfriend for a number of years. He was president of the NYC area local of the Tool and Die Makers Union. His office was a storefront beneath our apartment. I remember having my Jr. High graduation party in that office. He also let me set up and run my train set in a spare office.
He drove a big Dodge Polaris and I was very familiar with it as we made plenty of road trips. On school breaks he would take me with him as he made his rounds to the little Tool and Die making operations around NY, NJ, and CT. He would always check in with the plant manager or owner and then he would chat with the machinists. This was before CNC lathes or any type of automation. It was all jigs, files and electric tools. These were talented workers who were always happy to see the Union President and just as happy to show me how they worked.
He offered an apprenticeship when I graduated high school but encouraged me to go to college. He came over a lot and we would watch I Dream of Jeannie and Hockey. He was a Rangers fan and there were only 6 teams at that time. He hated every other team.
It was Mr. Knorra that paid for me to go to school in Virginia. He also paid for an expensive summer camp one year…not one of the camps for poor kids I normally went to.
That all came crashing down when I came home from High School on break. I told my mother I was going to see him and she started crying and told me he was dead. She found him on the floor with a brain hemorrhage. To this day I think he was killed over something or other. My mother assured me that was not the case but then what else could she say. I could be wrong, but it still seems feasible.
He was steady, had integrity and treated me like a son. Not much more you can ask.
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