Phillips Old Colony House time to benefit disabled vets

Next Friday, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns will visit Dorchester's John F. Kennedy Library to discuss his latest opus: a seven-part series called The War. It's heralded as the definitive PBS account of the American role in World War II. The folks at the Kennedy Library have had to set up a lottery system to deal with the demand for tickets to hear Burns discuss the series, which will begin its televised run on Sept. 23.

Just down the boulevard, another home-grown effort is afoot to help the men - and women - who survived World War II and other conflicts, including the ongoing battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. The folks who run Phillips Old Colony House restaurant will open their doors on Tuesday, Oct. 2 for a benefit time aimed at raising funds for the state office of Disabled American Veterans.

The key person behind the Oct. 2 event is Lou Pasquale, who has been a fixture at the Phillips Family's Morrissey Boulevard complex since the 1950s. Pasquale was 18 when he joined the Marines to fight Hitler, spurred on by his conviction that the Nazi dictator was driven to wipe out Jews, whom he counted among his childhood friends in Quincy. Soon, he found himself on a jungle island in the South Pacific, about as far from the Rhine as he could get. His active-duty service was cut short when he was seriously wounded on Guadalcanal in 1943.

Pasquale rarely speaks of his wartime experience, but the 82 year-old proudly wears a pin that points to his WW II service.

Last year, after battling back from a near-death experience that resulted in quadruple bypass surgery and a long recovery, Pasquale and some friends decided to help fellow veterans, who have come to rely on the care and compassion of the Veteran's Administration (VA) facilities in and around Boston. When Lou Pasquale heard that a fleet of vans that helps get disabled vets to and from appointments was in dire need of funding, he decided to do something about it.

"Lou has been diligent in helping us raise awareness about what we do," says David Stack, adjutant of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Massachusetts department. Stack is in charge of mustering volunteers and equipment to help the state's disabled veterans care for themselves with dignity.

"The real heart of this is that if we're of World War II age, many of our wives are no longer able to help us get to the doctor's appointments that we need. Our transportation program really meets that need," Stack said.

The DAV maintains a fleet of 20-odd vans that travel across the state to help disabled vets get to VA facilities and other health-related appointments. Currently, Stack said, more than half of the vans on the road are advanced in age and miles. Stack hopes the Oct. 2 event will help them buy replacement vehicles.

"We also are always looking for volunteers to help. We hire personnel too, but we rely on the volunteers that are really the heart of the operation," Stack said.

Wayne Larocque, a business banking representative for Sovereign Bank, is one of those who has answered the call. Through Lou Pasquale, Larocque found out about the needs of the DAV and joined the committee that is working to make Oct. 2 a success. Larocque's own father, who was a Marine veteran of the South Pacific, used the van pool service throughout his later years, before dying from cancer at age 80.

"The V.A. itself was a real big part of my dad's life, especially for those last 15 years or so," said Larocque. "My mom used to drive him around, but when she got sick, it was difficult for the family to manage it ourselves.

"For me its neat to be involved with this, because it's coming full circle for me," said Larocque.

Pasquale and his committee say they expect as many as 400 people to come out for the evening gathering at Phillips Old Colony House. A raffle -with prizes ranging from plasma screen TVs to Patriots tickets -is the big draw, along with a silent auction. The event begins at 6 p.m. Raffle tickets - sold for $10 a piece or 3 for $25 - are available at the Phillips Old Colony House, located at 780 Morrissey Blvd. Donations may also be sent, payable to DAV dept of MA, to room 546, State House, Boston, 02133.