Gather ye round oh my sisters and brother and marvel ye at this tale of advancement, defeat, wives, ex-wives, pharmacy returns, free parking, world-wide business, technology, ludditism, glory, America’s Cup, stock market crashes, elevated subway trains, and dust. Something for everyone.
This blog is about a real life Horatio Alger – the real deal – my father Bernard Olcott. My Dad was a charming, funny, and lucky man.
What I like best about my Dad was his sense of humor and high regard for education. Oh yes, Dad had a funny bone. A big one. I struggle to fill it every day. Also, it must be appreciated that education was the key to his escape from an unhappy, dismal, and poor household. These are the family values and legacies – clearly deriving from my Dad – that I choose to pass along to my own children, the next generation of Olcotts. And they get it. Big time.
But back to the 35,000 feet high summary of my Dad’s life. He was born into a very modest Lithuanian immigrant family household in Jamaica, Queens on August 25, 1918. His father, né Mikas Arlauskas, left Varena in impoverished Lithuania in 1914 and arrived at Ellis Island, New York as “Michael Olcott.” As there is no record of his marriage in New York City, I believe he arrived already married to “Patricia Regas” (her real maiden name was Ragazhinskas). He joined the NYPD as a patrolman, and fathered 2 sons, Edward and Bernard (in that order).
After graduating from Jamaica High School, Bernard traveled to Palestine as a merchant mariner, graduated from Cooper Union with honors in Electrical Engineering, married society girls, divorced five times, wrote four or more patents, exchanged letters with Albert Einstein and Bernard Baruch, created a lucrative international business by way of his innovative patent annuity tax payment service, and then suffered terribly with dementia to the extent he lost a good deal of his personal fortune to theft. Bernard Olcott passed away in Palisades General Hospital in North Bergen, New Jersey on December 30, 2006.
As of this writing, June 7, 2018, the Estate of Bernard Olcott finally closed last month! 12 years! Ain’t that something?
His life story is of course of great interest to his own family – me, and my two sisters – but combine these different elements of amazing success together with the ravages of age, it is just possible that his story is of general import as well. Or at least evocative of the rascal in everyone’s family. If an immigrant’s son can make good like this, then maybe there is hope for all of us. And if he can lose so much of it, perhaps there is a cautionary tale here for which careful note should be made.
On these pages, I will try to make sense of it all.
My Dad and I, Summer 1984, on the Weehawken, NJ waterfront.
Copyright © 2015, 2016, 2017 by James B. Olcott
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