Who We Are – Some Guys Have All the Luck
Greenwich Farms resident’s says good fortune made all the difference
Edwin Brooklyn, 94, knows there are three things that can make or break success: luck, opportunity, and character. All three made a difference in his personal and professional achievements.
Edwin graduated high school two weeks after D-Day in 1944 and enlisted in the Army, knowing that in a few months he’d turn 18 and be drafted. Then, he would not have a choice between branches of service.
He tested into the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) for a six-month engineering program at Rutgers University. After graduating from the program, he would be shipped overseas.
A Stint on Gridiron
At Rutgers he was a track star, so fast that the athletic department recruited him to play halfback on the football team. Edwin protested – he’d never played football, plus he was only 140 pounds.
“Brooklyn,” the athletic director told him, he recalls. “You’re in the Army now; you’ll do as you’re told.”
On his first play on the field as a substitute, he was tackled and shattered his leg so badly that he was still in the hospital when his unit graduated from Rutgers in January 1945. He wasn’t with them when they joined General George S. Patton’s Third Army in its brutal campaign crossing into Germany.
It wasn’t the first time luck escorted him around a hail of bullets.
In high school, Edwin did something very rare for a boy in the 1940s: He took a typing class.
Years later, when he was drafted into the Army for the Korean War, that typing class credential got him assigned to the Signal Corps, where his job was to locate and direct Military Occupational Specialties. As a Staff Sergeant, Brooklyn was responsible for organizing records of military personnel who had various specialty skills and assigning them where they were needed around the world.
Meanwhile, the infantry unit he’d trained with had been deployed to Korea and suffered heavy casualties.
After the Korean War, Edwin’s plan was to look for a job in New Jersey where his widowed mother lived.
But first he visited his sister in Rhode Island for a week. One night she had some friends over. As luck would have it, one of them was a sales manager at an electrical company who told him about a new kind of business: Companies would set up and maintain general merchandise departments in grocery stores to help them expand in the post-war boom economy.
Edwin explored nearby stores and spoke with grocers about their suppliers and realized there was an opportunity. He founded Market Merchandisers Inc. and grew the business through the next 37 years until selling the company in 1991.
It was then that one of his sons asked if he was interested in getting involved in another new business: the “dollar store” model. He agreed and the industry took off. Their company, Only A Dollar, opened 13 stores across Rhode Island before being sold in 2006.
Deciding to move to assisted living
For almost 10 years, Edwin and his wife, Carol, enjoyed their retirement in their home, spending time with their four children and their families. Eventually though, it became time to think about selling the house and transitioning to an assisted living community.
The decision to leave behind their old life was not an easy one. But Carol had dementia and Edwin’s knee and hip problems made staying in the house no longer viable. They needed certain services to help them manage their daily lives.
They visited a few assisted living locations in Rhode Island with good reputations, including Greenwich Farms at Warwick, where they’d known some friends who lived there and spoke well of it. The staff they met on their tour impressed them enough to make their decision easy. Soon, they were preparing to move into a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment.
Plans delayed by pandemic
Edwin and Carol were scheduled to join the community in March 2020. Unfortunately, just before their move-in date, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the region and their transition was put on hold.
Eugenia “Genia” Kendall, Greenwich Farms Director of Community Relations, kept in constant contact with the couple, assuring them she was doing her best to get permission for them to move in. Edwin said Genia made them feel like they were already part of the community.
Unfortunately, Carol’s dementia progressed and she required a nursing-home level of care. In July, she passed away.
Genia was still working hard to get Edwin into his new home and shortly after his wife’s death, Edwin was able to move into Greenwich Farms.
“As we used to say in the old days, she is sui generis (one of kind),” he says of Genia’s service and compassion.
Home at last
Each morning, Edwin welcomes the day with 20 minutes of exercise. Regularly, he visits one of Greenwich Farms’ two libraries and listens to operas or concertos. He also logs plenty of screen time, emailing his family or researching various topics to expand his perspective. Occasionally, he’ll join one of Benchmark’s virtual activities when something catches his eye.
For Edwin, what immediately stood out at Greenwich Farms staff was the character of the associates.
“All companies are at the mercy of their employees,” he says. Between Genia and the associates, Edwin says he feels welcomed and a part of a special place.
Greenwich Farms at Warwick