Profiles in Courage – Honoring the Service of Lou & Cal
The article below appeared in our most recent Union Voice newsletter. It saddens us to say that Cal has since passed away. We will continue to remember and honor him for his service and dedication. He will be greatly missed.
On January 3rd, 2020, Louis San Miguel was surprised at work when a large group made up of family, police, fire, union, company, and public officials greeted him with accolades he has long earned. Louis served as a Lead Scout behind enemy lines in Germany, France and Italy with the 103rd Infantry during WWII. He joined the U.S. Army Infantry in 1943 after graduating from Spaulding High School located in Barre, Vermont. In the Spring of 1945, in Schillersdorf, Germany, Lou was struck in is right shoulder by a piece of shrapnel. Fortunately, Lou survived and later came back to the U.S. to raise a family in Braintree and also earned a college degree in accounting from the University of Vermont and went on to be a Vice President for a bank in Boston. Upon retiring from his position at the bank and at the age of 74, Louis joined our union family at Stop & Shop where he has continued to work for over 20 years.
When Senator Walter Timilty joined workers on the picket line at the Braintree location in a show of support, members of our union family helped tell Lou’s amazing story. Senator Timilty got to work planning to hold a ceremony in Lou’s honor and did so on a day that was special: Lou was celebrating his 95th birthday. Lou was joined by his wife of 67 years, Lucille. Together, they have called Braintree their home for the past 52 years, where they raised four daughters. Almost two months later, Lou would celebrate another very special day: after 75 years, Lou finally received a purple heart for the injury he sustained in WWII. Lou and his family had tried for years to obtain the Purple Heart for his service; however, his records had been destroyed in a fire. We are so honored Lou has been a member of our union family for 21 years at Stop & Shop and we thank him for his service to our country. He truly is an amazing person with a big heart who continues to serve the community he loves.
After the ceremony, we shared Lou’s story on social media and messaged it our union family. We got a text back from one of our shop stewards, asking if we could share another story of a WWII veteran who is also a Local 328 member employed at Stop & Shop, not far from where Lou works. John “Cal” Calcagno works at the Stop & Shop in Hingham, Massachusetts. He has amazingly worked within the produce department since 1946 when he got back from serving his country. He has worked for companies including Alm Farms, Supreme Market, Purity Supreme, Liberty Market, Angelo’s and Stop & Shop.
After meeting Cal, I knew right away that our time spent together was going to be full of great stories and laughter. Even at 95, Cal is as sharp and quick witted as anyone I have met and it was quite clear just how loved he is. While we were making our introductions, his co-workers went around the store to gather others for a group photo and they quickly filled the frame. After departing the store, we went out for a quick lunch. During our time together, Cal would speak of past events as if they were just yesterday.
Cal was born in Waltham but moved at a young age to Quincy in the heart of the depression. In October of 1942 and at only 16 years old, Cal signed up for the Coast Guard. He volunteered for Amphibious Services, where he would serve his time during the war on LSTs (Landing Ship Tanks). LSTs are flat-bottomed ships and stretched at over 300 ft, they are both a slow and long target. On LSTs, Cal was responsible for picking up and dropping off Seabees, members of the Army, Air Force and Marines. Cal spent two and a half years on an LST and visited locations including Saigon, Guam, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Philippines, China and Korea. Cal was responsible for dropping off and picking up troops during the Battle of Okinawa, where 12,500 American troops were killed in action (and many thousand more would later pass away due to sustained injuries) and upwards of 50,000 were injured. Cal earned two bronze starts during his service. In March of 1946, Cal completed his service with the ranking of Signalman Second Class.
In 1951, Cal married the love of his life, Ernestine Cyr. When speaking of his wife, Cal proclaimed, “As beautiful as she was on the outside, she was twice as beautiful on the inside.” They had previously met while Cal was training in the Coast Guard and Ernestine was attending nursing school in Lewiston, Maine. They would have five children and four grandchildren. Cal speaks proudly of all of them, including his grandson Drew who graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.
In addition to Cal’s service and career accomplishments, he is also a skilled artisan and painter. Cal enjoys building furniture including shelves, desks, and cabinets and even built all of the furniture in his son’s law office. For painting, Cal has enjoyed a focus on still lifes, harbor scenes, landscapes, and most notably his sailboat seascapes. On top of all of that, Cal is a skilled musician and even helped form a 15-piece swing band to entertain troops during WWII. Towards the end of our lunch, Cal offered a beautiful sentiment. “Every time I look out the window, it’s another bonus.” We appreciate and thank Cal for his service to our country and his community. It was a privilege to spend time with a person of such great character and who has built a wonderful life full of love, kindness, service and dedication.