During the early years of the Depression, his family (he is the second of six children and the oldest son) lived in Medford, Massachusetts. When he was eight, Bud's father, a Brazilian, abandoned the family and returned to South America. His mother, in desperate need of help, moved to New York City with the children, but assistance promised by a relative failed to materialize. City social workers eventually placed the children in orphanages. During a July 2003 interview with the Boston Globe, Bud Colebrooke described that period as the darkest of his entire life. "I used to go up to the orphanage roof," he remembers. "Then I'd pray to get out of that place...."
After several months his prayers were answered. New York welfare officials asked their counterparts in Medford if they would take the family. The request was granted. The children were reunited with their mother and moved into an apartment.
Medford's welfare program provided Bud's morn with $14 weekly, just enough to feed the family and keep them together. Bud recalls how his mother cleaned houses part-time for extra income, while he "would get up at 4 o'clock in the morning and go ash-barrel picking" before school, then fold and sell newspapers at a newsstand after school. In the winter, he shoveled snow.
Eventually, he completed two years at Medford High School, then served in the Army Air Forces during World War II. While stationed in Nashville, he met a local girl whom he married, and after the war he launched his business career.
He last lived in Medford in 1942, but has never forgotten the city's crucial help during his family's Depression-era crisis. In April of this year, he fulfilled what he perceived to be a 70-year financial obligation by sending the city $100,000. A note accompanying the check read: "My sincere gratitude to the City of Medford for helping a woman with six little kids when help was desperately needed." He told the Globe, "I have been all over the world several times, and if people ask me where I'm from, I always say Medford, Massachusetts ... because that place was my salvation."
Medford officials were understandably startled by the unexpected windfall. "I didn't know what to do with it. I thought it was a joke," City Treasurer Alfred Pompeo Jr. recollects. The check arrived as Mayor Michael McGlynn and city council members were wrestling with the municipal budget, including potential cuts that could jeopardize needed upgrades in park playground equipment. McGlynn recalls that when he called Colebrooke to thank him, he also suggested that the money be used to place a "play structure" in Dugger Park, located in the neighborhood where Bud grew up. Colebrooke had earlier made it clear that the city could do whatever it wished with the money. The proposal was approved during a July 15 city council meeting. "That neighborhood really loves Mr. Colebrooke now," Mayor McGlynn told The Tennessean.
It was also during that meeting that the donation was publicly revealed for the first time. Mark Colebrooke, one of Bud's grandchildren, told the Globe that his grandfather "wants no recognition for it or anything. He just wants to do what's right."
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|Title Annotation:||The Goodness Of America|
|Author:||Lee, Robert W.|
|Publication:||The New American|
|Date:||Nov 3, 2003|
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