John Little battled to rebuild life after being diagnosed with mesothelioma
John Little was a tremendously skilled carpenter. He constructed custom-built boats for a livelihood, a job requiring patience, skill and great artistry. For John, each boat was a piece of art, filled with its own nuances and history. One of John's accomplishments was a handcrafted "cat boat," modeled after the 16-foot boat used by longshore fisherman in the 1800's. In the 1990's, yachtsmen began using this type of boat for recreational use.
John worked for four (4) months as a merchant marine
In 1937, at the age of seventeen, John worked aboard the Tes Veragua, a United Fruit Company ship. John described it as a "banana ship" because it brought bananas from Central America to New York. John worked as a cadet engineer, often toiling in the boiler and engine rooms. John recalled that there were four boilers on the Tes Veragua, three of which were in service at all times. When necessary, John would rebuild the boilers, installing new fire bricks, values, gaskets, etc. and removing/reinstalling asbestos pipecovering, insulation and block. This job was a stepping stone for John's later work in the United States Navy.
John enlists in the United States Navy
In February 1938, at eighteen, John joined the United States Navy, just when Germany invaded Poland. Despite any reservations he may have had about enlisting during wartime, John deemed his service as paramount to his personal fears. He served aboard the U.S.S Proteus (AS-19), the U.S.S Goshen (APA-108), and the U.S.S. Valley Forge (CV-45), as an apprentice seaman, then later as a carpenter's mate. John, using the skills he learned aboard the Tes Veragua, continually made repairs to the vessels.
John heroically served in Pearl Harbor
Prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, John worked in the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. While docked for overhaul, John repaired the Naval cruiser, U.S.S Richmond (CL-9). The U.S.S. Richmond was a battle submarine that required extensive repair work, including removing and repairing pipes, steam lines and insulation. While laggers removed insulation from the pipes, John recalled a "vast amount of dust." Although he did not know it at the time, the the dust was harmful asbestos fibers. Throughout the overhaul, John was stationed on board, exposing him to vast amounts of asbestos dust.
John was transferred to the U.S.S Holland (SS-1), a submarine tender, and then to the U.S.S. Sailfish. John continued working on many ships.
John weds his Audrey and together they start a family
World War II ended in 1945. John served an additional three years after World War II ended and, on February 26, 1948, he was honorably discharged from the Navy. In the year following his discharge, John wed his love, Audrey, on January 8, 1949. Together, they looked forward to starting a family.
In 1949, John joined the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. He remained an active member until 1961. Prior to the 1980's, John did receive any information about the possible hazards of asbestos exposure. He was not provided any safety equipment.
John worked alongside tradesman using asbestos containing products
To support his family, John continued working as a carpenter at shipyards and for maritime companies. In Spring, 1951, after working at a Brooklyn Shipyard, John and Audrey moved to Old Lyme, Connecticut. John had various jobs over the years, including working for several marine outfits, a boat building firm in Old Lyme, and at an electric boat firm in Groton. In June, 1951, Audrey gave birth to John Little, Jr. Seven years later, in April, 1958, Scott Little joined the family. Together John and Audrey raised their two sons. Fondness for their father and his passion for work inspired John, Jr. and Scott to begin their own carpentry careers.
John becomes his own boss
In Summer, 1964, John became a self-employed carpenter building custom boats. It was a natural progression for John, who enjoyed working on his own and at his own pace. Most importantly, though, John got pleasure from the independence and freedom self-employment provided to explore and develop his creative carpentry talents. When the family moved to Washington, Maine in 1979, John continued working as a self-employed carpenter.
John is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer
In Summer, 1996, John began experiencing pains in his knees. Doctors at Veteran's Hospital in Togus, Maine, told him it was mere inflammation. As standard procedure, his doctors also asked if John was having any other health concerns. Casually, John told them that he was having some difficulty breathing, noticing shortness of since the past winter. X-rays showed right pleural effusions and some pleural thickening in his left lung.
In July, 1996, a thoracentesis was performed at the Veteran's Hospital to drain the fluid amassed in his lungs. Upon further inspection, a pulmonologist discovered tumors in the lining of John's lung. A bronchoscopy performed later that month yielded negative for malignant cells, however, a thoracoscopy revealed pleural plaques and mesothelioma.
A biopsy confirmed John had mesothelioma
John's treating doctors required a biopsy before confirming the diagnosis of mesothelioma. John agreed the results confirmed he had mesothelioma.
John soon learned that there is no cure for mesothelioma. John was told that chemotherapy and radiation would contain the cancer and, hopefully, prevent it from spreading throughout his lungs and body. As the mesothelioma continued to spread, John experienced increasing pain. John wanted to maintain his quality of life and, therefore, ultimately decided to forego chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
John fights a courageous battle
John was dumbfound when he learned the cause of his disease - asbestos. John knew that he had worked directly with and around asbestos throughout his career, yet, he had not been informed of the hazards of asbestos. After a lifetime of hard work and service to his country, he was unable to enjoy his family and sons. John was not concerned for his own health, but rather how his wife would endure the burden of caring for him and surviving in his absence. His wife remained strong for John, though, and cared for him with unbridled love and compassion until he passed on January 22, 2001. John fought as courageous battle against mesothelioma as he continued to live and love those near and dear to him.
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