Dan Shea: ’Keep your nose clean and study hard’ COURTESY PHOTO

Name:  Dan Shea

Age: 87

Place of birth: Arlington, MA

What is your fondest childhood memory? Playing tag football in my backyard, which adjoined my neighbor’s backyard and that gave us a pretty good run of things.

How long have you lived in Marblehead? I’ve lived inMarblehead since we took over this old house and moved into it about 20 years ago. In a way, I’ve never left the town. My mother was a Marbleheader, her parents were Marbleheaders and her parents were Marbleheaders. My great-grandfather William Ward came here from Ireland during the Civil War. He was a fisherman in County Cork and he became a fisherman in Marblehead. His son, named William, took over and raised his own family after starting a business in Marblehead. One of the children of that marriage was my mother.  She studied at the Normal School where Salem State University is now. She started teaching in Arlington where my dad was building a medical practice.

What jobs have you had and what was your favorite? I’ve had a lot of jobs. I had been deferred from the draft and after I graduated from law school I became a JAG (Judge Advocate General) with the U.S. Navy. I went to OCS (Officer Candidate School) in Newport, RI, and served at naval stations in Newport and Florida. Then I served for a year and a half on the U.S.S Saratoga as the ship’s legal officer for 5,000 men. We spent a year in the Mediterranean, fending off the Soviets who liked the buzz the ship. I spent six years on active duty.

After the military I worked in employment law. I worked with large corporations in Cambridge, Chicago, New York City and New Jersey. That sent my wife and I and our growing family around the country for a period of time. I enjoyed that work a great deal.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the world? To some degree it seems that the world has, perhaps out of fear if nothing else, particularly with the availability of nuclear weapons in great numbers, managed to avoid extended open warfare for the last couple of decades. It costs a lot of money, time, effort and danger to make that happen. So far, thank God, it seems to have worked reasonably well.

What is your biggest accomplishment? Marrying the right woman in 1963 and raising a family that so far — and I have no reason to think things are going to change — has developed very very beautifully.

Who is the most famous person you’ve met? When I was a member of the Union League Club of Chicago, I met and spoke with President George H.W. Bush at a small reception. On a similar occasion, I met and spoke with author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. I have also met a couple of famous admirals and some very good judges. (He declined to name the admirals and judges.)

What moment in history is most vivid in your memory? Certainly the most significant would be the advent of World War II, which came along when I was old enough to understand what was happening.  In terms of recent experience, being able to keep the peace in the east and the western part of the world has been a very significant development.

What piece of advice do you have for young people today? Keep your nose clean and study hard. You’ve got one chance to really learn what it takes to be an adult. Don’t blow it. Study hard in whatever field you are going to look to achieve. Obviously, stay out of trouble and look to bring some peace and advantage and success to the way in which you conduct yourself in your life.

What are your secrets to living a long life? Everything in moderation is probably a secret to as long a life as you’re likely to have, given your background. That doesn’t mean you don’t strive for excellence, but you don’t strive for excellence to the point of making yourself ill or driving other people crazy.

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

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