Locals Mourn the Passing of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, Iconic Motivational Speaker  

Published in Woonsocket Call on September 6. 2015

On August 30, 2015, the internet was ablaze with the news that Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, one of America’s most popular self-help authors and motivational speakers in the field of self-development and spiritual growth, had died one day earlier at his home in Maui, Hawaii.  He was 75 years old.

On his very popular official Facebook page (with over 2.5 million likes) Dyer’s family announced:  “Wayne has left his body, passing away through the night. He always said he couldn’t wait for this next adventure to begin and had no fear of dying. Our hearts are broken, but we smile to think of how much our scurvy elephant will enjoy the other side.”

Who was this man, raised by an alcoholic father and in orphanages and foster homes as a child, whose books, lectures and workshops, CDs, DVDs, streaming videos and weekly radio show, would strikes a chord with millions all over the world?

A Prolific Writer

According to a statement released by Hay House, over four decades the internationally acclaimed author, born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, penned 42 books, 21 of which became New York Times bestsellers.  Devoted fans would give him the affectionate moniker “the father of motivation.”

After a four-year stint in the United States Navy, Dyer would go on to earn his doctorate in educational counseling from Wayne State University before serving as a professor at St. John’s University in New York. Throughout his early years as a college educator, and as a clinical psychologist, he realized that there was a need to make the principles of self-discovery and personal growth more accessible to the public.

In 1976, Dr. Dyer began his writing career as an author by traveling the nation selling his first book, “Your Erroneous Zones”, right from the trunk of his car.  The self-help book went on to become one of the best-selling books of all time, with more than 60 million copies sold, printings in 47 languages, and 64 weeks spent on the New York Times bestseller list.  This put Dr. Dyer firmly on America’s radar screen, resulting in the bookings on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson a whopping total of 37 times.

With the publishing of a number of best-selling books on self-improvement under his belt, Dyer turned his attention to exploring the spiritual aspects of human experience. “My purpose is to help people look at themselves and begin to shift their concepts,” Dr. Dyer noted at that time. “Remember, we are not our country, our race, or religion. We are eternal spirits. Seeing ourselves as spiritual beings without label is a way to transform the world and reach a sacred place for all of humanity,” he said.  Throughout his life this theme would be woven into all his writings, lectures and workshops.

In 1993, Dyer began publishing his books with Hay House, founded in 1984, and he quickly became one of its most prolific and popular authors.  The company, with its headquarters in Carlsbad, California with international offices in the United Kingdom, Austria, South Africa and India, has published over 300 books and 450 audios from 140 authors.

At Hay House, Dr. Dyer also created several audio programs and videos, and appeared on thousands of television and radio shows over the course of his long career. His books “Manifest Your Destiny”, “Wisdom of the Ages”, “There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem”, and the New York Times bestsellers “10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace”, “The Power of Intention, Inspiration, Change Your Thoughts—Change Your Life, Excuses Begone!,” “Wishes Fulfilled”, and “I Can See Clearly Now”, have all been featured as PBS specials, raising over $200 million for public television stations nationwide.

Dyer did not even forget his alma mater, Wayne State University.  He raised over $1 million for the educational institution.

Dyer’s Death Hits Local Followers

In 1974, Gary Calvino, 62, remembers reading his first Dyer book, the “Erroneous Zones,” one that would totally impact how he would live his life.  “It changed my life and got me to think about looking inside my being for my happiness rather than seeking it from others.” The author’s “authenticity” who lived his principles and “walked his talk” kept Calvino reading more of Dyer’s books that ultimately would total 42.

Calvino, setting up a new nonprofit, Mindful Rhode Island to create an interconnected web of mindfulness throughout the Ocean State, also treasured a chance meeting with Dyer at a lecture in New York City, he says.  The Providence resident described a 10-minute private encounter with the motivational speaker, “a gratitude conversation,” he says that would ultimately give him a way to communicate in more “heart-felt way” with his dying father.

“It hit me very hard when I heard of Dyer’s death,” says Calvino.  “I know he had no fear of dying and he is now in a great place,” he adds.

“Reading and watching him on videos over the years actually allowed me to grow with him,” says Calvino, stressing that he was able to follow the author through all phases of his personal and spiritual growth.  “Every book he wrote was a learning experience for him.  With his passing I will miss his inspirational wisdom.”

Wanda Morrison, whose family business, Mind Body Barre is located in three locations in Southern Massachusetts, has followed the teachings of Dyer since her early teenage days. The fifty-two year old says “I have always known when his books came out and I probably have read them all,” she says.

Morrison’s says Dyer had the “most soothing presence and aura about him,” adding that people felt his “powerful presence of love and healing.”

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,” is one of my favorite Dyer quotes, says Morrison, stressing that it’s made her more aware that she is a co-creator in her world.

“I was speechless and so sad when I heard of his passing,” Morrison says.  “There will never be another person like him.  His wisdom and way he chose to dedicate his life to help others with writings that were so simple and easy to understand will be hard to duplicate,” she noted.

“I will be reading his books and listening or watching his lectures for the rest of my life.  He will forever be a part of my world,” says Morrison.

Yes, Dyer taught us to overcome both their perceived and real physical limitations to make their dreams come true.  If his life mission on earth was to teach his loyal following to connect with their “Highest Self,” he truly succeeded.

Dr. Dyer was married three times, separated from his third wife and had eight children and nine grandchildren.

To order books, videos, CDs, go to www.drwaynedyer.com.


The Best of….Attack Stunned Area Vets: Pearl Harbor Survivors Recall Horror of Dec. 7, 1941

Published December 2006, Senior Digest

            With the 65th anniversary of Pearl Harbor fast approaching, aging military veterans have planned a reunion, which may ultimately be the “last hurrah” to take place in Honolulu, Hawaii in December to commemorateJapan’s December 7, 1941 surprise attack and the start of World War II. 

         According to the Pearl Harbor Survivor’s Project, in 1941 the youngest Pearl Harbor survivors were only in their teens and early twenties.  Now their ages are approaching the early to mid 80s and frailties associated with advanced age may will make this year’s 65th Anniversary gathering and Survivors Summit the last official gathering. 

        On December 7, 1941, the surprise attack began at 7.55 a.m.   For almost two hours, the Japanese aerial attack sunk or damaged twenty-one American ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.  American aircraft losses totaled 188 destroyed and 159 damaged on that  unforgettable day.   A total of 2,403 military personnel lost their lives, including 68 civilians, with the number of wounded reaching 1,178.  The Japanese would lose only 29 planes – less than 10 percent of their attacking force.

         Dr. Gary Hylander, a professor at  Stone Hill College says, “With 30,000 World War II veterans dying each month, it’s time to capture their stories.” To commemorate  and honor “The Day that Lives in Infamy” Senior Digest talks with three local veterans who share their eye witness accounts of the Japanese attack and reflect Pearl  Harbor, 65 years ago this month.

At Schofield Barracks

        At age 84, Lincoln resident Leo Lebrun remembers Pearl Harbor just like it was yesterday afternoon.  In 1941, unemployment would force this nineteen year old to enlist at  a United States Army recruiting office located at the main post office in the City of Woonsocket.  .

        After basic training at Fort Slokum, the largest recruiting depot east of the Mississippi River during World War II, a five-day train trip would deliver Lebrun to San Francisco.  From there, the private would be stationed in Hawaii at Schofield Barracks, assigned to C Battery, part of the 8th Field Artillery Hawaiian Division. (Japanese planes would fly over Schofield Barracks on their way to bomb Wheeler Field and Pearl Harbor.)   

       Traveling 15 miles from the Docks, Lebrun arrived at Schofield Barracks complex, six months before the Pearl Harborattack.  “It was really a beautiful place, just like a college campus,” remembers LeBrun.

        On his way to mass on held in a theater at Schofield Barracks, that December 7, 1941 Private Lebrun saw low flying aircraft flying over the building. “We thought those planes were ours because it was not unusual to see planes flying overhead,” he says. “Strafing and dropping bombs” forced the soldier to run for safety inside the theater.  By seeing the “red zeros” painted on the planes “we knew that they were Japanese.”

        After the attack, Lebrun went to outside to help the wounded and found his best friend, 19-year-old George Roberts of Los Angeles, killed by strafing.  “We were shocked, scared, and mad, but we were trained to handle it,” he said.  It took over two weeks for the military to notify LeBrun’s parents that he was not wounded in the attack.

       According to Lebrun, the planes were flying so close to the buildings that some of his friends actually saw the faces of the pilots.  If the Japanese planes came back in a second wave, he and the others who took shelter in the theater were ready.  “We went to a supply room and grabbed 50 caliber machine guns.  It was really difficult to hit [or damage a plane] with a 45 pistol,” he recalls.

       After the sneak attack, Lebrun’s artillery unit was assigned to defend the Punch Bowl, a site over looking Pearl Harbor. In this position, large 155 howitzers would protect the Island from invading troops.  “The first night we shot at anything that moved.  We killed a few mongooses.” He noted that even a few days later his unit could still see  heavy black smoke and fire from the damaged ships in the harbor, which were almost two miles away.  

        Days after the attack soldiers from every outfit would travel to Akins Field and Heeler Field “to pick up plane pieces and clean up those areas,” Lebrun added.

        Lebrun would later participate in five major campaigns against the Japanese, earning five battle stars.  Once discharged as a Corporal in August 1945, he would marry Irene Froment,  from Woonsocket.  The couple recently celebrated 61 years of marriage.  The Pearl   would work as a meat cutter and for the next 39 years was employed by Star Market made this his career.

 Serving on the USS Bagley

        Eighty-Four year old Carl Otto, a former police officer now lives at Attleboro-based Christopher Heights, an assisted living facility, and reflects on Pearl Harbor.  He remembers “seeing Japanese torpedo planes from the stern of the USS Bagley, fire torpedo’s at his ship and others at Pearl Harbor”.    

          Fresh out of boot camp in Newport,Rhode Island, Seaman Second Class Otto  chose to be assigned to the USS Bagley rather than being placed on a larger vessels such as an aircraft carrier or battleship..  A five day trip on a troop train would get the young sailor to the West Coast.  Ultimately, leaving Long Beach,California, the destroyer, manned by 150 sailors set course for Pearl Harbor, the ship’s home port.

         The USS Bagley was moored at the Navy Yard in Pearl Harbor for repairs when the Japanese sneak attack began.  That early morning, Otto, working as a mess cook, finished his duties and went to the rear of the ship to eat a plain egg sandwich and drink coffee, sitting on the gun mount by his friends.  “At first we thought an approaching plane was Chinese. We just didn’t recognize the Rising Sun emblem,” he said.

         “We actually saw the pilot waving to us with his plane only being about 100 feet away from our ship,” Otto noted, saying that “it shot a fish [torpedo] at us.”.  A loud explosion a few minutes later confirmed to Otto that he indeed saw the torpedo which he believes hit the battle ship, the USS Tennessee.

         General quarters called the sailors to their battle stations.  Otto, serving as a powder man, quickly primed the 5 inch 38 caliber gun with powder before the projectile was placed in it before firing.  Otto recalls that over 300 rounds of ammunition were fired from the ship’s four gun batteries that morning.

         “The battle went by so fast..”, remembers Otto,  stressing that his gunnery training allowed him to go into “automatic” mode” when preparing the power charges at his gun battery. .  That day he clearly remembers looking toward Battleship row and seeing the heavy smoke, intense fire and seeing the oil drenched water, some spots on fire.  

         During the aerial battle, “we were credited with downing the first Japanese plane that day,” Otto proudly notes.  Crew members armed with 50 caliber machine guns also were credited with destroying the second and third plane that approached the USS Bagley.  Only four sailors were “nicked” by shrapnel and the ship received no direct hits. (The ship would later be credited with downing five torpedo planes, one dive bomber and a high attitude bomber).

         According to Otto, the USS Bagley would leave the dock behind the USS Nevada and he watched that battle ship run aground on the soft mud bottom of the harbor.  If the battleship would have sunk at the entrance of the harbor “it would have made sitting targets of all the other ships [inside the harbor],” he said.  Ultimately, the USS Bagley would form a battle line with Destroyers to stop any possible invasion.

         Before being discharged from the Navy, Otto would participate in eight major battles in the South Pacific.   Returning to North Attleboro, he would marry Pauline Dailey and during their time together, Otto and his late wife would raise five children. 

 From the Rooftop of Naval Hospital

         Eighty-seven year old Eugene Marchand credits appendicitis with keeping him off the USS Cassin, which was in dry dock at the Navy Yard the day of Pearl Harbor.  During the Japanese attack, bombs and fire caused the 1,500 ton destroyer to roll off the blocks and capsize against the Destroyer, USS Downes, which was alongside, severely damaging both ships.

       Recuperating from surgery, twenty-one year old Marchand watched the attack from the third floor roof top of the Naval Hospital.  At first the young sailor thought the flying aircraft were part of a “sham battle” between the Army and Navy.  Ultimately seeing the ”big red fire ball” emblems on the low flying planes and watching fire and smoke caused by dropped bombs and strafing brought home the point that the battle was not staged, but the real thing. 

        “The Japanese planes flew so close to us we could have hit the planes with rifle fire,” Marchand claims.  Nurses and fellow patients urged him to return back inside by warning him to watch out for the deadly shrapnel.  He noted that no bombs were dropped on this hospital.

        While on roof watching the battle, the first class carpenter Marchand claims to have seen the first torpedo to hit Fort Island, a nearby amphibious base.  After the attack he was reassigned to the USS Whitney, a destroyer tender.

        Being discharged from service after fighting in two South Pacific Battles, Marchand would marry Elaine Degina, from North Attleboro and raise six children.  He was employed by local manufacturing companies, ultimately working for the City and retiring as a truck driver for the highway department.    

       With each passing year, thousands of Pearl Harbor survivors are passing away. Through the Pearl Harbor Survivors Project, military and civilian survivors or their family members can not only share stories, but play a vital role in rebuilding crew rosters of the ships docked in the harbor that day.  Please call 1-866-PHStory or go to www.pearlharborstories.org

            Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based writer covering aging, health care and medical issues.  This article was published in the December 2006 issue of Senior Digest.