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My View: Reflections on 96 years of joys and sorrows

By Mike Mombrea

As I reflect on the joys, and sorrows, I’ve experienced in the 96 years I’ve been on this planet, I look forward with hope on what the future will bring to those I will leave behind.

I was blessed with a marriage of 70 years, before losing my dear wife. When people would ask me what the secret to a happy marriage was, I would tell them, never go to bed angry.

I treasure the countless occasions I shared with my six children, 15 grandchildren and 26 great-grandkids.

I remember the legacy my parents left me. They came from Italy with the challenge of making a better life in this wonderful country despite the disadvantage of not having a formal education, and the effort of learning a new language. I’m so proud that they passed down the morals and ethics that I hope will be extended to future generations in our family. They also instilled in me a strong faith, to overcome life’s obstacles.

I was proud to serve my country in World War II as a fighter pilot. I instructed pilot trainees to fly fighter planes before they were sent to war zones. As a military pilot, I had two close calls with death.

I like to brag about some of my grandchildren, who are well known in Western New York for their musical talents.

After my daily ritual of having coffee at McDonalds with some friends of our age, where we compare our medications and discuss our aches and pains, after solving the world’s problems, I go to Tops or Wegmans to talk to people, and cheer them up.
I hand out suckers to their children. I hear heartwarming stories and sad stories from people who are anxious to talk to someone. This makes my day. I think everyone has an interesting story to tell, whether joyful or sad.

I worked for 32 years in a profession I loved, as a television news cameraman at Channel 4. I tried to reach out to people with compassion in the stories I covered.
In my career as a photojournalist, I had to remind myself that every human being has dignity, regardless of their financial or social status.

I covered many interesting stories locally and all over the world, including going to Rome for the installation of Pope John Paul II. I also filmed Mother Teresa when she gave the commencement address at Niagara University in 1981. I covered every Democratic and Republican national political convention from 1968 to 1976. I was tear gassed in Chicago when a riot broke out at Grant Park. I also felt the sting of tear gas in Buffalo during riots at Allentown and at the University at Buffalo.

I spend much of my time checking The Buffalo News about what is happening in the world.

Lately, I spend most of my time taking videos of family affairs and doing volunteer work for my church.

I still look forward to making new friends. Reaching out to people with love keeps my adrenaline going.

For golden agers who read this column, allow me to give some advice: you should live with hope for whatever future we have left.

Life is a precious gift. Don’t despair or be depressed. Look forward with joy and anticipation of a better tomorrow, as we leave this rock!


Mike Mombrea, of the Town of Tonawanda, speaks from 96 years of experience on this planet.
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