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Credit: Photo courtesy of Richard Brewster

Richard Brewster, 76, Cutchogue

In 1995, I unexpectedly received an opportunity for early retirement from Westinghouse Electric Corporation. I had spent almost 30 years with that company, most of that time involved in the design and construction of nuclear power stations in the U.S. and overseas.

My wife, Susan, and I moved to an inherited home on the North Fork and began to settle down to a comfortable retirement. But then I saw a magazine article about an all-volunteer hospital ship operated by Mercy Ships. They needed electricians. And they needed nurses. We could do this.

We found house-sitters, took a required five-month training course that took us to Europe and Central Asia, and then flew to South Africa to join the M/V Anastasis.

I began as an electrician but was soon appointed to the position of head electronics technician, responsible for virtually all the electronics on the 12,000-ton ship, from the bridge to the engine room.

Incidentally, Susan started off as engineering secretary (They had plenty of nurses.) but quickly was reassigned to the position of crew nurse, responsible for the health and safety of the 300-plus-member crew.

We initially spent over two years on the ship, visiting many countries in West Africa. And we have gone back many times for shorter visits, most recently with a team performing cleft lip and palate surgeries in The Gambia.

Oh, yes, we also joined Greenport Rotary Club and were able to coordinate the donation of over 500 wheelchairs and help raise funds for six water wells for two West African countries. We were even able to experience the receipt of these most-needed items.