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What I learned on my summer vacation

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

Summer vacations are supposedly to be restful, perhaps exciting, and definitely a break from the ordinary routine. I think I was able to hit two of the three during my recent week off.

Since I'm all about sharing, let me tell you what I learned.

You really need to unplug electronic items when a storm with lightning hits.

My mom and I were watching a movie on Aug. 14 and my wife was in another room reading when a fairly violent thunderstorm hit Springfield. We marveled at the hail that was falling and the torrential rain, but never thought about unplugging all of the electronics (aside from my brand new Apple iMAC G5 computer).

The appropriate forces of the universe noticed my lack of response and our house was hit. The strike was heralded by a noise so loud we thought we were on an artillery range and we all headed to the nearest floor.

The immediate result was that the television and the DVD player my special All Region player that allows us to watch DVDs from around the world were fried. That's a technical term I was to learn.

We went around the house and smelled smoke in the kitchen, so we immediately called the Springfield Fire Department. The firefighters came quickly and confirmed that was smoke but after a thorough investigation, said there was no fire.

By the way, let me say on behalf of my wife and me a sincere "thank you" to the highly professional fire fighters who were at our home.

Once the fire fighters had left, we started to assess the damage.

The lightning struck the mast of our satellite television dish and traveled through the house. It destroyed the two satellite receivers, a television set and the DVD player and then, apparently, jumped over to the telephone line where it burnt up our telephones.

It also destroyed the modem in my computer as I had left the telephone line plugged into it. The computer operated fine, otherwise, thank all that is holy.

So now we're waiting to see just how much the damage will be and whether or not to file a claim against our home insurance as lesson number two is "Your insurance company could get miffed if you actually need the insurance money."

I was told that it might not be worthwhile to file for a few hundred dollars (after my $500 deductible) as it would be a lot of paperwork and might impact my relationship with the company.

I've never filed a claim in the 15-plus years of owning a home. If my computer damage is covered by the warranty there was debate about that as well I probably won't file.

So the next time there is even the hint of lightning in our neighborhood, I'm planning to unplug everything.

Thankfully, the rest of my time off was actually a vacation.


Those who dine at his Buon Appetito Ristornate in Westfield know that Mino Giliberti is one of the leading chefs in the area and a consummate host.

What you may not know is that Giliberti is also a man of his word. He told one of his loyal customers, Annie Wilmot of Westfield, that if she made it to her 107th birthday, he would cater a birthday party for her.

Wilmot was 106 at the time. She is well known in the Hampden Ponds neighborhood for her daily rowing on the Ponds and a hearty lifestyle not shared by many her age.

On Aug. 14, Giliberti kept his word and prepared a gourmet Italian feast for Wilmot and about 100 guests. He told me several days before the party that he was happy to do it for Wilmot.

He added that Wilmot orders his tortellini soup several times a week and joked that perhaps its has assisted her longevity.


I need to make a correction in a story I wrote about the Springfield Partners for Community Action Filene's fund raiser. The correct telephone number to order tickets is 263-6500 extension 6518.

You know the drill. These are my opinions alone. Send your comments to or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028.