Forest Park’s Bob Maroney is a World War II veteran of the Merchant Marines, who cares deeply about his aging comrades. Bob may be 95 years old but he’s not content to live in the past. He has the forward-thinking mind of an inventor. Even when he was flat on his back at Hines Hospital in January 2014, the wheels were turning. Bob saw so many vets using canes, he thought of ways to improve them.
His friend, Lee Drury, was way ahead of him. Lee is a metallurgist and chief engineer for Walworth Engineering. He had already modified a cane for a friend, adding a removable wedge to be used as a doorstopper and a retractable claw and magnet for retrieving dropped items like keys.
It was Bob’s idea to include a “super bright” LED light in the handle: “Your best friend in dark hallways and dimly lit areas.”
The product that resulted from their brainstorming is called The Amazing Helper Cane. When Lee brought the prototype to Hines, Bob’s eye doctor spotted the cane and purchased it on the spot for his father-in-law.
There are many who recognize the cane’s potential. Bob demonstrated one at the Elmhurst VFW. The vets thought it was useful and affordable. (A standard cane costs $19.95 – amazing ones retail for $49.95). The cane also caught the attention of Robert Fulton, business manager for the Machinery Movers and Riggers Union.
The union has a long history of bigheartedness. After World War II, they donated their services to move the captured German submarine U 505 to its home in the Museum of Science & Industry. The massive undertaking took them a month. Now, Fulton’s Local 136 is making an initial purchase of ten canes to donate to veteran’s groups like the VFW and the American Legion.
Bob is hoping that national organizations, like Wounded Warriors, will also provide amazing canes to the many vets who need them. In the meantime, he is campaigning for the cane locally. He gave a demonstration to the River Forest Chamber of Commerce and received a positive response. He plans to present the cane to Forest Park’s chamber and service organizations like Kiwanis and Rotary. He is also placing posters at any business that will let him.
Although the patent is still pending, the cane is already in production at Walworth Engineering. Bob currently has a supply of fifty canes. He hopes that the PX in Indianapolis, which supplies 126 VA hospitals, will someday stock amazing canes.
Regardless of how popular the cane becomes, we must never forget the sacrifice of vets like Bob and his brother Bill, who was killed in France shortly after D-Day. Bob almost paid the ultimate price himself, when his merchant ship took a torpedo off the coast of North Africa. Today, he’s still spry enough to get around without a cane but dearly wants them in the hands of the veterans and elderly who need them. Amazing indeed!
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.