For 91 years, James Henry, a lifelong fisherman, did not know how to read and write.
Now 98, the Mystic man has changed that and penned a memoir full of short stories.
Henry said it was his ambition to learn since he was young, but life’s obstacles always got in the way.
“I felt so ashamed that I couldn’t read or anything like that, but I covered myself pretty good in certain respects. I had to because I didn’t know what to do,” Henry said.
Although he sought his wife’s help several years ago, she was too sick to teach him to read at the time.
After her death, Henry's granddaughters encouraged him to start learning again and were able to get help from the Literacy Volunteers of Eastern Connecticut.
His granddaughters weren't the only ones to push him toward his goal of literacy. His nephew Bobby stopped taking phone calls from him and only communicated with Henry through handwritten letters.
Mark Hogan, a retired East Lyme High School English teacher, met with Henry twice a week and taught him everything from letters to punctuation.
“He was very willing to do this thing, but he had his own prejudices against things like punctuation, apostrophes, he called them butterflies,” Hogan said.
After nearly a year of tutoring, Henry was writing stories by hand on a yellow legal pad.
"I said 'My God, he's got 25 or 30 stories here,' and he said, 'We oughta make a book out of it,' and I said 'Yeah. why not.'"
From those short stories, the memoir "A Fisherman's Language" was born.
One of the last pages of Henry’s memoir is a picture of a letter he wrote to his nephew.
Henry’s granddaughter, Marlisa McLaughlin, said the book's real message is to never give up.
“I don’t even know if I’ve digested the magnitude of this because it’s touching so many,” McLaughlin said.
Fowler Road Press. based on North Stonington, is publishing the book. You can buy it online for $21.95 or at Bank Square Books, Mystic Seaport Museum Bookstore and Other Tiger, in Westerly, Rhode Island.