At the age of 82, Dick Govoni continues his work at Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) because he still cares.
It’s not his deep care for his co-workers that keeps him going, nor is it his care for money, but for a long-instilled care for doing things the right way.
“One of the things I get frustrated with is teaching new people how to care,” Govoni said. “That is, how to be passionate about the work that you’re doing and go about doing it the right way … you have to work within the book. There’s plenty of stuff you can do inside the book.
“Sometimes, when I’m working, I get a little too far down into the weeds. But I have a problem with people who don’t get down into the weeds.”
Govoni’s care for doing things the right way came from a lesson his father taught him while a young Govoni worked in the back room of his father’s hardware store in Plymouth, Mass.
“The best part about working at the hardware store is being out front where you meet the customers,” Govoni said. “He put me in the back room putting egg cartons together. I wanted to get back out front, so I did a halfway job of doing it so I could get back out front. He took me back in the back room and said, ‘do it again,’ and that was the best training I could ever do.”
That lesson has stuck with Govoni through years of service – from his enlistment in the Marine Corps in 1948, through electronics school, through various flight schools for various planes and helicopters, through several tours, and back into civilian life.
During his visit to MCSC to celebrate Govoni’s 60 years of service to the Marine Corps, both as an active-duty Marine and as a Civilian Marine, General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, gave Govoni a coin and said, “What you are in MCSC is the lifeblood of what’s going on in Afghanistan, Libya and Japan. You’re a stickler for accountability, and that’s what we need right now as we bring equipment out of Afghanistan.”
It is for that reason that Govoni keeps coming to work.
If his wife, Marguerite, had it her way, Govoni would be staying home.
“I want him to be able to enjoy his life,” Marguerite said. “I want him to retire. I think he should stop it, but he says he enjoys life and what he’s doing.”
The two met when Govoni was in electronics school in 1956. He was taking classes and she was in the Navy and working in the office. The two always joke that she would have flunked him if he didn’t marry her – which he did in 1957.
At the time, Marguerite didn’t know much about cooking and even less about running a household. Govoni stepped in and taught her what he knew, and before long, Marguerite comfortably took the helm of her own household.
“When he’s away, someone has to take care of the day-to-day business that goes on,” Marguerite said. “The ship needs a captain.”
“I knew I was in good hands when I was gone,” Govoni added. “If there was some major purchase that she was going to make while I was gone, we would discuss it, but for the most part I knew everything would be taken care of and that’s a lot I didn’t have to worry about.”
Marguerite also spent lots of time with other Marine wives as there was a sense of togetherness within the squadrons her husband was in.
“These were the days when most families had only one car, so if one of the girls had a car, we’d all pile in and go to the commissary or do whatever we needed to do together,” she said. “We were smaller units and the wives were included in everything. In civilian life, you don’t have the camaraderie you have in the squadron. There were dances and birthday parties and kid parties … wherever we were, we had a tight-knit group of women.”
The Govonis now make their home in Spotsylvania, Va., where they have been since 1991. Marguerite hopes that, one day, in the not too distant future, her husband will wake up and not feel the urge to get up and go to work.
But that has not happened.