Sweet Lou - Who Will Replace Him?
You almost certainly never heard of Louis Bucossi, who died last
week at the age of 91. At his funeral service, I realized that I had
not seen Lou in 30 years or more, our contacts limited to notes
on Christmas cards and a few phone calls. I also realized that
Lou was the kind of guy I had to acknowledge in some fashion.
While you didn’t know of Lou, chances are you have seen the
work of one or more of his three sons, Victor and twins Peter and
Paul. All three have been involved as stunt men or in stunt
coordination for movies and TV (the Sopranos, for example).
Victor is a highly respected teacher and administrator in the
school system of a neighboring town here in New Jersey. His
eloquent eulogy at Lou’s funeral spurred this remembrance and
provided the vignettes that follow.
My wife did see Lou a few years ago when she chanced to find
him working in the pro shop at Baltusrol, site of last year’s PGA
tournament. She found him as friendly and kind as when we
knew him in the 1950s living in a garden apartment complex in
Plainfield, New Jersey. In his eulogy, Victor said the members
of Baltusrol referred to his gentle father as “Sweet Lou”.
A member of the “Greatest Generation”, Lou served in the U.S.
Army in World War II. Victor remembered seeing a letter from
one of Lou’s buddies in the Pacific in which the buddy recalled
Lou giving him 2 dollars when he needed money. Two dollars
back then was a significant sum out of a GI’s pay. That’s the
kind of guy Lou was. He would also give away, not sell, his
ration of cigarettes the Army doled out. The hazards of smoking
were unknown then and those cigarettes were valuable currency.
What touched me most in Victor’s eulogy was his telling of what
happened on bloody Okinawa. After a raging battle, Lou came
upon the body of a mortally wounded Japanese soldier, who was
trying to kill Lou and his buddies just a short while earlier. The
body lay there exposed to the elements. Lou didn’t think it right
that any body, even that of an enemy, should be left that way and
took the time to bury the body. That’s the kind of guy Lou was.
In his last days in the hospital, his devoted sons made sure one of
them or the family was with Lou night and day. At night, Lou
would wake up and ask the son or the nurse if there was anything
he could do for them. That’s the kind of guy Lou was.
At the end of his eulogy, Victor posed the question, “Where does
this kind of guy come from?” Where indeed? In trying to come
up with a topic for this column, this question brought to mind a
problem in some of the world’s developed countries. The
problem - where will the guys and gals of the future, not just
those like Lou, come from? In May, Russian President Putin
addressed the Russian Federal Assembly, citing problems such as
world trade and economic matters. Then he turned to “the most
important matter”, specifically “love, women, children…. the
family…..” His concern was that Russia’s population of about
143 million is declining by roughly 700,000 people every year.
In addition to the papers on corn and ants on stilts in the June 30
issue of Science cited in last week’s column, that issue contained
a special section titled “Science Looks at Life”. Two articles in
this section relate to Putin’s concern: “The Baby Deficit” by
Michael Balter and “Redistributing Work in Aging Europe” by
James Vaupel and Eike Loichinger. Balter discusses the “total
fertility rate”, or TFR. How many children must each woman in
a country have to maintain the same population from year to
year? Ideally, a country has equal numbers of men and women
and all marry each other. In that quaint and utterly unrealistic
situation, the TFR is 2.0, two children per woman (or couple).
Obviously, not every woman has children, the number of men
and women are not equal and marriage is not a requisite for
having children. So, the experts have defined a more complex
TFR fertility measure based on the actual reproductive behavior
of women of differing ages from year to year. I don’t understand
the details of this more realistic TFR but numerically it’s similar
to the simple idealistic model. That is, a TFR of at least 2.0 is
required to maintain a constant population. In advanced nations,
the TFR is assumed to be 2.1, slightly more than 2.0 to account
for the relatively few children who die before a reproductive age.
Today this TFR in Russia is a scant 1.28; hence the net loss of
700,000 population per year.
Russia isn’t alone. Italy and Spain have the same TFR, while
Japan and South Korea weigh in with even lower TFRs of 1.25
and 1.27, respectively. In fact, Canada, China, Australia and all
of Europe have TFRs below 2.0. This surprises me. It seems
like only yesterday experts were warning that population growth
was out of control and Earth’s resources would be exhausted.
Actually, in the less developed and poorest countries, population
is still growing rapidly. Niger tops the list with a TFR of 7.5.
However, even in the poorer countries TFRs are falling. For
example, in Mexico the past thirty years has seen the TFR fall
from 6.5 down to 2.5, while in the Philippines the TFR has fallen
from 8.0 to 3.2.
What about the U.S.A.? After falling to 1.7 in the early 1980s,
the TFR has come back to 2.09. We, of course, have an
increasing population thanks to immigration, legal and illegal. A
TFR of 2.1 certainly seems consistent with the situation in my
neighborhood – the place is loaded with babies and toddlers!
Even so, we still worry about the future of Social Security and a
small number of workers supporting a large number of retirees.
In this regard, the paper in Science on the redistribution of work
in an aging Europe was very interesting. The article shows
“population pyramids” for Germany for 1910, 2005 and 2025.
To visualize the plots, picture a very symmetrical Christmas tree
split vertically down the middle, forming two triangles. The
heights corresponds to age while the widths correspond to the
populations, males on one side, females on the other. The 1910
plots are almost perfect triangles with straight sides. There were
about 800,000 2-year-old boys and about the same number of 2-
year-old girls. As you would expect, there were virtually no 100-
year-olds of either sex. There were no “bulges” in population in
any age group; well, perhaps the faintest wisp of a bulge in the
Contrast that with the 2005 pyramid in Germany; it looks
nothing like a triangle or Christmas tree. To me, the male and
female plots above the age of 30 look like profiles of Franklin D.
Roosevelt with his jaunty jaw being the biggest bulge, roughly
around 40 years of age for both sexes. There seem to be more
people in their mid-60s than there are babies and toddlers and
there are significant numbers, especially of women, in the mid-
80s to 100. Now let’s go to the predicted pyramid for 2025.
Above the age of 30, the plots look to me like profiles of Charles
De Gaulle, with his prominent nose the biggest bulge, peaking at
about 60 and his eyebrows bulging to a lesser extent in the 80s.
Obviously, Germany has a problem. Without going into detail as
to what constitutes a “worker”, the article states that today (2005)
in Germany there are 1.27 nonworkers per worker. In 2025, this
figure is a predicted 1.47, or essentially 3 nonworkers to be
supported by 2 workers. The outlook here in the U.S. is much
better than in Germany, if we take the authors’ calculations.
Today (2005) we have 1.09 nonworkers per worker and, even
better, in 2025 we’ll have 0.99 nonworkers per worker, one
worker supporting one nonworker. That’s better than Germany
but still seems rather dicey to me!
In closing, Victor told my wife that normally you never see the
face of a stuntman in a movie. However, he said that in one
movie he carried off Sandra Bullock in a cake and his face was
shown. I’ve just searched the Web and believe that movie was
“28 Days”, which I now hope to find on DVD. If you’ve seen
the movie, Victor is the spitting image of Sweet Lou.
Allen F. Bortrum