This Son of Gloucester Lived a Good Life, and Had a Good Story to Tell

Friday, April 8, 2011

There will be a funeral this Sunday, April 10, in Gloucester for Peter Prybot, a lobsterman who died less than two miles offshore from where he moored his boat in Pigeon Cove. While working alone, as was his practice, on the afternoon of Sunday, April 3, Peter became entangled in a lobster pot line, was pulled overboard into the freezing ocean, and drowned.

A lifelong resident of Gloucester, Peter was well known and well liked on Cape Ann. The turnout for his memorial service and funeral Mass at St. Joachim's Church in Rockport will be large.

I had the good fortune to make Peter's acquaintance a few years back as part of our company's work for the Fishing Partnership Health Plan (FPHP), a unique plan that provides health coverage to Massachusetts fishermen and receives financial support from the state and federal governments to do so. Part of our work for the FPHP is promotional in nature. I was assigned to interview Peter, a longtime FPHP subscriber and born storyteller, (he was a UMass Amherst grad and author of two books), and to write a testimonial to the Plan in his voice. It was one of the nicest and easiest writing jobs I ever had.

In memory of Peter and his adventurous life, and in tribute to the concept of public-private partnering that is at the heart of the FPHP's success, I'd like to reprint his testimonial now in its entirety:

"I grew up in Gloucester, not far from the ocean and a granite-block cove where some lobstermen moored their boats. I loved to watch them getting their boats ready early in the morning, and then rowing out and setting off for a day of work on the water. And I loved watching them coming back later in the day and unloading their catches.

I was fascinated by lobstering. I don't know exactly what it was -- the boats, the independence of making a living from the sea, the power and beauty of the ocean, and possibly never knowing what each trap would bring up? Whatever it was, I decided to be a lobsterman.

I also decided not to wait until I was grown up to prove I could be good at it. In the summer after sixth grade, when I was 12 years old, I persuaded my father to buy me a wooden skiff, a pair of oars and a dozen traps. I was in business! I worked that entire summer, almost every day, tending my traps and selling lobsters to the local markets. At the end, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I was a success as a small businessman -- very small -- and I had probably earned more money than most 12-year-olds in Gloucester that summer.

That's when my father brought me back to earth. 'When are you going to pay me back,' he wanted to know. 'For what?' I asked. 'For your boat and traps,' he said. 'You owe me $50.' We hadn't talked before about my paying him back. I had assumed that my start in lobstering was a gift. He had assumed it was a loan. Of course, I paid him. I looked up to my father. I never wanted to disappoint him. On top of that, it was the best thing for me, even though the pay-back took a big bite out of my profits. It taught me the value of a dollar.

When you've pulled lobster traps out of the water, you can't help but remember the effort it took to earn money that way. I learned the value of a dollar 48 years ago, and I've never forgotten it. To this day I know what's required of me to make one dollar, and what that dollar can and cannot buy. I watch every dollar carefully. This is one reason my wife and I have always been so pleased with the Fishing Partnership Health Plan: It's a good value. We've been members of the Plan since it began in 1997. The rates have always been fair and affordable, the coverage comprehensive, and the quality of care high. Who could ask for more?

Fortunately, we haven't needed the insurance for anything major. But, if we did, it's good to know the Plan would be there for us. You know, we're old school, my wife and I. We pay our bills on time. Sometimes, we even pay the premium for the health plan early, on the day we receive the bill. We recognize how important the Plan is in our lives, and this is one way to show our appreciation. If my father, God rest his soul, could see me paying the premium early, I'm sure he would approve. Behind the cost, he'd see the benefit, the huge value, in the Fishing Partnership Health Plan."

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