LAS VEGAS – Bill Benedetto and Willis Eichel recently met at a Barnes and Noble bookstore after a lifetime tracking different careers. Sixty years earlier, the two Livermore Falls high school graduates had driven to Boston to enlist in the Coast Guard.

Following three years of service, their lives diverged, as one elected to make sailing his calling while the other decided to seek his fortune elsewhere. As it turned out, both men achieved notable success in their respective careers.

Benedetto spent 28 years in the Coast Guard: sailing, in port security; and as shipping commissioner and marine investigator with the Merchant Marine. After retiring, he obtained his undergraduate and law degrees and, with his wife, Barbara, as his legal sidekick, served as an Oregon trial lawyer for 20 years.

Retiring again, he wrote “Sailing into the Abyss, A True Story of Extreme Heroism on the High Seas,” published by Kensington Publishing Corp. The book won the 2006 U.S. Maritime Literature Award for the best American maritime story of the year. Vegas was a stop on a tour promoting the book.

Eichel, always with a hankering to fly a plane, bought one. That experience led to his attending an aircraft mechanics school where he graduated No. 1 in his class. United Airlines hired him to work as a flight engineer.

He attended United pilot schools and began flying prop-driven planes; then as co-pilot on the smaller jets; and, finally, achieved the dream of flying captain on United’s 727 jets. Completing 37 years with United, he retired and, with his wife, the former Carmen Brackett of Durham, moved to Las Vegas. Eichel spends his spare time building aircraft – not the model type, but actual flying planes.

Events came full circle when the Benedettos and Eichels met at the bookstore, renewing old friendships and recalling memories of school and childhood.

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