Date: July 1st, 1999
Thomas L. "Lou" Letizia at 61 years old was a police officer in El Portal, Fla. He's was not a veteran poised for retirement, though - Letizia was a rookie.
In January of that year he graduated with 37 others from the police academy at the Miami-Dade Community College's School of Justice, becoming one of the oldest cadets to do so. He graduated in the top 10 percent of his class, and won the men's physical fitness award for doing 70 push-ups in one minute, 70 sit-ups in one minute and running 1.5 miles in 13:13.
His dream to become a police officer was hatched more than 40 years ago in Brooklyn, when he and four high-school classmates all decided to become New York City police officers.
However, said Letizia, "My grandmother tried to talk me into going to college. She said, 'You can [be a police officer] when you get out."
So Letizia went to college, then joined the Army. He went to Vietnam, returned to the United States, got married and became an engineer at New York Telephone, which later became NYNEX. Letizia worked there for 25 years. Suddenly he was 52 years old, the dream of being a police officer far in the past. He retired, and moved to Florida.
But retirement didn't stick.
"I took a part-time job in El Portal as a code enforcement officer," he said. "At 60 I decided to try retirement again, but it was kind of boring for me; I had too much energy."
The El Portal police chief encouraged Letizia to enter the police academy and revive his dream.
To have such backing was a real opportunity, said Letizia. "You can't just decide to go to the police academy," he said.
With most of the academy students at least half his age, he had to fight a few stereotypes. But soon after meeting Letizia, his class adopted a motto: "If Letizia can do it, we can do it."
"This was an opportunity I gave away 40 years ago and it was presented to me when I was 60," said Letizia. "It's never too late to achieve your dreams. Just stay physically fit, and keep doing things."
Letizia is now approaching his 70th birthday in March of 2008, and he is still going strong. He is currently a part time reserve officer for the Ocean Ridge Police Department located in Palm Beach County Florida.