1959 Providence Journal Article
A Japanese sniper on Okinawa back in 1945 made things tough for Albert P. Teoli of Cranston.
The sniper caught him in the thigh, his buddies dragged him 200 yards off the line, and in two months he was in Thomas M. England General Hospital at Atlantic City, recuperating and joking with his army nurse. His left leg had been amputated.
The soldier returned home with a Purple Heart, an artificial leg, and a great deal of shattered confidence.
He faced the problem of earning a living. His former job as a roofer and tinsmith was out. One day in 1949 he dropped into the Rhode Island Artificial Limb Co. in Providence for repairs to his leg.
The company makes, and fits, artificial legs and teaches amputees how to wear them. Mr. Teoli was offered on-the-job training in the business. Four years later he bought a 50 percent share. Last June he bought the entire business.
Now the disabled veteran is head of his own artificial limb shop in Rhode Island, servicing about 800 to 900 amputees a year.
The husky, energetic Mr. Teoli confesses he had some help in moving from a discouraged one-legged war veteran to a successful businessman, the boss of his own company. Among the other things he brought home with him from the service was a second lieutenant.
Married his Nurse
The officer was his nurse, Kathleen. Mr. Teoli was her first patient at the hospital. The private first class married her at Fort Belvoir, Va.
They reside at 40 Gleason St., Cranston, and have two sons, Albert, Jr., 12, and William, 9, both students at Stadium School.
Despite his handicap, Mr. Teoli manages to jump into community activities and spend plenty of time on the go with his family. Every Saturday they do some horseback riding, along with another amputee employee at the shop, Walter Gotsch.
Last summer on a trip to Montana the family took a three and a half mile ride at Mount Rushmore.
Mr. Teoli's place of business is located at 602 Elmwood Ave., Providence. A steady stream of veterans and other amputees come into the shop. In the back room a Japanese rifle brought home from the war hangs from the ceiling. "We tell the veterans we'll use that on them if they won't stop complaining about their legs," Mr. Teoli says jocularly.
He bought the business from Leonard B. Watson who went to Canada to open a similar shop. Employed with him along with Mr. Gotsch is James Hanna, who lost his leg in Italy during the war.
The three of them work together in the back room fashioning the wooden legs from rough blocks to exacting individual measurements. When they are completely shaped the legs are plastic laminated for strength. Mr. Gotsch is the leather expert. He makes the "corsets" for the upper thigh and the leather fitting at the top of the leg. Everything is made there but the feet, which are purchased readymade.
The company holds contracts with the Veterans Administration and the state Department of Education vocational rehabilitation department.
"Artificial legs are a wonderful substitute, but they're nothing like your own, no more than false teeth," he said. "In this business you're close to your customers. They get to depend on you."
He mentioned an elderly man who had left the shop after a fitting. "That fellow was scared stiff when he first came in. Now he's back on his job. I get great personal satisfaction out of helping people like this."
Mr. Teoli and Mr. Hanna are currently two of 30 veterans in the country who are trying out a new lightweight VA limb. It weighs about five pounds less than standard artificial leg, and eliminates the "corset" and metal side supports.