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Marine veteran and author has a lifetime of stories to tell

Gene Rackovitch selling his books in Greenport. Photo: Peter Blasl

It’s Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and Greenport Village is bustling. Behind a table set up on the sidewalk across Front Street from Mitchell Park, Marine veteran Gene Rackovitch, 90, is chatting with passers-by and holding an author signing for the seven books he has written.

“There’s a lot of my life in these books,” he says. “These are my babies.”

Rackovitch was born and raised in Flushing, NY and joined the Marine Corp in 1944.  He’d only been on duty for six months when the war ended and he was sent to Guam for 18 months to finish out his enlistment.

“We guarded war criminals in the stockade,” he says. “We had to go into the jungles and search for Japanese soldiers. Boy, they were smart and fast.”

It was from his experiences in Guam that his first book, “Marines and Renegades” came about.

He began writing in his 40s, stories about being a teenage runaway, his time in the military and his career as a milkman in New York City. All of Rackovitch’s books are self-published except for “Marines and Renegades.”

“I base my stories on things that really happened but I put them in fictional form,” he says. “I write in the vernacular style, like I was just telling you a story face to face.”

Rackovitch’s books about being a Marine have been particularly well received and in 2014 “My Corp” won the Military Writers Association’s silver medal.

Married for 62 years, Rackovitch and his wife have lived in Greenport since the late ’90s. After raising their six children in Uniondale they moved to the North Fork to start a jewelry business, which they ran successfully until retiring a few years ago.

Most years he can be found at the Maritime Festival in front of Lydia’s Antiques selling his books and chatting with people as they walk by.

“I do pretty well,” he says. “And a few of my books even made their way to amazon.com.”

Rackovitch isn’t actively writing right now, although he confesses that he has “a few things on the computer” he’s working on.

Katharine is a writer and photographer who has lived on the North Fork for nearly 40 years, except for three-plus years in Hong Kong a decade ago, working for the actor Jackie Chan. She lives in Cutchogue. Email Katharine