Media Resident, Korean War Vet Says Enlisting Changed Life Around
This Media resident has 'gotten in trouble' a few times throughout his 77 years but he always comes out smiling.
As a Korean War veteran, an actor, gang member, golfer, political and community enthusiast, husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather, this Media resident has led several lives, three times over.
Bob Dimond is pretty well known around Media. He’ll have a joke and smile for any passerby. But was anyone aware that he was in a gang when he was a teen? Or that he searched for land mines in the Korean War or rubbed elbows with stars like Mark Wahlberg and Paris Hilton? Even when it seems as if Dimond may be down on his luck, this 77-year-old bounces back and comes out smiling.
How It All Started
Bob Dimond was actually born Robert Louis Kelly in Virginia and was the youngest of 11 children.
But he never knew that family. He never met his father and met his mother at the age of 22.
His father, Fred Kelly, was arrested for bootlegging in 1935 and the family was split up and the children sent all across the county. Dimond, then 18 months old, was sent to live with his aunt Margaret Dimond in Southwest Philadelphia.
Dimond, who was able to reconnect with a few siblings over the years, was legally adopted by his aunt and his name was changed to Dimond.
Dimond attended West Catholic High School, but he didn’t graduate from there because he got into some trouble with the law and enlisted in the Army instead of graduating.
Dimond says he was in the Iron Jaws gang in Southwest Philadelphia. There were about 150 guys in the gang, he says, and the initiation was to pull down their pants and moon a crowd of hotel guests in the city. The gang initiation may seem humorous now, but the gang had a tough side too.
An older gang member was having some girl troubles and "suggested" a guy in a neighboring gang be "set straight." So, Dimond says, he ran into the opposing gang member on the street and beat him up.
"He was hurt pretty bad," Dimond says.
Dimond put the guy in the hospital and Dimond was arrested and charged with assault and battery and sent to prison for a few days.
"Then the judge found me and said, 'You wanna fight, go fight in Korea,'" Dimond says.
As soon as he was released from jail, Dimond enlisted in the Army.
Army Days in Korea
Dimond enlisted at 17 years old since finishing high school wasn't a priority in 1951 and getting himself out of trouble with the law was a priority No. 1. (Although he did go on to get his GED and eventually graduated from Temple University after 13 years of night school.)
"I was happy to enlist," he says. "I think it did a lot with changing my life around."
Dimond spent two and half years in Korea and "made sergeant."
"I say I 'made' sergeant because I got in some trouble," he laughs, realizing it isn't the first time he's uttered those words during the interview.
Dimond says he got in a little trouble with his corporal one night in Seoul, Korea after he flipped an Army truck driving home from the bar with his buddies, and had a military stripe taken away. No one was injured but the truck was ruined.
"We got busted and they took a stripe away," he says. "I never got it back."
But Dimond did serious work while he was in Korea. He was a Combat Engineer, which meant he was part of the group that was sent out to look for land mines.
"We cleared the fields of land mines ahead of the troops," he says. "We were basically on our hands and knees feeling around."
Once they found a land mine, that would put dynamite on it, attach it to a wire, step back about 20 yards and set it off, Dimond says.
"Then we’d go back, and do it again," he says.
Dimond was never injured during the war, but about 3,300 members of his 25th Division were killed in the war, he estimates.
When the Korean War was essentially over in 1953, Dimond says it was strange when it was announced to his platoon.
"They called us into formation and said there’s a cease fire. That was it. So officially the war still isn’t over. I can be called back anytime," Dimond jokes.
Dimond was not sent home immediately though, he stayed in Korea for about another six months clearing away land mines and creating and paving new roads.
Back Home State Side
Dimond returned to the States in January 1954 and met back up with his old gang friends, some of whom also had enlisted in the military. Dimond still has lunch with his Iron Jaws friends to this day.
"We’re all in our 70s now, we’re not fighting anymore," he laughs.
After the Army, Dimond worked as a compositer in the printing industry for almost 45 years. He worked on the telephone directories typeset and would use hot metal to template out the pages. One directory page template could weight about 16 pounds, he says.
"I could read upside down and backwards," Dimond says. "You just got used to it."
Dimond married his first wife Marlies and they had six children together before they divorced and he later married Dale, who had his seventh child. So in total, Dimond has seven children, 13 grandchildren and is expecting his fifth great-grandchild.
Dimond moved from East Landsdowne where he lived for 27 years to Media in 1997.
In East Landsdowne, he served four years as auditor, eight years on township council and eight years as mayor. He’s currently serving his 10th year as Media’s tax collector. He ran for Delaware County Council three times and lost, but that is how he met his now wife, Dale, after he spoke at a political dinner. Dale is the committee person for the Media Democrat Committee.
A Star is Born
Politics isn’t Dimond’s only extracurricular activity. He’s also a member and treasurer of the Media Rotary, executive director of the Veterans Legacy Project which coordinates both the Memorial and Veteran’s Day parades, he’s commander of the American Legion in Media and co-chair and treasurer of the Media Democrat Committee.
But in his spare time, he goes golfing with his former high school classmates every week and is a working actor.
Dimond, whose first acting gig was in 1993, is currently auditioning to be in his 45th theater production and he’s had several appearances in television and movies. He’s been in Cold Case, seven episodes of Hack, The Simple Life and movies National Treasure, Rocky Balboa, Lovely Bones and The Happening.
And he’s not just standing in the backdrop looking pretty, he’s had small speaking roles in many of his appearances and chatted with stars like Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Mark Wahlberg and John Leguizamo.
"We had a nice conversation with Mark Wahlberg (between takes on The Happening set at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia). He was a super guy. He talked with us for awhile and I invited him to go golfing with me," Dimond says.
Dimond talks about his time filming with Paris Hilton on The Simple Life and says the on-screen conversation got pretty raunchy.
Dimond and his wife played an older couple sitting on a bus behind Hilton and Richie and they were to have an average conversation with each other. On camera, Hilton asked Dimond if his son was hot and the sexual innuendoes continued from there. Dimond laughs about the encounter but says his wife was a bit embarrassed at the time.
Dimond did say Hilton apologized off-camera and said she’s told to say those things.
Dimond says his acting experiences are fun and Dale got him involved with it.
"I got hooked," he says. "Yeah, I do the whole thing, sing, dance and everything."
To say Dimond is living his life to the fullest is an understatement. It seems he’s been singing and dancing throughout his 77 years. Look for Dimond at the Veteran’s Day Parade on Friday, likely along side Vice President Joe Biden who will also be in attendance.
Veterans Day Coverage: Check out our live blog coverage from Friday's Veteran's Day Parade. See our live photo coverage here and our story and more photos here. Watch a parade recap and Biden's speech in our video here. And upload your own photos here.