There's Something About Rocket

ByABC News
January 14, 2004, 3:51 PM

Jan. 15 -- His name is Ray Valiere, but almost everybody calls him Rocket. Though it's hard to imagine now, the high notes in Rocket's life were once few and far between.

In fact, for most of his 45 years he's led a singularly sad and solitary existence.

Since birth, his disabilities both physical and mental narrowed his world and defined his life. Deformed bones and muscles make walking difficult. He has but one eye and only partial use of that.

Not surprisingly, as a kid growing up in Westerly, R .I., he was easy prey for bullies. Schoolmate David Zapatka remembers being in between classes and watching them knock books out of Rocket's hands.

"He'd carry his books up high because he would limp along and put his books up here and it really was an easy target," said Zapatka.

High school graduation was followed by the crushing loss of his father. And Rocket became a virtual recluse in his own home.

Rocket might still be there if he hadn't come to dinner at a restaurant in Walpole, Mass., 15 years ago. There, he met Tommy Songin, a former pro hockey player for the Boston Bruins.

At the time, Songin didn't know how much he needed a friend like Rocket but from that moment on neither man's life would ever be the same.

An Incredible Love Story

"It was July 5," Rocket told ABCNEWS' Jay Schaedler. "I just hit it off with him. It was fabulous. We never had so much belly laughter in our life."

"I just think he had a presence about him," said Songin. "He's got a lot to offer, a very bright guy. You know, he listens. He's a solid soul, you know? You look into his eyes, and and he's got something that captures you."

From that first conversation a friendship was born and a treasure uncovered. Songin discovered that Rocket is a virtual walking, talking and singing encyclopedia of entertainment: from Broadway, to opera, to TV, to films.