As a young boy, Louis Cataldo knew his life could be cut short at any moment. After losing a friend before the age of 10, Louis questioned the purpose and mission of his life. In his soul, he heard a response to this rhetorical question … Help your fellow man. Do your share to make the world a better place.
A Cape Cod resident for 63 years, Louis fulfilled the call to serve his fellow man. At 92, Louis recalls some of his most memorable contributions – 30 years in law enforcement; pioneering finger-print scanning methods; founding and leading Tales of Cape Cod, a museum to preserve Cape Cod’s history; authoring 2 books, numerous booklets and articles on Cape Cod history and Christian morality; and leading countless civic and historical committees, projects and events to preserve the legacy of Barnstable County for future generations.
The Early Years
Louis Cataldo, born to Lawrence and Angela (Ciampa) Cataldo on June 11, 1920, was raised in East Boston and Winthrop, Massachusetts. After graduating from Winthrop High School in 1938, he enlisted in the United States Navy serving at various air stations. He was later assigned to a newly built aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Randolph CV15, and became a plank-owner. Louis served in World War II between 1939-1945, fought aboard this carrier at Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Tokyo Bay. In these expeditions, his carrier was struck twice and he narrowly missed death.
After WWII, Louis graduated from the National Academy of Broadcasting in Washington, D.C. in 1946. He worked as First Assistant Recording Engineer at the United States House and Senate Recording facilities capturing oral reports of many government dignitaries.
While in Washington, D.C., Louis met and courted Lora Ruth Gardner, who was serving in the office of Secretary of State Edward Stettinius. The couple married in June, 1947 and settled in Cape Cod, Massachusetts where they raised three (3) sons, Steven, Michael and Louis.
Law Enforcement Career
Louis served nearly 30 years leading law enforcement organizations on Cape Cod. He served as Barnstable County Deputy Sheriff assigned to the Barnstable County Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI). His law enforcement contributions were noticed by J. Edgar Hoover who recommended Louis to attend the FBI National Academy, 64th Class in Washington, D.C. He went on to serve as Barnstable County Chief Deputy Sheriff and then became Director of Barnstable County Bureau of Criminal Investigations and Police Academy. In 1974, Lou was appointed Chief of Police for the Town of Dennis, Massachusetts. He retired in 1976 and formed his own investigative detective agency.
During his law enforcement career, Louis solved many cases due to his investigative techniques and diligence to pursue every lead. In addition to solving many Cape Cod crimes, Louis contributed to investigations for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the 1960s, including the Brinks Robbery and Boston Strangler cases. Louis noted that developing personal rapport with informants along with physical evidence was key to his success.
Louis also took the helm in many law enforcement associations, including President of the Massachusetts Police Training Officers Association, Regional Vice President of the International Association for Identification, Chairman of the Barnstable County Public Safety Council, Coordinator of the Cape Cod Investigators Association, and membership in the Massachusetts Deputy Sheriff’s Association; National Sheriff’s Association and Veterans of Foreign War.
Pioneer of Law Enforcement Technology
While serving as Director of the Barnstable County, Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), Louis spent untold hours in the labor-intensive task of gathering physical evidence at crime scenes. Time and access to evidence were fundamentals in breaking cases. With computer technology breakthroughs emerging in the 1950’s, Louis envisioned a way to hasten the collection of physical evidence while reducing man-hours and labor costs. He spent countless off-duty hours researching ways to store and avail finger-print evidence to aid law enforcement authorities across county and state boundaries. Changes were afoot in law enforcement practices, too. New laws required stringent forensic evidence to prosecute a suspect.
The timing was right for Louis’ solution. He proposed a finger-print scanning device that would examine and classify each finger print in minutes compared to many man-hours of manual searches. Louis first proposed a scanner in August, 1955 at the 40th Annual Conference of the International Association for Identification (IAI) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In collaboration with Baird-Atomic, Inc., a Cambridge-based research and development firm, a plan was developed to modify existing optical-character technology for the purpose of finger-print scanning. In 1960, the plan was presented to the Attorney General of Massachusetts and later to the 48th IAI Conference in Rochester, New York in 1963.
Throughout the 1950’s and ‘60s, Louis Cataldo educated law enforcement and state officials by publishing whitepapers and articles including, “Single Fingerprint Punch Card System by Automatic and Electronic Means”(1954) and the “New Approach to Single Finger Prints (1958). He was also featured in key publications including: “Fingerprint and Identification” (1956, 1959); “Law and Order” (1959) and Business Digest – Cape Cod (1957.) Louis contributed to a variety of publications: “Study and Future Needs for Technical Equipment, B.C.I. Sherriff’s Office (1998); Christian Science Monitory (1966, 1967) and Master Detective (1975).
Louis’ work, known as “The Cataldo System”, was acknowledged by the FBI as an integral contribution in the advancement of crime detection, but the solution was still evolving. Louis repeatedly appealed to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to invest in research for crime investigation and prevention solutions, but funding was difficult to obtain. He stated in a Christian Science Monitor article in September, 1967:
“Today, more than ever before, law enforcement needs these tools to combat the spiraling crime rate. The advent of recent Supreme Court decisions, which make it exceedingly difficult to successfully prosecute criminal cases, now places physical evidence at the forefront. The problem, he adds, is getting those holding the purse strings to see the need for such research.”
The FBI later developed finger-print scanning methods using computer technologies, as Louis envisioned. Louis will always be associated with this crucial innovation in crime fighting. In early 2001, a Boston-area Chief of Police recalls learning about the “Cataldo System” while he studied at the Police Academy. Louis will be remembered as a prime-mover catapulting finger-print scanning to where it is today
Historian & Archivist
Louis’ recording engineering experience in Washington, D.C. provided the technical and leadership prowess to steward Cape Cod history for 63 years. As founder of Tales of Cape Cod, Louis serves as historian and archivist, collecting hundreds of oral histories, thousands of documents, photographs, audio, video and film materials, artifacts and properties to preserve and secure Cape Cod treasures for years to come.
Confirmed by the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., Louis was the first person to use an audio recorder on the Cape Cod peninsula. Voices of seamen, tradesmen and villagers were captured to preserve the lifestyle of hardworking residents of the time.
In 1949, Louis established Tales of Cape Cod, Inc., a non-profit organization. One year later, Louis asked Dorothy Worrell, Editor of the Barnstable Patriot, who had great interest in his work, to serve as Vice-President. To help fund the museum and to share his passion for history, Louis authored a booklet “Cape Cod IQ” and produced a historical radio quiz program called “Cape Cod Question Bee” in 1951. As Tales of Cape Cod, Inc. became more established, Louis authored and published various Tales of Cape Cod materials (1956, 1961, 1989, 1999); and Cape Cod Trivia (1987 and 2002.)
Louis’ efforts reached beyond preserving oral history. He was pivotal in acquiring properties of historical significance that otherwise would have been lost. Louis was intrigued by native American history due to the ancestry of two people in his life- his wife, Lora, with descendants from the Cherokee Indian Tribe and John Peters, a close friend, with descendants from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.
Louis’ affinity toward the Wampanoag Tribe and its integral part of Cape Cod history motivated him to acquire7.5 acres of the Iyannough burial site in Cummaquid, Massachusetts using $1,000 of his own proceeds from the “Cape Cod IQ” booklet.
Louis and Dorothy developed a close relationship with the native American Indians of Mashpee. Both served as Board members for the Old Indian Church Meeting House Authority where they helped restore and preserve the oldest Indian church in the country. Louis was made an Honorary Member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and was given the Indian name “Talking Leaves.”
Louis and Dorothy went on to acquire the vacant Old Customs House on Route 6A from the Federal Government for a sum of $1.00 for historical organizations to store archives. This building was re-named the Donald G. Trayser Museum. Years later the building was abandoned and was acquired for a 2nd time by Louis for a small annual sum paid to the Town of Barnstable. It is now home of the United States Coast Guard Museum, where he served as first President of the Board. In 1970, Louis was instrumental in the rescue, relocation and restoration of America’s oldest wooden jail house which sits upon the Trayser Museum property today.
Together, Louis and Dorothy’s work with Tales of Cape Cod built a legacy that remains active today. More than several hundred interviews are available at Tales of Cape Cod Museum and website, talesofcapecod.org and at the Sturgis Library in Barnstable Village. For more than 40 years, lectures have been held weekly every summer at the Olde Colonial Courthouse.
Throughout the community, Louis proposed and directed erecting of commemorative statues memorializing key United States heroes with Cape Cod roots, including James Otis (1991) and Mercy Otis Warren (2001) located at the Barnstable County Superior Courthouse; Indian Chief Iyannough (1995) at the Village Green, Main Street, Hyannis; and John F. Kennedy (2007) at the JFK Museum in Hyannis.
As a historian, Louis was named archivist for Barnstable County, and has served as founder of many historical organizations and commemorative events, including: Chairman of the Barnstable Historical Commission, Coordinator of the National Bicentennial Commission for Barnstable County, Chairman of the Mayflower II Committee. Due to his indepth knowledge, Louis was asked to lead the Barnstable County Tercentenary Historical Commission.
With the approval of the Barnstable County Commissioners, Louis has created “The Cataldo Barnstable County Archives” located in former House of Correction. With assistance from Tess Korkuch, Archive Secretary and Treasurer, the room holds thousands of treasured documents, recordings and photographs of Cape Cod historical, civic, county, and Native American artifacts, and materials commemorating the sistership between Barnstaple, England and Barnstable, Massachusetts. Materials from Louis’ naval and law enforcement career are also housed there. In commemorating Louis’ tireless efforts to preserve the history of Barnstable County, the County Commissioners named December 22, 2010 as “Lou Cataldo Day.”
Louis’ vision for capturing Cape Cod history safeguards “a rich heritage of early Cape Cod [which] has been perpetuated and preserved as living history for future generations.”
Author on Morality
After many years leading criminal investigations and studying the criminal mind, Louis was compelled to write about man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. In his two books “Judgment Seat” (1992) and “Oh, What Fools Ye Mortals Be” (2009), Louis reveals his personal Christian faith perspective about man’s purpose on earth, the role of free will and its consequences for those who take a deviant path.
As a major organizer for the 1976 Bicentennial events, Louis sparked a friendship with Parliament member, the Honorable Tony Spellar of Barnstaple, England. Lou and Tony fostered exchange visits between the two towns, Barnstable, Massachusetts, U.S. and Barnstaple England. In 2005, Louis was the second U.S. citizen to receive the title of Honorary Burgess of Barnstaple of North Devon, England, UK. He was also proclaimed Honorary Burgess of Barnstable, Massachusetts in 2005.
Civic and Charitable Community Advocate
Louis also cared for the welfare of his fellow man by serving as President of the Cape Cod United Fund and was one of the founding Directors for Cape Cod YMCA.
Honored for a Life-Time of Service
With a life-time serving as a devoted public servant, career law enforcement officer, pioneer of fingerprint scanning technology, historian, author, community and civic leader, Louis received many commendations, awards, citations and proclamations, including: Nominee, Governor’s Points of Light, 2007, James Otis Jr. Man of the Year, Barnstable Town, 2005, NAACP, Services and contributions for the betterment of mankind, 2005 Life-Time Achievement by the International Association of Identification and New England Chapter, 2001, B’nai B’rith Citizen of Year, 1974; Honorary Deputy Secretary State of Mass, 1974; Barnstable County Commission Proclamations, 2002, 2005, 2007; Heritage Stewardship Award, Cape Cod Maritime Research Assn., 2007; Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, 2005.
Responding to “The Call”
Louis Cataldo’s early childhood mission was manifest by tirelessly seeking solutions to difficult problems – protecting his fellowman through innovation, preserving treasures from the past and securing a legacy for future generations. His writings also share moral lessons to help those of this world prepare for the next.
The prophesy of Louis’ lifetime mission was echoed in a personal reflection while aboard the USS Randolph. In May of 1945, he wrote: “Our journey through life is but a short one. Why then shouldn’t each of us do our share to make this a better world, to live in peace and happiness? In this way, we can obtain to the fullest, the better things in life. Should our journey be unexpectedly cut short, at least we may enter a new life with the better side of ourselves still embedded in our soul.”
Louis has indeed made this world “a better place” with honor and distinction. His contributions make up the testament of his of service and will never be forgotten.