He was airlifted to Tufts Medical Center and spent four months in the hospital, he said.
“It was by seeing how good the nurses were,” he said, that inspired him to think about going into nursing for his second career. He decided that he had the compassion to work with people and “make a difference,” he said.
Going back to school in one’s 50s, however, is a daunting challenge. The elder Willwerth graduated from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, but he had not taken the science courses that are prerequisites for a nursing degree.
“I thought they were going to be too hard,” he said — but then he proved himself wrong.
The first science course he took was physiological chemistry.
“I figured that if I could pass that, I could pass them all,” he said. Jack did more than pass. He earned an A, he said. The teacher, Kim Waligora, is excellent and he gives her much of the credit with the success he achieved, he said.
“People are often more capable than they think they are,” Matthew said. Father and son have both been on the dean’s list, they said.
Does the father ever have to remind the son to do his homework, or vice versa?
“We’re motivated,” Matthew said.
“We’re pretty conscientious,” Jack added.
The money from the scholarships will come in handy, they said. Jack said the cost of books for his courses could easily top $1,000.
Matthew, who does a lot of his work with acrylics and watercolors, noted art supplies are expensive.
Both Willwerths are full-time students. Jack is looking for a position as a nursing assistant while Matthew works part-time at Pier One Imports in North Andover.
“We live day to day,” Jack said. When they head back to their classes in September, they’ll be joined by a third member of their family, Zachary Willwerth, 18, who just graduated from North Andover High School.