Dad’s four years in the United States Air Force were some of the most significant of his life. The eldest of eight children of tenant farmers in Central Texas, Dad traveled for the first time during those years. He trained as a jet engine mechanic at Chanute Air Force Base at Rantoul, Illinois. While he was home on leave, he met a vibrant young woman who worked with his sister Julie behind the candy counter at F.W. Woolworth Five and Ten Cent Store in Temple. Like him, Frances loved to dance, and they waltzed as though they had been made for each other. They married during another leave, when he was home for Christmas in 1959. After a brief honeymoon, Dad returned to the base where he was stationed near Ipswich in England. Mom returned to living with her parents and finishing her degree at Mary Hardin Baylor College. When her cousins saw the two of them together, they said, “Frances finally found someone to dance with her.” They waltzed across Texas, Nebraska, and the Caribbean.
Family was at the center of Dad’s life. At home, he and his sister Julie helped their parents take care of the younger children, which meant that Dad learned how to cook. So when my brother Michael and I were children, Mom and Dad canned pickles from our garden, and Dad made noodles just like he and Aunt Julie and their next oldest brother Hubert had. Dad told us about the contests they used to have to see who could cut their noodles thinnest.
Devotion to family continued when Dad and Mom had their own children. Whenever Michael or I came to him with a problem, he would always listen, offer his love and support, and help out in any way he could. He promised Mom that he would always take care of her, and he did, both her and us.
When I was a child, I loved Dad’s story about fog in Ipswich. One day, the base closed because of a weather report that said a fog was coming in off the English Channel. Dad had some task he needed to finish in the hangar, and he figured he had seen fog before. So he ignored the order to return to barracks and returned to work instead. By the time he left the hangar, the fog had rolled in, and Dad couldn’t see his hand in front of his face. The only way he could get back to barracks was to follow the curb with his foot. English fog was different, even from the fog that rose from the creeks out in the country at home.
Well, Dad, the fog has lifted. Your way is clear. And we can look forward to seeing you in Heaven, where you are already looking down on us with Grandma and Grandpa, and Nanny and Poppa, and Lisa and Deborah.
I close with the last words Dad’s father, my Grandpa, said to me:
Spanem bohem. Go with God.