I had in mind to write a long, glowing tribute to my dad, but time (and my eyesight) has gotten away from me today. So I’m going to try to capture some of his life in pictures and not write all the things that are in my heart (it would take too long this evening).
First up, some photos from when he was a boy. (Descriptions below.)
In the photo at top left, he’s the baby, with his mother and his brother Tom. Top right, he’s the boy on the left. That’s his mom behind him; the other woman is one of Grandma’s three sisters, Retha. In the middle is dad’s sister Joan (pronounced JoAnn), and on the right is brother Tom. In this photo, it seems Grandma is pregnant with Uncle Carlos. Below left is Tom, Joan and Dad. In the last photo, below right, is Grandma, Aunt Ednora (another sister), Uncle Tom, Aunt Joan and Dad. (And, gosh, after staring at this picture for hours, I just noticed two babies in the arms of their mothers. I was so focused on Dad and his siblings! Grandma is probably holding Uncle Carlos, and Aunt Ednora — or “Aunt Gobb” — is probably holding her first born, Janice.) I assume all of these photos were taken in Izard County.
The next phase of his life shown here is high school. Here’s his senior portrait. Wasn’t he handsome?
In this photo of the Class of 1957, Cave City, Arkansas, he’s in the bottom row, third from the left (he was class vice president). My mother (with the same last name, coincidentally — they weren’t married yet) is the first person in the second row (Dorothy Taylor). They got married on Nov. 7, 1958, and she didn’t even have to change her name.
Dad loved his family, and here are a couple of photos of us with him.
First is Mom and Dad with J.T. on my big brother’s first Christmas, 1960. J.T. would have been just under 3 months old. And the next one is quite possibly my all-time-favorite picture, because …
… it reminds me of one of my favorite memories of Dad. I inherited my chocoholism from him, and when I was little (OK, even when I was big), Mom would serve us chocolate ice cream. I would hurry and gobble up mine out of my little blue plastic bowl, then climb into Dad’s chair with him and, ever the little helper, join him in finishing his ice cream. We don’t have photo evidence of this nightly ritual, but this is the place where it all happened.
A big part of Dad’s life was cars. He was a mechanic but also knew how to restore classic cars inside and out.
The photo above is dated June 1963 (when I was 6 to 7 months old), but we have lots of photos with dad and cars. I simply didn’t have time to go through all of them last weekend when we were at Mom’s. This photo was probably taken in Coalinga, California, where we lived then.
As for the two photos above, Dad built this car from a kit just a few months before he died. I’m going out on a limb here, because it’s a little too late too call my mom tonight (and even too late to call Uncle Carlos in California), but I think it’s a 1929 Mercedes Gazelle. I had it in my head that it was a 1937, but I found a 1929 one online that looks just like this one, and 1929 now rings a certain bell in my head. I typically wouldn’t publish something until I was sure, but I want to post this on his birthday. I will straighten out the details as soon as I can. (You would think that after watching Dad and Uncle Carlos work on so many cars in my lifetime I would be better at identifying them.)
I probably should have showed you the shop first. He built it (with the help of older brother Tom — and me, on one of my trips home from California) specifically for working on cars and puttering on his many projects. He had “retired” in his 50s because of a 30-year-old injury and heart problems, but he certainly couldn’t sit idle inside the house. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, he loved to be outdoors when he could. The shop was out back behind our house in Batesville. Dad could fix anything — from a broken record player to an old lamp. Besides mechanical stuff, he could do carpentry and electrical. A Renaissance man. His mind never seemed to stop, and he could answer almost any question I had for him, whether it pertained to politics, the economy, agriculture, the Bible, sports, physics or just about any subject you could name (except maybe pop culture). Most of it was self-taught.
These three pictures show three phases of construction of Dad’s shop:
Barely started …