Dad was born February 28, 1927 in Charleston, W.Va. He was the youngest of 4 brothers. The oldest died as an infant. My grandfather, a WWI veteran, worked in the coal and glass industry to support his family of five. One day when Dad was in high school, he was playing football with his friends in a vacant lot. A girl on a horse galloped right through the middle of the game. An argument ensued between my dad and the young girl. They ended up spending the rest of their lives together.
When WWII broke out, Dad's two older brothers enlisted. His oldest brother joined the Navy and his next older brother joined the Army Air Corps. Dad was only 14 years old at the time. When he became old enough, he was biting at the bit to join the fray. He wanted to be a Marine. His dad refused to sign the required permission forms because he thought it was too dangerous and he already had two sons fighting the war. Finally, Dad was able to talk him into letting him join the Coast Guard. Dad convinced his dad he would be guarding our coasts. As Dad laughingly said, "What he didn't know was I was going to be guarding everyone else's coast." He returned from the war safe and sound except for an obnoxious tattoo on his right arm - the typical seaman's story of waking up from a shore leave with a hangover and artwork on his body. He often said that tattoo was one of his greatest regrets. Believe me, Mom and his parents made sure it was regrettable for him.
Following the war, Dad finished his high school education, went to work for the phone company, and married his high school sweetheart on September 2, 1949. I arrived on the scene a couple of years later in 1951, my sister, Kay, in 1953 and brother, Mike in 1957. In the meantime, Dad took a job with Union Carbide as an instrument technician working on the chemical storage facilities, etc.
Dad pitched fast pitch softball for Union Carbide. I used to love to go to his games and hear the fans cheering for him. He was a heck of an athlete and was an excellent pitcher. He loved to fish and hunt. He and I would join my Grandpa, uncles and cousins and wreak havoc on the local squirrel population in the fall. In the winter, I can still remember as a small boy riding on his back as we rode a sled down those steep West Virginia hills. I can even remember the smell of his wet, wool, pea-jacket he always wore along with his wool baseball cap. In the spring, it was baseball. There was nothing I loved to do more than play catch with Dad. He was quite involved in those early Little League seasons. He would often coach and lots of times would umpire.
In his 50's, Dad's health began to deteriorate. He had glaucoma, high blood pressure, and some sort of strain of MS that even the Mayo clinic could not diagnose. I'm convinced it had something to do with the chemical industry. But even through that, he always had his sense of humor and loved to laugh. On May 23, 1985, Dad stretched out on the couch to watch a Cubs game and take a nap. He never woke up. If he were alive today, Dad would be 81. To be honest, I can't imagine Dad as 81 years old. In my memory, he will always be in his prime. Happy Father's Day, Dad!