Dad grew up during the Depression, and had a pretty hard life, having to be on his own from age 12. At that age, with nowhere else to go, he rode the trains along with other hobos, trying to find work and food in that difficult time. How he made it, I really don't know! He never talked about that period of his life that much, and I'm sure it was a painful time. Eventually getting a job as a cook in a small restaurant in Albemarle, NC, The Goody Shop, it seems that his career as a chef was born! Clark and I visited Albemarle a couple of years ago, and we ate in that restaurant, which was still going strong. Dad parlayed the knowledge he picked up along the way into a successful career, as he joined the Army in his youth and cooked many a fine meal for appreciative soldiers all over the US and several foreign countries. I'm not certain if he was a cook when he served in WWII in the Philippines and Guadalcanal, but he did do some cooking at that time. He eventually served in the military for over 22 years, retiring when we lived in Miami, Florida. We moved to North Carolina where both of my parents were born, and they opened a restaurant, Duke's, which they ran for several years.
He had a great sense of humor and a robust laugh, probably born of the difficult times he endured as a young man who almost starved to death more than once. Tragedy + time = comedy, and I'm sure that was what happened with him. His famous funny stories are featured in my books, and I tried to recreate them just like he told them to all of us and many friends. We didn't care how many times he told them, because we always loved them. Our two daughters, his only grandchildren, loved his stories just as much as my brother and I always had. Some of the best ones, enshrined in my books, are:
The Purple Heart Story, A Fishing Story, and Papa and the Garden Fence, all related by Sarge the doxie, of course, in I Am Sarge, Book 1. Other stories of Dad's in the series are Alligators and Haystacks in I Am Dachshund, Book 2.
|Dad and me in Raleigh, NC, in the late 1990s|
|Dad with his catch of fish at the Tanana River in Alaska,|
where we lived for 3 1/2 years in Ft. Greely
|With his granddaughters on the Blue Ridge Parkway in|
the mid 1980s
|His official portrait in his dress blue uniform|
|Mom and Dad's wedding portrait, painted|
by an artist from a photograph. They
eloped in 1944
|Mom and Dad the first year they were married-- I|
think this was taken in Charlotte, NC, where they met
Happy birthday, Dad. We miss you and always will--but we will see you again in heaven when our time comes to enter heaven's gates.