The other half of the Bob & Jo Ann pair is Bob...my dad. Oh what a complex yet simple man. He was also born in the midst of the depression in WV, just as my mother was...but his family was better off than most. Not wealthy...just not poor. He lived "in town", grew up in a very nice home, his mom (born in 1893!) had a college degree. They were not a coal family. His dad owned a grocery store. They never had to go hungry. My dad and his brother and sisters had educational opportunities that many others, including my mom, in the area did not.
He grew up a quiet young man, very smart, well read, lots of friends...loved to play football in high school. And he was, and still is, smart...freakishly smart. He has always been a firm believer that if you research a topic, you can become an expert. You can do anything you set your mind to if you simply follow the directions and use some logic. That is one strong message he drove deeply into my thought process early on...and I attribute much of my personal and professional success to his example.
He joined the Army and served faithfully in WWII. Once he came back from the war, he went off to college full of anticipation for a degree in engineering from Georgia Tech. And it was at this time in his life that things started to change...he became a mad creature of habit...almost OCD-like. Everything had to be done a certain way...his way. Routine was critical...being able to control every aspect of the day was, well, critical.
With only one semester left until he graduated, he faced one of the biggest challenges of his life. His older brother had taken money from their parents. And, by the way, that's just a nice way of saying he stole money from his parents. The parents had almost nothing left. They were in danger of losing everything. My dad, deeply loyal, felt his only option was to go home to WV and help his parents out. This became a turning point for him...oh, he would go back and finish his degree...just needed to do the right thing and help his parents. Except, life kind of got in the way and he never went back to finish up. The thoughts about what could have been never left his mind. This is a story that I heard over and over again as a child and even I as a young kid wondered what a man with such intelligence might have become if he could've only finished his education.
He came home, helped his parents get back on their feet and then met beautiful Jo Ann. They were married in 1952 and had a normal early marriage. Together they worked in the grocery store his dad owned. All was normal and happy. In 1955, my sister was born. And then Bob & Jo Ann's life changed...forever.