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Photos Introduction How I Became a Railfan and Trolley Fan Or How Did This Kid Go Astray??
Don's Rail Photos
How I Became a Railfan and Trolley Fan
Or How Did This Kid Go Astray??
In June, 1930, Ray and Lillian married in Milwaukee and moved to Chicago where Ray had a sales job with Allis-Chalmers Corp. On a hot July day in 1931, their first-born came on the scene, and Ray lost his job. Dad went into apartment management, which provided a roof over our heads and a little bit of income. Back in Milwaukee, Mom's maiden aunt Kate kept arguing that she made a bad mistake marrying that Polish guy since Mom's family was German (a perfect Milwaukee combination). Frequent trips were made from the North Side of Chicago to the South Side of Milwaukee on the North Shore line in an effort to get Mom to come home where she belonged. Baby Donny made this trip from time to time.
I don't remember those trips, and Mom decided to stay with Dad in Chicago. One of the apartment houses that Dad managed was between Touhy and Morse on the east side of the El. I have faint memories of trains running behind the building.
In June of 1934, the family increased in size with the arrival of a daughter, Kay. But there was a crisis shortly afterwards. The owners of the apartment building sold it, and the new owners made it self-service. Dad was out of work at the depth of the depression. Aunt Kate now got her wish, but with a few extras. We moved from Chicago and back to Milwaukee. We took up residence in my maternal grandmother's house with Grandma and Aunt Kate. On 31st between Grant and Becher, we were only a block and a half from the Burnham street car line. Watching the big yellow cars screech around the wide sweeping curve from Burnham onto 31st was a treat, but not entirely appreciated at that time. This line had been built to interurban standards, and 31st & Burnham had a freight station (gone by my time) and a large substation with marvelous sounds coming out of its open door.
This photo was taken when the line had been split and only the part to the west was still being operated, but it does show the substation.
Dad got a job in a hardware store on Mitchell Street at $14 per week. I developed a love for German food as prepared by Grandma with Mom's help. Certain memories come back. I remember a real steam shovel digging a basement for a new butcher shop which was just behind my back when I took the above picture. I remember taking the bus from 31st & Burnham to Mitchell Street to go shopping at Schusters where the orange trolleys crossed. When we purchased anything at Schusters, the clerk would write up the order, take Mom's money, put it into a carrier, and send it by pneumatic tube to the store cashier. Then the tube would come back with our change. I remember the garbage wagons which would be pulled by teams through the alleys. Then they would be parked at a nearby corner coupled into trains. A Mack bulldog chain drive tractor would couple up to the train and haul it away. There were also street sprinklers with solid tires. Chewing on the rubber was great fun. Then one 4th of July, Dad set off a flare in front of the house and got arrested. The police station was just behind the trolley in the picture above. Mom had to go to bail him out. Aunt Kate said it was to be expected that Mom had married a jail bird.
Dad worked at Butter Hardware only a short time before he went to work as an insurance agent for Prudential. It wasn't long that Dad got involved in organizing the International Union of Life Insurance Agents. One of the men who worked with him was Bill Harper. The Harpers had two kids the same age as Kay and me, Jimmy and Patty. The families became close, and Jimmy was my best friend growing up. We played with Tootsietoy cars and trains. In 1937 I got a train for Christmas. It was a Lionel 2-4-2 shaped like the Pennsy streamlined K4. It came with a tank car, box car, and caboose. Jimmy also got a train. It was an American Flyer model of the IC Green Diamond. We were on our way to becoming railfans.
1938 was the last year on 31st. Dad had invested in a lot some years earlier. It was in Mitchell Manor, a development in West Allis, way out on 57th near Lincoln. He had a house under construction during the second part of the year. Grandma died suddenly in October. On New Years Eve day, we moved from 31st to 57th. Away from Aunt Kate and into new adventures. Two more kids came.
It wasn't long before I found the joy of watching C&NW trains which ran 2 and a half blocks north of the house. The track here was in the middle of Mobile Street. At 60th there was a crossing shanty with a friendly watchman. Traffic was pretty good with passenger trains each way in the morning and the late afternoon. Later they added a 400 to Madison in the early afternoon. I remember how disappointed I was when there was a steamer on it instead of one of the new streamlined diesels.
On Saturday mornings, I would walk to Burnham Street, which was 4 blocks from home. I would get aboard one of those big yellow cars, and ride to downtown Milwaukee. The stretch of Burnham from 54th to 43rd was pretty much wide open spaces. Those cars would roll. Some had been used in interurban service from time to time.
A group of us in the 2nd grade got together and formed a model railroad club. We planned to build a railroad in one kid's basement. The club lasted about 6 weeks. But my friendship with Jimmy continued. We got into serious modelling. I went HO and Jim went O gauge. There wasn't much available during the war. I remember a Walthers hopper built of heavy card stock. Jim got a combine with cardstock sides.
I remember realizing that there were differences in Milwaukee trolleys. One day I was in the family car parked on Greenfield Avenue around 71st. Dad had gone in somewhere and I had to wait. From my seated position, I noticed that the upper edges of the cars were not all the same. Most of the cars had a kind of channel with sharp corners. Others had a rounded flat strip. Some were thinner with a different kind of roof. And a few were green and yellow with a flat rounded strip. Here are a series of scans of what I saw. The full image will show the full car.
In 1944 I started to high school. I went to Marquette UHS at 34th & Wisconsin. This meant a bus ride down Lincoln to 35th and then transfer to the trackless trolley to school. One of my classmates was Walter Dawson who was a railfan, and also Joe Wuerl. When we had a break, we would walk down 35th to the viaduct over the Milwaukee Road shops and the Rapid Transit line. Walter got me interested in the job of telegrapher as he was a great fan of the Eddie Sand stories in Railroad Magazine. Going home, I would ride the Wells Street car to 70th and Greenfield, where I caught a bus to 60th & Lincoln. It was a great ride over the trestle across the valley, along the Rapid Transit, and past Allis Chalmers.
During this time, we added 2 more kids, Wayne in 1942 and Carol in late 1945..
In March of 1946, after reading Railroad Magazine, and seeing the pictures, I decided I wanted to try my hand at railroad photography. I got an old Kodak box camera from my folks. I talked Wayne, who was 4, into going with me. We went to the area near Chase Yards along the Milwaukee Road main line. The pictures were all fast action with a box camera. Most of the results were a bad blur. I also made the mistake of leaving Wayne on one side of the tracks while I shot a picture of a train on the other. He got scared and told my folks. That ended photography "forever". I heard about and joined the Railroad Society of Milwaukee. This was a club which was spearheaded by Al Kalmbach and his people, along with Bill Walthers and his people. It was to be a combined model railroad and railfan club. There would be a meeting room, a model railroad room, a dark room, and a library. We rented an old lodge hall on 3rd Street which was just about perfect for this purpose. One of the first activities was a 2 day fantrip extravaganza over the North Shore Line and the TM interurban lines. On Saturday we had a 3 car train from Milwaukee to North Chicago and back. On Sunday we had 2 single cars from Milwaukee to Kenosha and back, and then changed to a single car and articulated for a trip to Port Washington and back. The folks said OK for the camera.
I took 3 rolls of pictures those days. That was 24 pictures. My folks could not believe the waste. Pictures ended again. That is, until later in the month when we went to Northern Wisconsin, and I took the train because there wasn't enough room in the car for the whole family. I got to see such great sights as a CNW Class D in service, a Thunder Lake Lumber Co. narrow gauge locomotive, GB&W under steam, and other sights that are now memories.
It was through the RSM that I met a great bunch of people including Jim Scribbins, Eddie Wilkommen, Chuck Willhoft, Joe Chesen, Bob Eichelberg, Jack Gervais, Jerry Fisher, Len Garver, and several others. At the same time, through Jim Harper, I got to know Bob Weitzke, Bob McLeod, and Ed Wilson. I was now on my way. In 1947 I got to spend a whole week in Chicago, staying with friends, and running rampant through rail yards and trolley sites. In 1948, I got to see the Railroad Fair, and I took my first slides.
I graduated from high school in 1948 and went on to Marquette U. I didn't have any real goals, and school was just a place to go. After one semester I dropped out and applied for a job with the Milwaukee Road, using references from friends at Allis Chalmers. Finally, on May 4, 1949, I began my railroad career as a clerk at the Fowler Street freight house.
The next few years were quite eventful. The RSM had died after the big plans could not be financed. Jim Scribbins suggested that we start an NRHS chapter. We had a visit from Ralph Cooper of Kansas City, who was the regional representative for NRHS. Since I now had a rail pass, I went to Kansas City and met two young men who would be friends for years, Terry Cassidy and Don Smith. Don later moved to Milwaukee and became engaged to my cousin. When he announced that he hoped to go back to Stockton, CA, my aunt and uncle pulled an Aunt Kate. They were more successful. Don had a heart murmur which kept him out of service and denied him a lot of jobs. Some years later he had the heart problem repaired successfully. A few months later he was stabbed to death on his way home from shopping in San Francisco by some kids who wanted to steal his groceries. More about Terry later.
The railroad pass also allowed me to visit the Twin Cities and Howard Svendsen. I went to Omaha. I got to see and ride the Iowa interurbans. Speedrail was formed and collapsed. Joe Chesen introduced me to some of the North Shore city car motormen, and we would run the cars on the south end of the line. We also formed a chapter of the ERA which later merged into the Railroad Historical Foundation. We saved a TM 600 and a Kansas City birney until the Speedrail collapse. The scrapping of the cars caused some bitter feelings among a number of the local fans.
I worked at several locations as a clerk for the Milwaukee until early 1951 when I was promoted to a clerical position in the Traffic Department. The prospects of being in sales at first intrigued me, but seeing the atmosphere of railroad sales at that period of time soon turned me off. I sought and got a job with the C&NW as a telegrapher. Do you remember the influence of Walter Dawson and his Eddy Sand stories? Walt had gone to work for the Milwaukee as an operator. My first assignment was on a Sunday afternoon at the Kinnickinnic River Bridge, which had little traffic, but it was a new experience.
One of the towers I got to work was rated as a Train Director position, and I was the only extra man qualified for Washington Street. We averaged 100 movements in an 8 hour trick.
About the same time, I joined the Army Reserve, the 757th Ry Shop Bn. This did not prevent Uncle Sam from greeting me in 1952 and asking that I come to work for him in May. I listed my occupation as Train Director, and I was assigned as a Train Dispatcher. I was sent to Ft Eustis, VA, where I took my basic training in the summer humid heat, 20 feet above sea level on the James River. I survived and was assigned to the base railroad as night dispatcher, headquarted in a tower in the middle of the camp. I met several people including Tom Taber III, and Pete Burno, who ran the steam shop at night. One of the highlights was unwrapping, firing up, and running the last Baldwin steam locomotive, the 610. Not too many people can say they ran a brand new locomotive. Pete was the first. His assistant, Johnny Maxon, was second, and I was third. I learned a lot about steam from these two.
In January, 1953, I got my orders. I was bound for Korea with a short stop at home. I arrived in Korea early in February, and found a wonderland of steam locomotives and trolley cars. One of the first people I met was Charlie Ward, who was in charge of the engine house at Yongsan (part of Seoul). I'll save a lot of the details for another story. I also met Bob Townley. You can find the story of some of our fun in the report on the Korean narrow gauge. I immediately started dispatching trains on the northern half of the Korean National RR, but soon I got crosswise with a Captain. I had been under the impression that the dispatcher was a god over the railroad. After this guy had tied up my dispatch line for about 15 minutes on mostly personal stuff, I couldn't take it any longer. I yelled into the phone, "Get the h--l off my dispatch line." He didn't appreciate it, but there was nothing he could directly do. It did become uncomfortable, and I got a transfer to B Company which handled equipment maintenance. I was sent to Chyongyangni as night roundhouse foreman for awhile, and then followed into Yongsan behind my friend Charlie. There were a lot of terrific experiences and opportunities for railfanning, and these will be covered in other stories. But here is a picture of my pride and joy. We dressed up one of the heavy pacifics, PC5-5, to look like it should be on the head end of a first class passenger train and it frequently pulled the KCOMZ Komet.
On the 1st of April, 1954, we turned the railroads back to the Koreans, and on the 4th I headed for home. Where I had flown to Korea early the previous year, I got to go home by boat. We landed in Seattle, and were loaded on to a troop train over the Milwaukee Road. I got to see the electrics and the western extension. I ended up at Fort Sheridan and was discharged. I went back to the C&NW and to my friends.
I got back into the NRHS, but I added another activity soon after. I joined the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, and from that time on, my Saturdays were taken over. At the time, the IERM was at North Chicago and had 1 car, the IRR 65. North Shore 354 had been saved by the owner of the property along with some other former North Shore express motors and C&NW baggage cars.
Just behind the car you can see my first automobile, a 1949 Packard. It didn't last too long, as I was convinced that a new car would be more practical--a 1955 Ford--the worst car I over owned.
Over the next several years, I had a lot of fun with the IERM, later IRM. Through them I got to know Howard Odinius, Tom Jervan, Eddie Mizerocki, Walt Murphy, Connie Morrell, Ken Fletcher (he was in the Navy at Great Lakes),Bob Selle, Larry Repp, Ray Neuhaus, Larry Goerges, Paul Weyrich and many more. I will probably do a page on the early years of this organization. One of the highlights was locating the present site of the museum. There was a constant battle going on between the Milwaukeeans and the Chicagoans for site options. CTA had a collection which was a potential acquisition if the site was close to Chicago. There was a ready made line at East Troy, but the burgers there were too conservative to realize the potential. I was looking over the right of way of an abandoned C&NW line which ran almost on the state line. I went into the courthouse in Woodstock to check property ownership. The clerk on duty suggested that we could do them a favor by taking a railroad right of way off their hands since no taxes had been paid on it since the late 1930s. It was the Elgin & Belvidere. I brought the suggestion back to the Board, and we agreed to pay the taxes quietly for 2 years to gain claim. That was the beginning of what you see today. Another thing I am proud of was the establishment of two news letters. I had started the newsletter for the NRHS group, and we chose the name "Sparks and Cinders." My inspiration was another chapter publication called "Cinders" and the CERA publication "Trolley Sparks." I figured that the combination would cover both the steam fans and the trolley fans. When I was faced with finding a name for the IRM publication, I had an inspiration based somewhat on the Chicago-Milwaukee rivalry. The Milwaukee Electric had a company publication called "Rail and Wire" which had ceased publication some years earlier. I thought this would be a really descriptive name for our group, and I could also sneak in a dig at the Chicagoans. They never knew what hit them. It is still being published, as is "Sparks and Cinders." I feel with these 3 things, that I have left a mark on the rail hobby in that part of the country, and I'm proud of it.
The NRHS hosted the National Convention in 1955, and I was President. That was a lot of fun. I also was active in the Model RR Club of Milwaukee and served as President there for awhile.
I got back into my old Army Reserve unit in 1954. In 1955 and 1956 we took our summer training at Fort Eustis. This gave me several opportunities to travel and visit rail sites in both directions. I got to see trolleys in Rochester, EBT as a common carrier, a bunch of short lines and trolley lines now long gone.
In 1957 I was working 3rd Trick at Chase tower. I had gone back to school and was now taking courses in business administration. At the time I had a course in personnel management and another in labor relations. The Telegraphers Union needed a local rep, and I figured this would be good experience. One morning, I overlooked a block and let a switch engine down on top of a train approaching from St. Francis headed for the Chase Yard on the wrong main. It could have been a real disaster, but fortunately they stopped well in time. Since I was the Union rep, and since they were closing small depots and laying off a lot of jobs, my railroad career ended suddenly. I went to work for a motor carrier in customer service for awhile, then into traffic management with a hospital supply firm, and finally into sales for a carloading company. And it was only a few years earlier that I decided that sales was not for me.
In 1958 I moved out of the family abode and took an apartment in downtown Milwaukee, near Marquette University. I was a half block from the Wells Car Line which had quit by this time. Don Smith shared the apartment until he moved to California. Later Howard Odinius joined me. Howie was the father of the IERM and worked as a motorman on the North Shore line. We shared the apartment until he and Doris married. It wasn't long after this that another major change in my life took place.
The sales job with Universal Carloading was going to end due to rate changes which meant a major cutback for carloaders. I interviewed, was tested, and accepted by Railway Express. This was part of the rebuilding efforts as REA Express. I was assigned to, of all places, Peoria, Illinois. In the middle of a snow storm, I hauled a trailer behind my station wagon and moved into an apartment near downtown Peoria. I expected that I would have new challenges and opportunities.
After settling in, I began to get acquainted with the local fans. One of the first I met was Paul Stringham, who ran the news stand in the Rock Island depot, which was right next door to the Express Office. There was Monty Powell and John Harrigan and a number of others. And my friend Terry Cassidy was now at the Univeristy of Illinois at Champaign. Terry heard of a car for sale by the Illinois Terminal. It was the former sleeping car "Peoria" which had been in work train service. We approached the IT and were offered the car for $500. In addition, they would move it to East Peoria and lease us a track for $1 per year. We couldn't pass that up. And so I became a private car owner.
I also got attracted to a group in Milwaukee who owned a small locomotive from Louisiana and a tool car which had been originally a fish tank car for the State of Wisconsin. If I remember, the name of the group was the Wisconsin Railway Historical Society. I suggested that they market the group using a name with wider appeal, and thus the Mid-Continent Railway Museum got its name.
Shortly after buying the "Peoria" I met a girl from Lincoln who was living in Peoria. One thing led to another, and shortly after the car was delivered to East Peoria, I proposed to Nancylou. A little later we purchased a house in Creve Coeur, and we were married on May 27, 1961. Our reception was at a railroad theme restaurant, Vonachen's Junction. We took our honeymoon in Southern Illinois and included such places as the IC shops at Paducah. Now that I owned a house which needed a lot of work, the "Peoria" got little attention.
Since the Peoria sales territory for REA was limited, they began to use me in the regional offices in Chicago one or two weeks per month. This meant a trip on the Peoria Rocket. I also was part of a group which pulled the Rock Island 4-6-2 out of Detweiler Park where it was disintegrating. The Rock Island put it through their shop at Peoria. It was rededicated and put in a park in North Peoria.
In October, 1962, we were joined by our first born, Will. He has faint memories of being taken for a cab ride in CB&Q 4960 when he was 3. There were trips to Milwaukee frequently to visit family and railfan. REA gave me the chance to ride the trolleys in New Orleans on one trip. But most activities were centered around frequent stops at the P&PU yard in Creve Coeur (at the bottom of the hill on which we lived), the RI roundhouse in Peoria, or the Santa Fe at North Chillicothe. I started collecting roster data and fine tuning my collection. At this time, I was only interested in my size 616 black & white negs. Slides were taken, but just carelessly put in boxes and lost in many cases. At this writing, I sure wish I could recover them because there were some great subjects including pictures of the Peoria Union Station going up in flames.
In 1965 it became apparent that there would be organizational changes at REA. In August, Susan was born. Terry had gone back to Kansas City, and I was concerned about where to go with the "Peoria". Bob Johnson came down from Chicago and made us an offer. It was moved to Union and is now there in a proper traction orange paint scheme.
Word came late in September that I was to be promoted to Dallas. On October 1st I boarded the Texas Chief at Chillicothe and arrived in Dallas the next afternoon. We opened our regional marketing office in the Express Building which was just to the south of Union Station. The next weekend I went home to bring the family down to see our new home and look for a house. I lived for two months in the Jefferson Hotel which was across the street from Union Station. Since we were across the street from the Dallas News, I got acquainted with the excellent model railroaders who worked there including the legendary Bill McClanahan. I found Bobbye Hall's. The family moved to our new home in Oak Cliff the first weekend of December. Two weeks later we were made to feel at home when Dallas got 7 inches of snow. It wasn't too long before we found that Ken Fletcher was also here and old friendships were renewed. He became a virtual part of the family for a couple of years until he went home to St. Paul. I joined the Trinity Valley Railfans and won the doorprize at the first dinner meeting. It was a piece of rail with spikes welded to the ends. I still have it.
After a year and a half in Oak Cliff, we built a home in Irving in a new subdivision called Northwest Park. I am still in that home. Tragedy struck in 1968 when Susan was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. We were told that we should not expect her to live beyond 20. Monitoring her sugar and insulin shots became a regular part of our life after that.
REA had me travelling from time to time which allowed visits to various short lines in East Texas, Oklahoma, and vacation trips took us to West Texas and Arkansas. Dallas still had trolley coaches for a short time and Fort Worth had the subway. And a year after I got here, Richard was born. When things started to settle into place, weekends saw us frequently at Weatherford with the Trinity Valley. When they purchased a group of coaches from the Burlington lines, it meant Saturdays at the Government Center. After a couple of years I found myself as president of the group. One of my proudest days was when we started passenger service on the Texas Central out of Dublin. The first picture is of the shake-down run and is representative of regular service. The second picture is opening day when "Big John" brought his ex IC cars to Dublin for the occasion.
We got off to a good start, but the wife of the general manager saw the party taking place in the parlor car the evening before, and there were people ("gasp") drinking and singing. Shortly afterwards the general manager died, and he was replaced by his son who was "momma's boy." The operation was doomed.
In the fall of 1969 it became apparent that REA was not going to survive the new ownership which had purchased the company from the railroads in 1967. When I came in 1965 I had 37 people. I quit in September and there were 7 left. I went into sales management with one after another (3) air freight forwarders. The first was a merger. The second was a mafia front. The third lasted a year. Meanwhile I had built a home in Irving in 1967. The new jobs and new home cut back on club activities. I still took pictures whenever possible. In 1973 I decided I couldn't do any worse. I started my own company which was to be an agency to provide sales and ground service for small air freight forwarders. We did fairly well. In 1976 I went back to school and studied for the ministry. This meant putting aside the hobby since work and school were enough. The last picture I took was the Freedom Train at the Government Center in Fort Worth. I was ordained in 1978 as a permanent deacon in the Catholic church. This meant that I lived the lay life, but still was a member of the clergy. It was enjoyable, but trying. There was the need to balance home, work, and church.
Susan lost her eyesight from diabetic retinopathy while she was in High School. Her acceptance of her "inconvenience" was an inspiration to all, family, parish, friends, and everyone she met.
I was also under "pressure" from friends in the rail hobby who wanted access to my collection. Late in 1980 I realized I had never taken a picture of a blue Rock Island locomotive, and now the Frisco was going. I went down to buy some 616 film for my camera and found that was no longer possible. I looked into 620. I then realized that things had really changed. In 1946 when I had started, contact prints for 616 sold for 2 cents each, or a penny if you mailed them to Superlabs in Sparta, WI. Color prints were $100 each as dye transfer was the only process available. In 1980, black and white prints were almost a dollar if you could find someone to do them. Color prints from slides were the same price. Since my collection is principally my album system, it now was possible to go to slides and have the best of both worlds. I got out the Canon IIB which I had bought in Japan 26 years earlier, loaded it up, and got back into the picture thing with a vengeance. I did a lot of trading, and I even traded most of my negatives for slides.
The air freight business started to go down hill when deregulation allowed UPS and FedEx to expand. After a while I found it necessary to cut back my business until I reached a point where I was doing almost all my own deliveries, with some being handled by contractors. Nancy took care of the office, which we had moved home. I had problems looking for other work because I was no longer a kid. On January 1, 1987, I started a job with a church as their director of religious education. I was now on a regular salary doing work I enjoyed. We also now had insurance benefits which would begin on March 1st. Little did I realize that 23 days after that, Nancy would have a stroke. She lived until April 3rd. Three weeks later, her mother, who was in a nursing home, went to join her. It was a rough time, but faith and the church family got me through the toughest times. I took over the care of Susan, who suffered renal failure about the same time. She became my constant companion, and we were able to give each other the support she needed. Then a few months later we got a new pastor. He informed me that I was too conservative for him. I had a contract, but he decided that he did not need to honor it. The diocese saw to it that I got paid through the end of the year. Now I was out again. My brother Wayne (remember him from way up at the top) is a successful attorney in Anchorage, Alaska. He invited Susan and me to spend the holidays. I fell in love with Alaska. When we got back home, and to reality, I realized that I could not sell the house for anything it was worth, and worse, what would I do with all the stuff that had accumulated. I drove a shuttle van for awhile. Fun, but at $3.50 per hour! Richard suggested I check out the Mall. I ended up at Sears, and they needed someone with photographic experience to sell cameras. I also had a second department, vacuum cleaners and sewing machines. It's funny what you can learn when you have to. Sears soon quit selling cameras and jumped heavily into computers. This meant I had to do more learning. I guess I did since I became the local expert on computers in the store.
Susan received a kidney transplant, and the trips to dialysis were replaced with the routine of anti-rejection drug therapay. In 1992, she decided that she wanted to spend her life with a young man from Taylor, TX, named Michael Tamez. Michael had lost his sight when he was 3 due to an inherited condition. I presided at their marriage on December 12, 1992. Will was still living at home, so I was not completely lonely.
In early 1993, while going for coffee, I saw a kiosk which was selling software for $5. There was a pretty redhead working there who had a smile to end all smiles. She knew Will, who was working at the Mall. One thing led to another, and I had my first date in 32 years. We had a great time, and the following Sunday we rode the Tarantula. Then the next weekend we rode the McKinney Avenue trolley. I had been talking to them some time before 1987 about a job, but now they had an opening as office manager. Since I had been doing fairly well at Sears, I said it was not for me, but how about Jan? Jan now became the office manager at MATA. In July, we were on a private car for a party for one of the volunteers. When we neared downtown and got to the only off-street trackage, I ran to the front, pulled out a dart (DART) pistol, and hijacked the trolley. The only way out was if Jan would agree to marry me. We had done a lot of praying about this since it meant that I had to go into inactive status with my formal ministry. I don't think I was meant to be celibate. She agreed, and we married on September 21, 1993.
She stayed with MATA until late Fall, but her automobile was getting bad and the trip to downtown was too much. We also took custody of her two grand-daughters, and I now had a second family. Sears had a problem with our insurance papers and failed to add Jan to my insurance. I went to Office Depot in computer sales, and was promoted to customer service for business machines in the commercial division in 1996. A few months later I got caught in their proposed merger with Staples. I went to work for GTE Internet shortly afterwards. After four years, I'm having too much fun to retire. The girls have gone to live with their dad and stepmother. Jan is active in a lot of civic activities. I've got the job and the internet and my photo collection. We share a number of her activities and have a good life together.
On August 15, 2000, Susan finally lost her battle with diabetes. Instead of the 20 years which we were supposed to have, we got 35 years. She continued to be an inspiration to those who knew her, and we have received reports of her effect on others even after her passing to a New Life.
Just before our 8th anniversary, Jan decided that we should go our separate ways and she would go onto new adventures. It wasn't entirely a surprise. I must say that the time we were together was blessed with the opportunity to have the grand-daughters living with us, and the extraordinary efforts Jan expended in helping Susan through her hospice time. I look forward to a loving relationship with the girls and with the expanded family that Jan brought into my life. Jan and I are still the best of friends. The upside to this is that it has allowed me to retire since the main reason I continued to work beyond 70 was to provide health insurance for her. I have set up two companies of my own. Trinity Technology provides in-home setup and training for people who want to get on the internet. We also do light repair work. Trinity Trading is a service which teaches people how to make money from the internet.
Retirement became the most wonderful life that could not have been expected. The Lord has a definite plan. I could hear the Voice which told me that it was just about time that I got busy since I had been goofing off since He had called me to ministry. So I asked the Bishop if I could be put back in service. The response was negative since I had walked out. I explained about what had taken place, and he agreed that I could prove that if I was stable he would consider my request.. I looked around and found a new parish. It was almost immediate that I fell in love with this church. I found the pastor to be a spiritual leader. The people were a family. I was welcomed to help in teaching in the convert program. I began to lector in proclaiming the Scripture. And I again found the joy in sharing the Body and Blood of Christ in communion. Then I started to set up a program which would help those who are sick and dying and organize a group for this ministry. Two days before the class was to begin, I had a stroke on January 28, 2004.
This was amazing. For 3 days I had no idea where I was but I knew that I was in His Presence. I gained understanding in priorities. Life is totally short compared with Eternity. Those things which seem to have been so important are nothing. Life is to be enjoyed since it is a gift of God. Each day is to be savoured. Worrying and planning are a waste. All we have to do is to walk along with God and take it day by day.
When I came home I realized that there might be a problem. Lucky, my papallion, is sharp, but he didn't know how to ring 911. There was a couple who were important in my life for many years even though I had not mentioned about them in this story.
Ralph came into our life in about 1970 when he was working at our local parish. He was a student at University of Dallas for religious education. We hit it up quickly and then we met Virginia, his girl friend. It didn't take long until I became the best man at their wedding and we shared our camping trips. They would have been the ones who would take over our kids if necessary. Ralph Gordon was the first deacon ordained at Dallas and he became a mentor to me when I went into the diaconate. Even though Ralph and Virginia moved into other areas, we continued to be the best friends. Ralph worked full time for the Church and Virginia worked along with him. When Nancy had her stroke, Virginia was at the hospital to help her passing.
Later Ralph slowly developed Alzheimers. They moved to Kerrville where there is an excellent VA hospital which handles this disease. I went to visit several times and it was a real difficult thing. Ralph was physically there, but he was not there any more. Virginia moved to Weatherford in 2002 to be close to a son after she had heart problems.
When I was working at St Michael, we were organizing a program for sick and dying people. Virginia had a lot experience and she was to be the teacher for the first meeting. And that was the 2nd day in my stroke. She filled in by herself. And she was the greatest support I needed at that time.
It was a natural decision to redo my house to give us both the opportunity to solve our problems. Ralph went to Jesus. We started to fix up the place and in the middle of it, I had a second stroke. She recognized what happened and got me to the hospital mui pronto. After that, most of the rework was hired. The garage became our library and computer room. She has a female looking part of the house and my area is a guy place. And we share our meals, prayers, and enjoying my polka music. Life if wonderful.
Now we serve our church when I am needed and available. I can enjoy my hobby. My website shares my enjoyment and maybe it helps others find the important priorities in life.
Now you can probably appreciate where these stories and these pictures are coming from. I find a lot of enjoyment in sharing them with others in a way I could never do before. Showing slides or showing albums is a limited audience. Here I can share with the whole world.
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Memorial of Blessed Antonio Rosmini-Serbati
But I through the abundance of Thy steadfast love will enter Thy house,
I will worship toward Thy holy temple in the fear of Thee.