December 16, 1960 Rehearsal Dinner for Kaye and Her Knight in Shining Armor
Right to left: Sunny, Ralph, and Kaye’s Cousin
Life with Father – Kaye’s Chosen Father, That Is
Although both Sunny and Ralph obviously enjoyed each other’s company from the beginning, no one would call it a whirlwind courtship. After all, they both were responsible adults with demanding jobs and limited free time. Sunny’s younger son still lived at home. Besides, Dallas was a two-and-a-half to a three-hour drive from Temple.Since both had grown or almost grown children, there were additional serious considerations that young singles don’t even contemplate.
However, Kaye and Ralph kept developing their friendship with occasional lunches out at various Temple restaurants. These meetings often included discussions about the boys she was dating.Kaye quickly learned to detect approval or disapproval through fleeting facial expressions and probing questions. Those questions usually helped her see possible flaws that she should consider before getting too involved.
She also got a taste of his extreme generosity at one lunch in a local two-bit cafe that he frequented enough to know the waitress personally. Once when she was away from the table, he quietly explained that she was a single mother with two grade school children trying to make ends meet. When the waitress returned, he asked about the children and offered a small tidbit of fatherly advice. As they left the restaurant, Kaye happened to see the bill and realized that his tip was more than the cost of the meal.
During Kaye’s senior year, she met the man she felt certain would be her “knight in shining armor.” So within weeks Kaye, her “knight,” and her “chosen” father met in Dallas so Sunny could meet him too. The two generation foursome doubled dated that Saturday for a lovely evening of dinner and dancing. Everyone passed the first test — and many subsequent tests, double dates, and family gatherings. In December of 1960, after Kaye had graduated and had begun her teaching career, Ralph gave her away to her “knight” at their small, familywedding in Belton.
Perhaps one of the reasons it took Ralph and Sunny such a long time to walk down the aisle themselves is that they had so little time alone. When in Dallas, Sunny’s mother, son, and some of her friends were nearly always included in their “dates.” When they were in Temple or at the hunting lease for a weekend, Ralph’s friends and family were invariably present, day and night. Actually their courtship lasted long enough for Sunny to pick out her own friends and feel entirely at home even before movingto Temple and settling in.
Once marriedSunny quickly changed her role from executive assistant to the president of a small company to that of supportive wife for the owner of a somewhat larger company.Privately, she loved giving elegant dinners for his friends and business acquaintances. In fact, she became a legend in her own time for gracious hospitality. Other wives in town soon began to emulate her distinctive menus,memorable decorations, and refreshing approach to entertaining others. She also traveled with him on his frequent business trips across the US, always easing any awkward situations and making friends with difficult people.
Bell County Junior Livestock Show
Publicly, back in Temple, she devoted much time and attention to furthering his charitable goals by assisting local children. Ralph always had a soft spot in his heart for them. He never failed to support the high school band, the 4-H club, or the Future Farmers of America group whether they were from Temple or from one of the surrounding small towns. But his biggest soft spot was for The Boys Club in Temple. In fact he gave land near his plant and built a building for it before it officially became the Boys and Girls Club of Temple. He also left provisions and instructions for the club in his will to assure its longevity.
Neither Kaye nor her older brother had any idea whether Ralph’s will included them or not. But after their mother’s marriage, they both approached him privately to ask that he not leave anything to her children. Their desire was fortheir mother to never worry about money again. Besides, they wanted to maintain friendly relationships with his children long after his death. All of Sunny’s children were both healthy and educated and strongly believed they could face whatever life threw their way.
Unfortunately, that will was probated much too soon. In 1972 Sunny became a widow for the second time in her life.
After Ralph’s funeral, none of the family could count how many people had come forward to personally tell of ways that Ralph had helped them in time of need, like paying off unexpected medical bills, defraying the cost of car repairs, or even liquidating obligations to a local loan shark.When any of them came back to repay him, he always refused. Nearly all of these stories were news to the family because he had never mentioned any of these financial adventures. Sometime the person had asked for help. Sometimes Ralph realized they were in trouble and offered to help on his own.
Once again, after the funeral and the company had cleared out, Sunny faced life without a husband, but with many happy memories. Fortunately this time, neither children nor finances were a big problem. She bravely started out again on a new path of additional civic, church, and charitable work. For the first time ever, she joined women’s clubs, finding several in Temple that appealed to her interests.She still entertained a lot. She took each of her grandchildren, one at a time, to Europe with a local tour group. With the blessing of energy and good health, she lived comfortably alone for another forty years.
But finally the time came to close up shop. So she moved all the way to Montana to live with her youngest child, fulfilling the long-standing Southern custom of the youngest taking care of the elderly parent(s). And there she started another new life, this time coping with the vagaries of old age: loss of vision, mobility, and impaired hearing. But she is cheerful, polite, and eager to compliment others, just like she’s always been. She still faces life like a determined sheep herder from the Llano Estacado.
“Indeed, beauty is one of mankind’s greatest needs; it is the root from which the branches of our peace and the fruits of our hope come forth. Beauty also reveals God because, like him, a work of beauty is pure gratuity; it calls us to freedom and draws us away from selfishness….In this masterpiece, Gaudí [the architect] shows us that God is the true measure of man; that the secret of authentic originality consists, as he himself said, in returning to one’s origin which is God. Gaudí, by opening his spirit to God, was capable of creating in this city a space of beauty, faith and hope which leads man to an encounter with him who is truth and beauty itself.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
speaking at The Basilica of The Holy Family in Barcelona, Spain
Construction began on this church in 1882 and is expected to be completed by 2026. Antoni Gaudi, the major architect, combined Gothic and Art Nouveau forms to create his masterpiece. Since his death in 1926, construction has continued with other designers except during the Spanish Civil War. The words from Benedict XVI were taken from his homily in 2010 when he consecrated the completed portion as a minor basilica.
Kaye’s personally selected “father,” Mr. Wilson, sits in the middle; next to him is Sunny. I do not know the occasion or the other people in the photograph, but this is the club where they ate lunch that first day.
Searching for A Father
Sunny’s daughter, Kaye, had a secret plan to find herself a father. Somewhere around the fifth grade, she began working on it, but kept everything entirely to herself for for fear that she’d be laughed at and no one would really understand.
After she began to realize that, generally speaking, the quality of bachelors the same age as her mother was not particularly good, she contented herself with analyzing her friends’ dads and mentally choosing which qualities they exhibited that especially appealed to her.
One friend’s dad was a great hunter who regularly provided the family with fresh venison and quail. Another father worked long, hard hours in the nearby oil fields, yet came home everyday in such good spirits that he seemed to honestly enjoy working and providing for his family. Then there was the dad who always managed to “need” an ice cream cone for himself and the girls on the way to take Kaye home.Another father she especially likedfrequently brought the painfully shy girl into supper-table conversations by asking questions as if her opinion were really important. The only problem was finding all those qualities in one man who not only was the right age, but, who would also wantSunny for a wife.
Quite unexpectedly, she met him when she was a junior in college. Up until that time, she had managed to pay her education expenses through scholarships, working on campus or during school breaks, and with a little help from Sunny. However, toward the end of 1958, the Vice President of Mary Hardin-Baylor College in Belton – where she was an English Literature major – persuaded a businessman in nearby Temple, Texas to sponsor three girls enrolled there who needed financial help because of the loss of a parent.
Kaye was astounded when she received the letter explaining that she was one of them.The man would pay all three girls’ tuition, books, fees, room, and board. Plus, he would send each one a monthly check of $25for incidental expenses.The only requirement was that they keep up their grades and work at one of the campus jobs available, usually about 15 to 20 hours a week. The scholarship would then be renewed each semester until graduation.
She immediately called theplant that he owned and made an appointment to thank the man in person. This was just much too wonderful for a mere thank-you letter. The money for incidentals would more than pay for the cab ride to Temple and back.
When she walked into his office, she met a charming man with white hair who appeared to be surprised at her gratitude since the other two girls had merely responded with formal thank-you letters. As they chatted in his office and later, at lunch together, she was surprised at how well he fit the criteria she had spent the last decade compiling.
He liked to hunt. He even leased land in South Texas so he could take friends for long hunting and fishing weekends.
He really enjoyed working – and often went back to his plant to check on the second and third shift workers. He knew them all by name and often knew their children’s names.
He was generous: took her out to lunch unexpectedly and spent time just getting to know her; offered her not only a scholarship, but spending money as well; and asked one of his assistants to drive her back to Belton, to save her paying the cab fare.
He was so interested in her that she felt safe enough to freely express her own ideas and was completely at ease with a comparative stranger.
And finally – he was not married. His wife had died. His second marriage, to a woman he had hoped would love and care for his three children, was a failure and had ended in divorce.
Back at school, Kaye immediately began plotting to get her mother to meet Mr. Wilson. If she could just get her to drive down from Dallas during the week, Kaye believed she could arrange for her mother to take him out to lunch to thank him for his kindness and repay the social obligation. The rest would be up to her mother and Mr. Wilson.
The trouble is, Mr. Wilson often traveled on business, and she had no idea when he would be in town. Or, when her mother would be available to visit the area. But the respective guardian angels must have adjusted the respective schedules because within a few weeks, Sunny decided to come visit Kaye on a Monday before traveling on to Austin for a business meeting. Furthermore, Mr. Wilson, was in town that same week and, although surprised by Kaye’s invitation, accepted the lunch date.
The rest of the story could have been written by any Hollywood script writer or even by a school girl thrilled by the idea of love and romance. After visiting in his office a few minutes, they left for lunch. Only he insisted that they all travel together in his shiny new car since he knew the town better than they did. Then he took them to the local country club to avoid any possibility that they pay the bill.
And the two subjects of this subversive plot really seemed to like each other, as their conversation easily ranged from politics to baroque art to business deals. The young match-maker barely managed to keep from smiling too broadly, for fear they would ask her to explain her “joke” to them.
And now, Dear Readers, I’ve shown you the many daunting, cliff hanging type problemsthis beautiful woman faced and over-came. Next week, we’ll wrap it up with the years of a new lifestyle.
This is a picture taken at a tea honoring the women in the back row who were graduating from college in 1953 despite having started the process at a later date than usual. Sunny is second from the right. Her daughter and her best friend, recruited to serve as kitchen help, sit on either end of the sofa. Sunny’s mother is second from left. The gracious hostess and Sunny’s favorite college professor is seated on the sofa at the far right.
The Tough Summer of 1954
Although grateful and inspired by the many kindnesses extended to her family during the bout with hepatitis, Sunny was delighted to began earning a living again. The only problem was that she could bring home just about six weeks of pay before the schools closed for the summer. Still, she and her children were eager to work at any job available because it felt so good to be independent again.
Sunny took classes so she could sell insurance door to door during the summer and planned to add weekends during the school year. However, that was not a good career move for her particular talents. She doggedly put in the time and foot work, but never did quite well enough to consider herself a success or to become comfortable in that venue.
The older son, whohad graduated from the elite, preppy Capitol Page School in May, came back to Dallas and found work as a hod carrier on one of the big buildings going up down town. He earned enough at that to save some for college in the fall and to help fill in a few of the gaps for the rest ofthe family.
The daughter, still in high school, kept up her baby sitting career in the neighborhood.She earned a few shekles for spending money and frequently helped purchase gas at twenty-five cents a gallon for the family car.
Sunny’s mother continued to live with them for awhile and cheerfully contributed portions of her social security check to help out as she could.
Despite the joy of beginning to recover from total financial devastation, the Tough Summer of 1954 was the hardest period financially that Sunny and her family had to face.For example, many times they drove to town well after dark to put a house or utilitypaymentin the night depository box so they could avoid the late penalties which would start at the beginning of the next business day.
Another frequent trial was buying gas. At a time when all service stations were full service, they frequently purchased two or three gallons at a time because that was all the money they had. Even so, they didn’t always make it back to the house or station before car ran out of gas again. Then they would have to ease the car to park it in front of the nearest stranger’s house, and walk to a nearby gas station to buy enough to start the car again, if anyone had any money. If everyone in the car was flat broke, they just walked home until they could afford to rescue the car.
Fortunately, the big bad city was much safer and friendlier in 1954 than it is today. No one worried about the car being stolen or tires slashed before they could return with a gas can to begin a new trip. The strangers in the house near where they parked never complained. The police never gave Sunny a ticket or had the car towed.And when they did get the car back home, they always left it in plain sight in the drive with the keys in the ignition —- for fear of ever losing the keys. They continued doing this at least until the early 1970’s without any anxiety or loss.
Also, they never locked their doors – even when going away for the weekend. Actually, Sunny never was quire sure just where the door key was and didn’t find it until she packed up to move to another town, years later. The term, home invasion, had not been invented yet and no one would have known what it meant, should someone use the term.If burglar alarm systems were available at the time, only the ultra rich knew about them.
A big sacrifice for the daughter was to reluctantly give the family dog to the neighbors three doors down because there just was not enough left over scraps to keep him alive, even with the bacon grease gravy she had learned to make for him. And buying dog food was totally out of the question. Many days, a half piece of bacon a day for each family member was all the meat they could afford.
Although it was a tough summer, everyone pitched in to help any way possible. No one gaveup hope,grew depressed, or became angry with either God or society. Yes, life was more onerous than they had expected, but never impossible. They still laughed at each other’s jokes; still listened to classical music on vinyl records; still reminisced over escapades from New Mexico; and they still teased about how hard they all worked to get a college degree for Sunny. College life for a whole family had also started a new tradition that they continued – keepingthe Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary near the dining table.That made it easy to reseach new words that came up during dinner conversation.Any time that any of the family heard a new word, they talked about it. Often one word would lead to another and then, another. While the practice improved vocabulary without the kids catching on, it also cultivated their social skills. Times were tough, but Sunny and her family were tougher and just as much fun to be around as ever.
This is a picture proof of Sunny’s three children taken during her freshman year in college.
The next chapters will show the welcome changes in fortune that began shortly after The Tough Summer of 1954.If you missed the earlier episodes, it’s easy to catch up by using the following links:
“Life takes you to unexpected places; love brings you home.” Author unknown
“We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home. We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God Bless America, the greatest nation in the world.” (link)
Statement by Kim Dong Chul, Kim Sang Duk (Tony Kim), and Kim Hak Song
I should have remembered to put this disclaimer in earlier. Interestingly enough, parents of small children probably appreciate silence more than anyone else – as long as their kids are safely in bed asleep.
When Sunny succumbed to hepatitis, the Dallas School System allowed teachers one day of sick leave for every month of teaching. Most employees found it quite generous as they often accumulated six to nine days of sick leave every year which could be changed into money at the end of their employment.
For Sunny, the four days of earned leave were used up before she even entered the hospital. So she found herself with absolutely no income for living expenses, much less the quickly mounting medical bills. All of this when she had just purchased a house and a car on credit, and was just starting a savings account for Hard Times.
But Hard Times knocked her down before she was ready and she was too sick to fight back. The “easy living” the family had expected after graduation evaporated even while new debts increased her needs. 1954 was years before the Federal and State Governments had crafted their “poverty solutions” for families in a financial bind. Fear and despair almost eradicated all hope.
But God was in the picture. He just used other people’s hands and pocketbooks to provide for widows and orphans:
Her mother left her own home and closed down her own affairs to move to Dallas to help care for Sunny and her grandchildren.
Her sister saved enough out of her family’s expenses to send three checks during the months of illness and recovery.
A Sunday school class at her new church arranged for one of the members to come every Monday and Thursday with a meal prepared for the whole family and a bag full of additional groceries.
A group of friends from New Mexico “passed the hat” around and collected several hundred dollars to help with expenses. Then two couples drove to Dallas to deliver it in person. While visiting, the men also took care of several honey-do type repairs that needed attention. Then they drove the thirteen-hour-one-way trip back to Lea County.
The teacher of the younger son’s Sunday school class asked if he could take him out for a movie one Saturday. When they returned home, the son wore new shoes and carried a bag with a new shirt, a new pair of trousers, and three new pairs of socks. Of course, what excited him the most was the movie he had gotten to see and attention from an adult male.
All the neighbors on the street made sure the sixteen-year-old girl had all the babysitting jobs she could possibly handle. Most of those earnings bought gas for their car, which at that time was about twenty-five cents a gallon.
A woman in the church provided the daughter with hand-me-downs that were more expensive and better quality than any clothes she had previously worn.
New Mexico’s senior senator had earlier appointed the older son as a page to the US Senate. So he was living in a home with other pages at a nominal fee, going to a private school at no cost, and earning a small salary, not to mention the extraordinary experiences at the US Senate. While still in high school, he managed to send a little bit of money home every month. (By the way, Sunny’s in-laws had helped Senator Chaves with free room and board when he first ran for office decades earlier and this was his generous re-payment for their hospitality.)
Probably there were many other gifts and extensions of kindness that I am not aware of. But at least this helps people understand a real-life example of providing for the needy in a way that builds self esteem and bonds of friendship in both giver and receiver. Without the Byzantine rules, restrictions or admonitions of our current welfare system, each gift encouraged the family members to use it wisely, living up to all opportunities that became available. While those were difficult times, each one grew emotionally and spiritually because of the people who helped them, in effect putting their money where their mouths were and saying, “I believe in you.” And, no doubt, the givers were also rewarded for their generosity.
It was so much more compassionate and efficient than our current system that fosters a permanent underclass of third and fourth generation welfare recipients. These people have become people who are poor, not just currently broke, because they have neither incentive nor belief they can honestly do any better. What a loss for the whole country!