After two+ days of labor and delirium, Mary gave birth to her first born child (no, this isn’t THAT story!). The baby boy weighed over 10 lbs and came into the world on January 2, 1940. His mother was just a mere eighteen – still a child herself. He was the first grandchild for his maternal grandparents who doted on him and cared for him when his mother was working. In fact, he met his great-grandmother in Oregon before his mother had met the woman!
When he was five and a half, he found himself an older brother to his newborn baby sister. The family lived in a state far away from the grandparents he loved dearly. He made friends with the neighboring family’s children. As a young teen, he found himself – along with his mother and sister – on a ship headed to Japan to join the family patriarch who had been stationed there with the United States Army Air Corps (the forerunner to the U.S. Air Force). He made friends, participated in the Boy Scouts, learned to be a photographer, and tried to be a dutiful son and big brother. Since they were so far from family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins – they sent many letters back to the States. After a few years, they went back to their home state of Ohio, but then once again found themselves back in Japan again. He graduated from the American High School and joined the Air Force. Unfortunately, due to his eyesight and other physical issues, he was discharged before too long.
In February 1961, he married a woman that he met at work. Soon after they were married, he heard that he was going to be a big brother again! He and his wife took the new little sister under their wing, and she spent many weekends with them. As his baby sister grew, he found himself in a role that he never expected – being torn between being her big brother and confidante and a father-figure when their father moved away. At the same time, he was enjoying new fatherhood for he and his wife had just adopted their own little boy.
He had found his niche working for a printing company in Dayton and assumed he would be there until retirement. He and his wife had finally found a home they were fixing up and happy with that wasn’t that far away from both of their mom’s. He was an officer with the local Fraternal Order of Eagles and enjoyed the friendships and community service he found within the organization.
There were a series of losses – his beloved maternal grandmother and then grandfather and close friends. After his son graduated high school, hardship struck when the printing company closed the doors. Dayton was experiencing a major downturn in the jobs market and he had a very hard time finding a job right away so he went to work for a cousin. He and his family moved to another home and proceeded. Every so often he would find he and his mom on the outs – he avoided confrontation like the plague, and she sought it out.
He found a new love in a far off state. For a short time, he was remarkably happy. Then his health began to deterioriate. The worst part was that no one could tell him exactly why or what to do about it. By the time the doctors had discovered the pancreatic cancer, it was much too late. He only had a short time left. Too short of time for he and his mother to reconcile – although she tried to tell him while he was comatose. His two sisters were also grief-stricken but tried to remain strong for their mother – who should not have had to see her son succumb to his illness. Far too soon and far too young, he passed away on the last day of August before the world fell apart and terrorists held the world hostage in horror.
He was survived by his wife, his mother, his father and step-mother, his three sisters and their husbands, his son, many nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and friends.
Today, he should be turning 73, and I should be able to call him on the phone and say, “Happy Birthday, Jim! I love you!”
(Photos: Mary and Jim, 1940; Jim and Sandy Kelso - 1945, photographer: Gene Amore; Jim at Christmas in Japan, photographer: Jim Amore; Gene and Jim Amore, Thanksgiving 1998 in Arkansas, photographer: Wendy Littrell. All photos – originals and digital images held in possession of Wendy Littrell, Address for Private Use)