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Making it on your own

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©Scott Sines, The Green Rocket News
When Ray passed away the Great Depression was well underway, breaking up families all across the country. Melinda was left with eight children and no job. It was not unusual at that time. She couldn’t possibly support the family. She took a job in a garment factory in Grand Ledge, Michigan, and the family scattered. That wasn’t unusual either. But her youngest son Bobby, about thirteen, wasn’t quite ready to make his own way.

Bobby wasn’t totally homeless. He had an old car he called home. When his older brother Bill heard about Bobby and the car, he immediately found his younger brother a job working on Andy Christensen’s farm just outside of Portland.

Virginia Click one of Andy’s kids, remembers the tall quiet boy who played with her, “He liked to tease me a lot. He lived in a room on the side of the house and ate with the family. Sometimes he borrowed Dad’s car to drive to school, then worked on the farm nights and weekends.”

When the war broke out, Bobby left the farm and enlisted in the Marines. After wading through Japanese fire and the surf at Saipan and fighting in the mud on Peleliu he was injured in the battle for Okinawa. He healed and was part of the occupation of China before returning to Portland.

Virginia was small at the time but she’s heard it so many times, she knows the family story of Bobby’s return by heart. “… the story goes that I was playing on the porch when a tall marine came up the driveway. I jumped up, flung my arms around his neck and said, ‘Oh my God you came back to me.’ I was so young at the time… it’s hard to remember.”

He went on to marry a pretty secretary in the employment office at Pontiac Motors who he met by teasing; turning the lights off in the busy office and slipping out the wrong door. He retired after a successful career at General Motors, rising from factory worker to Director of Data Processing for Fisher Body Motor Division. A self-made man he passed in 1986.

What Virginia remembers clearly is that Bobby always stopped to visit the farm and her dad when he was in town to visit his brother Bill. He never forgot to thank those who helped him when he needed it most.

To this day Virginia still calls him Bobby. I just call him Dad.