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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Push me, Daddy!

Taken in the front yard of our house in Winchester, ca 1959? Lots of fun in that yard... games of croquet, badminton, freeze tag, hide and seek, Red Rover, Easter egg hunts, chasing lightnin' bugs, rides on Buttermilk the pony, family picnics, swinging high, secret hiding places, Sable and Prince the collie dogs, puppy litters, pet rabbits, baby birds, stray kittens, smells of the garden, gathering walnuts, jumping into piles of leaves, "whirligigs," making snow cream, playing dolls, real and imaginary playmates, riding a tricycle. Best of all, sitting with Daddy on the front porch swing in a rainstorm. 

by Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue? 
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do! 

Up in the air and over the wall, 
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside-- 

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down! 

Valentine's Day 2013 - Crash!

A big ooops, and a lucky escape. Turning left across traffic, saw 2 lanes stopped, one driver motioned me on to turn. But I didn't realize, couldn't see... there was another lane, and a car coming in it. Fortunately my passenger seat was empty, since it's now folded in half. I had a cracked shin bone and some torn knee cartilage, was off my feet for 8 weeks but healing went well. Car is totaled and I haven't replaced it yet... many thanks to Frankfort's wonderful bus service! 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

MonaGail's Corner

Come in and share my little corner of the web.
(see all family/genealogy posts from old web site -
click to expand the March 2013 archive at left)

  You'll find a mix of personal stories and photos, genealogy, favorite quotes and links. Some pages are dedicated to special people in my life, some to nothing more than "the wild imaginings of poets." You may shed a few tears with me, but I hope you will also find some smiles, useful information, and perhaps a bit of inspiration along the way.

 MONA: Irish, English -Anglicized form of the Gaelic name 'Muadhnait' meaning "noble, good"

English -  "gale, storm"

All through my life, folks I've met would hum or sing a few bars of the lovely song,  "Mona Lisa," made famous by Nat King Cole.  For the umpteenth time, it's NOT my name ;-) but after so much repetition over the years, and with the tragedy of losing a beloved husband much too soon tucked into memory, I do sometimes feel that I've learned a bit about her sad "mystic smile." 

Listen to the master: 


Family Bits n Pieces

 "I saw behind me those who had gone, and before me those who are to come. I looked back and saw my father and his father and all our fathers, and in front to see my son and his son, and the sons upon sons beyond. And their eyes were my eyes. As I felt so they had felt, and were to feel, as then, so now, as tomorrow and forever. Then I was not afraid, for I was in a long line that had no beginning and no end. And the hand of his father grasped my father's hand and his hand was in mine, and my unborn son took my right hand and all, up and down the line that stretched from Time That Was to Time That Is and Is Not Yet, raised their hands to show the link. And we found that we were one, born of Woman, Son of Man, made in the Image, fashioned in the womb by the Will of God, the Eternal Father."
- Richard Llewellyn,
How Green Was My Valley

In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep,
to know our heritage -
to know who we are and where we came from.
Without this enriching knowledge,
there is a hollow yearning.
No matter what our attainments in life,
there is still a vacuum, an emptiness,
and the most disquieting loneliness.
~ Alex Haley


My Guardian Angels

Arthur and Maude (Noble) Haddix, ca 1934
Arthur and Maude (Noble) Haddix, before 1938

Blanche (Haddix) and O.J. Landrum, 1944
Blanche (Haddix) and Ollie James Landrum, 1944

Laura (Back) and Albert Sidney Landrum, ca 1940
Laura (Back) and Albert Sidney Landrum, before 1942

Allan Leo Proctor, 1938-2000


A hundred-year-old photograph stares out from a frame,
and if you look real close you'll see our eyes are just the same. 
I never met them face to face, but I still know them well
From the stories my dear grandmama tells. 
Elijah was a farmer, he knew how to make things grow,
and Fannie vowed she'd follow him, wherever he would go.
As things turned out they never left their small Kentucky farm,
but he kept her fed, and she kept him warm.
They're my guardian angels, and I know they can see;
Every step I take, they are watching over me.
I might not know where I'm going,
but I'm sure where I come from.
They're my guardian angels, and I'm their special one.
Sometimes when I'm tired I feel Elijah take my arm;
he says, "Keep a-goin' - hard work never did a body harm."

And when I'm really troubled and I don't know what to do,
Fannie whispers, "Just do your best - we're awful proud of you." 
They're my guardian angels, and I know they can see;
Every step I take, they are watching over me.
I might not know where I'm going,
but I'm sure where I come from.
They're my guardian angels, and I'm their special one. 

A hundred-year-old photograph stares out from a frame,

and if you look real close you'll see our eyes are just the same.

-- "Guardian Angels" by The Judds

Mom's Legacy

Mom's Legacy:
A Gift from the Past

Blanche Haddix Landrum

as told to
Mona Landrum Proctor
© 201All rights reserved.
Do not duplicate in any form.
E-mail request for printed copy
Chapter One:
Secrets in a Small Town

I clicked through the rack at Jett's Dress Shop with a keen eye, savoring my secret. 1944 was still a new year, and the winds of war swept into even the remote corners of eastern Kentucky. "New clothes are such a rare treat these days," I thought, "so even this outfit must serve more than one purpose." At least I had a little money to spend, thanks to that teaching job last year up on South Fork and my job now at the A&P. Wishing my sisters were around to consult, I smiled and settled on a tailored, two-piece suit of soft gold wool with a crisp white blouse. Then I paused for a moment to consider the occasion on which it would first be worn.

Mrs. June Jett, the store owner, watched me with more than a passing interest. She was a friend of the family, had known me since I was going around on roller skates with pigtails in my hair, playing the tomboy... gee, not so very long ago! Like so many others, she was very sympathetic when my mother (Maude Noble Haddix) passed away so suddenly - it's been five years ago now.

At the time we were living in Richmond; we had moved there so my eldest brother and sister, Vergil and Edith, could attend Eastern Kentucky University. My parents had both taught school, and they put a high value on education. Mama seemed to be a very strong woman, and she was certainly a hard worker. She had to be, with eight children! But she suffered from rheumatic fever when she was a child, which damaged her heart. She was only 46 when it finally gave out on her. I still remember that day like it was yesterday.

My dad (we all called him 'Pappy' then) was working back in Jackson to make ends meet. We all worked hard to help Mama during the week. I can hear her now: "Don't bring me flowers after I'm gone," she would say, "do what you can for me every day." Pappy had come to visit us in Richmond for the weekend, and he returned to Jackson on Sunday evening.

Edith slept with Mama that night. There were plenty of beds, but they had grown-up whispers to share. Next morning, they awoke and talked for a bit; then Mama started gasping for breath. Before she could even get up, it was over. She was gone. Someone sent a telegram to our dad, and a house full of children spent a long day in tears. Oh, what a heartache! If only she could be here now... I know she would have good advice and a warm hug to offer...

When Mama died, my brother Vergil and his wife Ohna lived in an upstairs apartment in our house on Fifth Street. We all looked up to Vergil, as the oldest, to help us take care of things while Pappy was away working. But this was something even Vergil couldn't fix. The youngest, little tow-headed Dove, was only seven years old. I was fourteen. 

We took Mama home to Lost Creek, in Breathitt County, and buried her in the family cemetery on the hill (the one that was later named for Paw, my grandfather - William Washington Haddix). After the funeral, Uncle Mitchell and Aunt Ina brought us all back to Richmond in their car, a crowded and quiet ride. Then the cloud of tragedy mushroomed.

That very day, some kinfolk and neighbors were holding a memorial service for Mama in the little church near her family home at Clayhole. Some young men were outside, drinking and wrestling over a gun not far from the church. Suddenly the gun fired. The shot went into the church, ricocheted, and hit Mama's youngest sister, Ada Noble, right behind the ear. She didn't make a sound, just slumped right over in her seat.

They sent Aunt Ada down to Louisville, I think, for a special doctor. She lived about five days. We had barely got home to Richmond when Pappy and Uncle Mitchell and Aunt Ina had to turn around and go right back to Lost Creek. The rest of us stayed home that time.

Ada was a pretty, single schoolteacher, just 27 years old, a favorite with everyone. Her mother, "Mother Noble" to us kids, lost two daughters, both lovely young women full of life and promise, almost both at once... a burden no mother should ever have to bear. The shooting was ruled accidental; those fellows served about two years for it, I think.

We moved back to Lost Creek not long after, into the rambling two-story house that Pappy built for Mama just down the road from his own parents. Edith taught school and stayed home to help with the young ones. Pappy put all the pictures of Mama away in a trunk, and we just didn't talk about her. It was too painful. Dreams of a home in the bluegrass dashed for good, he buried his grief in hard work on the hilly mountain farm.

Years later I saw him sitting beside her grave over there - across the creek, beyond the swinging bridge - when I came home from school unexpectedly in the middle of the day. He must have seen me, too, because he slipped 'round the back way and beat me home. Never said a word about it. I think he must have spent many hours with her there on that little hill, with worldly chores abandoned for a brief respite in her company. I know he loved her dearly, and he missed her fiercely every day.

They say time heals, but even after all these years I still grieve for Mama. I can see her working in the kitchen, wiping her hands on a flour-sack apron, pushing away a stray strand of hair with long slender fingers, fixing a big hearty breakfast or a fine Sunday dinner for her brood. I can hear her voice, calling the boys to bring in wood for the cook stove, asking, "Where has little Ross got to now?" and sending me to fetch him home. She was always so busy. I got my roller skates then, when we lived in Richmond. Saved up wrappers from Blue Horse notebook paper and got the skates by mail order. Zipped around just about everywhere on those things!

I remember an earlier time, too, when I was about eight or nine... out on the back porch at Lost Creek. My hair was in two long braids, about down to my waist. I don't suppose it had ever been cut. Vergil always barbered the younger boys' hair, but I don't think he cut mine. Mama was there, and maybe Mother Noble too. I can swing my head today and remember the sudden light-headed, grown-up feeling when my heavy braids were cut off, and for the first time my hair swung freely around my face.

Suddenly Mrs. Jett shattered my woolgathering with a conspiratorial whisper. "You're fixin' to get married, aren't you, honey?" Startled, I grinned a little and tried to give an evasive answer. It was true, but was it so obvious? It was supposed to be a secret! 


Blanche Haddix Landrum

PARIS – LANDRUM, Blanche Haddix, (age 87), beloved widow of Ollie James Landrum, passed away on Monday, August 8, 2011, at Bourbon Heights Nursing Home after an extended illness. She was born on March 27, 1924, at Lost Creek, Breathitt County, Kentucky, daughter of the late Arthur Haddix and Maude Noble Haddix. She attended Breathitt County High School, was graduated from Riverside Christian School, and was a member of the Riverside Brethren Church at Lost Creek. 
Survivors include two sons, James (Anne) Landrum of Richmond, Ky., and Stuart (Laurie Garner) Landrum of Versailles, Ky.; two daughters, Judy (Jim) Vining of Versailles, Ky., and Mona (the late Allan) Proctor of Paris, Ky.; a granddaughter, Dana Massie of Lancaster, Ky., a grandson, Patrick (Tammy) Massie of Lawrenceburg, Ky., and two great-grandsons, Tyler and Joshua Massie; two brothers, Bert (Helen) Haddix of Dayton, Oh., and Joe (Eliza) Haddix of Fairborn, Oh.; a sister, Dove (Roy) Margenau of Grass Lake, Mi.; and a host of beloved nieces, nephews, extended family, and many friends. 
In addition to her husband, parents, and stepmother Beatrice Tharp Haddix, she was preceded in death by two sisters, Selena (Ray) Carnahan and Edith (Levi) DePew; three brothers, Vergil (Ohna) Haddix, Ross (Edie) Haddix; and half-brother Philip (Ruth) Haddix.

Blanche was happiest when surrounded by her loving family, for whom she cooked many delicious meals from the gardens she and O.J. raised together. She was a talented seamstress and homemaker, took special interest in genealogy and kept extensive records of her research. She was a gentle, loving spirit and will be missed by all who knew her. 
For their kindness and loving care, the family wishes to especially thank Donna Griggs and the staff at Bourbon Heights Nursing Home in Paris, Ky.

Visitation and funeral services were conducted at Scobee Funeral Home in Winchester, Kentucky, on August 11, 2011, followed by interment in the W.W. Haddix Family Cemetery at Lost Creek.


Blanche's Boxes

Here is a fun crossword puzzle -- created for my mother's 80th birthday celebration in 2004. See how much you know about Blanche Haddix Landrum! Answers are provided on Page 2. (This is a pdf file - requires a utility such as the free Adobe Reader.)

Daddy's Girl

(Originally published 8/15/09) 

A friend has been posting online about music from our youth: Elvis, Woodstock... and we recently lost some great talents of the music industry, Les Paul and Mike Seeger. Well, I got started on YouTube clips, progressing to even earlier musical memories. Which leads me to confessing a guilty secret: my Saturday nights lately are occasionally spent watching old reruns on PBS of, um, well, ah... Lawrence Welk. Now before you chuckle, let me explain!

The first home I remember much about was a big old farmhouse in Winchester, Ky., with very large rooms, high ceilings, wide-plank hardwood floors and no central heating. It was COLD in the wintertime!! Big stone fireplaces downstairs, with metal-grate registers that opened to let the heat get to the bedrooms upstairs. Sorta. I had a big brother and sister, and soon after I turned eight we gained a new little baby brother.

I was known in those years as being very much "Daddy's girl." Tagged around behind him whenever I could. I was kinda frail and thin, a 'sickly child'... allergies and a series of other not-too-serious maladies... so maybe I did get more than a fair share of attention from my daddy. He worked the second shift, 3-11pm, at the newspaper in Lexington. Through the week he would get home around midnight, when good little girls were supposed to be long abed. In the mornings he would sleep in a bit, and I was encouraged to do the same, to keep the noise level down til he was up and about (a habit that persists to this day, whenever possible!). I liked nothing better than to tag along with my daddy, 'helping' him with his chores, which included raising a big garden: strawberries, corn, tomatoes, white half-runner green beans... yum. Daddy always made a big production of bringing me the 'first' ripe strawberry of the season - made me feel so special!

When I got older and started to school, Daddy's work shift meant that the kids didn't see much of him through the week. Weekends were special because Daddy was home all day. He was the designated grocery-shopper for the family, and many Saturday mornings I would go with him to the Kroger's in town. Always returned with my own special bag of candy or some other treat that didn't have to be shared with my siblings. Spoiled? Ha - rotten, yep!

Mom was an excellent seamstress and made me some very pretty dresses, often with an apron-like pinafore or a sash with long strings to be tied in back, and I always insisted that no one but Daddy could tie those big bows just right. I have a very clear memory of him teaching me to tie my own shoelaces as well. And when I was feeling puny, nothing helped more than having Daddy at my bedside, holding my hand and telling me how much he needed his 'helper' back up and about. I still want to be petted and coddled a bit when I'm under the weather, lol.

I remember when our first telephone was installed - a big black clunky thing on a party line. You could pick it up and listen in on the neighbors' conversations! And we had a lovely big wooden cabinet in the living room with brass-handled doors that housed a small black-and-white television -- state-of-the-art for the day, pretty fancy. Saturday morning cartoons were my favorite, but I had to take turns with my sister (eight years older), who for some reason preferred to watch American Bandstand. Weekend nights were a special family time, often spent in front of the TV... usually with me on Daddy's lap. Watching all the showbiz icons from the late 50s and early 60s.

One of Daddy's favorite shows on those weekend evenings was Lawrence Welk. I think the Jackie Gleason show used to follow Welk on Saturday nights, and Red Skelton was in there somewhere. Mom would bring fresh popcorn or other snacks and join us sometimes. My big brother would often be sprawled on the floor in front of us, or maybe sitting at a card table working on his model cars. My sister and I both liked the Lennon Sisters.

There was a man on the Welk show with a very deep voice who would sing "Sixteen Tons" -- the tune that was such a big hit for Tennessee Ernie Ford. Daddy and I would sing along to 'our song' and he taught me to snap my fingers in time with the beat. In my memory, that song was on pretty often, although maybe it was actually just a time or two. We also liked "Big Bad John," by Jimmy Dean, around that same time. (A younger gal commented to me recently that she didn't know Jimmy Dean ever did anything but sell sausage... wow, I'm showing my age here!) One of the recent reruns featured 'young teenage heartthrob' Pat Boone singing his new hit, "Moody River" -- white shoes and all.

I also remember Daddy singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" at Christmastime, teaching me the tune. And on summer afternoons when someone turned up with a guitar, he could sometimes be persuaded to pick out "Wildwood Flower" or "Cripple Creek." He played a pretty decent harmonica, and also had fun with the "jews harp." I learned to love country and bluegrass music in those early years as well, at my daddy's knee... Flatt & Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline... especially anything with a fiddle or a banjo! Santa surprised me one year with a "Magnus Chord Organ" and a small stack of songbooks; my talent was very limited and the thing was more toy than instrument, but Daddy was my most ardent fan -- always requested "Red River Valley."

In later years, in other houses, weekend nights with Lawrence Welk remained one of my dad's favorites, even as I branched out to, ah, more exciting musical interests. But those special times created a strong bond and warm memories. When I see those early reruns today I am instantly transported back through the years... feeling so safe and happy and cocooned, curled up in my Daddy's lap. Sweet, innocent, fun family times. Blessings on both Mom and Dad for giving all their children such a loving start in the world.

More about Lawrence Welk here. And here is a link with some interesting facts about "Sixteen Tons" -- "the most successful single ever recorded." Or click below to listen here:

Linotype Machines

This started out on my Facebook page, but I decided to save it here, and elaborate a bit, in memory of my father, O.J. Landrum (1912-1979). 

Thomas Edison called it the 8th Wonder of the World. It was made of 10,000 parts - 5,483 of which were moving - and it used molten metal heated to 550 degrees. Mistakes landed in a "hell box" for recycling. The 7-year apprenticeship included 3 years to learn to operate it, plus 4 years to learn to fix it, because there were no technicians on call. The skilled craftsmen who operated it were well-paid and highly sought after; they could move and find work just about anywhere, and they created a labor union that was responsible for 8-hour workdays and 40-hour work weeks. OK, cousins, all together now -- what was it??  

...A Linotype machine 
(and the International Typographical Workers' Union)

Mastering this monster was my dad's occupation for about 30 years in a newspaper "Composing Room"  -- and I think Mom's brothers Bert, Joe, and Ross did this, too, at least for a while? And Daddy's brother, Ab? Have I missed anyone? Daddy used to wear pants with a cuff on the bottom, and sometimes there would be metal parts n pieces carried home in his pant cuffs.

I just helped a friend create a book in Word and publish it on Amazon... such a far cry from this way of typesetting, but it was a true wonder in it's day, and unleashed the power of the printed word in way never before known. Here is a web site about a documentary film made last year, which also has links to several good sources. I hope to see the film soon:

Uncle Ab's son, Barry, just chimed in; Ab didn't work on a Linotype but was a newspaper ad setter/ composer for many years. Daddy learned his trade at the newspaper office in Jackson, Ky., and he influenced his brother and several in-laws toward the printing profession. Barry commented about the smell of ink on their clothes. I remember that smell... very distinctive. I think it seeped into my blood somehow, ha, because I so enjoy creating pages of all kinds on a computer.

True story, from when I was very young: "Mommy, why does Daddy have to leave us and go to work?" Answer: "He has to make money, child, to buy groceries and clothes and take care of the family." Later... "Mommy, what does Daddy do when he goes to work?" Answer: "He's a printer, dear." Later still... "Little girl, what does your daddy do for a living?" Answer: "He prints money we can spend at the store."  (Made perfect sense to me, but Mom had some explaining to do!) 

Here's a photo of my dad, O.J. (Ollie James, sometimes called "Jolly Ollie" or "Beanpole"),  demonstrating printing equipment to a group of school children -- taken at the Jackson Times newspaper office in Jackson, Ky., ca. 1950(?) At a different time, he lost the tip of his right middle finger in a machine similar to this one - ouch!

Now I understand why he was always so insistent on good spelling: on a Linotype, there was no backspacing over an error - a whole "line of type" would have to be re-set just to correct a single character. But more than that, my father inspired me to learn a skill, "something that just everybody can't do."  His was the mechanical age of Linotypes, mine was the emerging age of computers, but our two vastly different careers actually had much in common. The following essay about the delights of programming could very well have been written by the guys in the Composing Room a generation ago. 

Why is programming [typesetting] fun?

Following is an extract from The Mythical Man-Month, by Frederick P. Brooks, Jr. It was first published in 1974 and republished in 1995. I kept a copy on my desk for years when I was a programmer at IBM, and it still speaks to why I spend so much time in front of a computer screen, tinkering with web pages, databases, and more...  look at how easily the words can be exchanged:

(Begin quote)

Why is programming [typesetting] fun? What delights may its practitioner expect as his reward?

First is the sheer joy of making things. As the child delights in his mud pie, so the adult enjoys building things, especially things of his own design. I think this delight must be an image of God's delight in making things, a delight shown in the distinctness and newness of each leaf and each snowflake.

Second is the pleasure of making things that are useful to other people. Deep within, we want others to use our work and to find it helpful. In this respect the programming system [typesetting process] is not essentially different from the child's first clay pencil holder "for Daddy's office."

Third is the fascination of fashioning complex puzzle-like objects of interlocking moving parts and watching them work in subtle cycles, playing out the consequences of principles built in from the beginning. The programmed computer [printed page] has all the fascination of the pinball machine or the jukebox mechanism, carried to the ultimate.

Fourth is the joy of always learning, which springs from the non-repeating nature of the task. In one way or another the problem is ever new, and its solver learns something: sometimes practical, sometimes theoretical, and sometimes both.

Finally, there is the delight of working in such a tractable medium. The programmer [printer], like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds his castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. 

Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures. (...) Yet the program construct [Linotype machine], unlike the poet's words, is real in the sense that it moves and works, producing visible outputs separately from the construct itself. It prints results, draws pictures, produces sounds, moves arms. 
The magic of myth and legend has come true in our time. One types the correct incantation on a keyboard, and a display screen [printed page] comes to life, showing things that never were nor could be.

Programming [typesetting], then, is fun because it gratifies creative longings built deep within us and delights sensibilities we have in common with all men.

(End quote)
Thanks, Daddy... 

AL: Remember Me

Allan L. Proctor
May 17, 1938 - March 11, 2000
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
If one offered for love
all the wealth of his house,
it would be utterly scorned.
 Song of Solomon 8:6-7

  And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked,
that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire,
and horses of fire,
and parted them both asunder;
and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
II Kings 2:11
Creating a memorial of any kind, searching to find just the right tribute to a life well-lived, is always a difficult task. Creating a web page to remember and celebrate a fellow who was "everybody's computer guru" is a bit daunting... but here goes.

As I write this in August 2002 it has been almost two and a half years since my beloved husband lost his short, violent battle with lung cancer. I still feel his presence and miss him terribly every day. Now and then, as the world says I must somehow "let go," a dream of him will come that is so vivid and seems  so very real...  that waking up to find him still gone is like losing him all over again. 

Al was not ready to go; he fought his battle with extraordinary strength and bravery until the very end. We did have the opportunity for a few bittersweet moments of farewell... something that is denied to many. For that I am grateful.  

I guess these pages in his honor are really for me, as much as for those few people who will ever actually see them. Nevertheless it is important to me to do it, to put something "out there" for the world to see - to say, Stop.  Look.  Listen.  Remember.  

(And yes, move on... but it really is OK to stop and do a little more remembering every now and then. )  
Forever,Mona Gail

Remember Me

To the living I am gone
To the sorrowful, I will never return
To the angry, I was cheated.
But to the happy, I am at peace
And to the faithful, I have never left.
I cannot speak, but I can listen
I cannot be seen, but I can be heard.
So, as you stand upon a shore,
Gazing at a beautiful sea
Remember me.
As you look in awe at a mighty forest
And its grand majesty
Remember me.
Remember me in your heart,
Your thoughts and your memories
Of the times we cried,
The times we fought,
The times we laughed,
For if you always think of me,
I will never be gone from your side.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach...  
I love with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life; 
and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806-1861

Al's Place

Love of My Life, Light of My Heart

Al, 1990

Don't weep at my grave,

for I am not there,
I've a date with a butterfly
to dance in the air.
I'll be singing in the
sunshine, wild and free,
Playing tag with the wind,
while I'm waiting for thee.
author unknown

  Click on any photo
to see a larger view

Bits 'n Pieces 
Al loved the ocean, starry night skies, fireworks, and airplanes.  He loved music of many kinds, especially powerful instrumentals. And, wonder of wonders, he loved me! He was an audiophile, a smooth, excellent dancer (I was a poor student, much to his chagrin!), and an original 'techie.'  "Top Gun" and "Doctor Zhivago" were among his favorite movies.  More favorites were animals, talk radio, and peanut butter sandwiches. 

He genuinely liked people of every age, color, and description; he was comfortable talking to anyone, anywhere (just never as a public speaker!). He was patient, and unusually compassionate. He never met a stranger, would always lend a hand to anyone in need, and 'he could sell ice to Eskimos!'  Al was tall and physically very strong. I always felt safe in his arms, and proud to walk into a room with him. "Everyone liked Al" and depended on his easygoing good nature in many ways. 

Remember the deep voice, the dry humor and the goofy grin. Remember what a good boss he was to work for, and how hard he worked at anything he did.  Remember how many times he put other people's needs, wants, and favors ahead of his own desires. Remember his perpetual messy desk, his well-used coffee cups and ashtrays, his endless to-do lists. Remember the macho, gruff guy with a gentle touch and a very tender, vulnerable heart. 

Al especially liked being outdoors and staying busy; he was always working on a project. He could fix ANYTHING (except plumbing!). He wanted to know how everything worked (and therefore could usually explain how anything worked). He taught himself the complexities of electronics and computers, and he was always eager to learn the next new thing. 

Everyone could see that Al was a dependable friend, a loving, supportive husband and father, and a proud grandpa. Very few people knew about the tragic illnesses of his mother and brothers, the heartache of his first broken marriage, or his battles with personal demons. He started over more than once in life and sometimes fought depression, but he always found his way to better times with a smile, a lot of hard work, and faith. I have no "delusions of perfection" in my memories of him; we had some difficulties through the years, but we made it through them together, closer and stronger than ever. He treated me like his queen, always.  
Rose in full bloom
Inspired by my brother James, Al became a rose gardener extraordinaire. Thanks to his dedication and constant attention, we had dozens of spectacular hybrid teas over the years producing beautiful backyard bouquets. Peace, Tropicana, Fragrant Cloud, Mister Lincoln, Honor, First Prize, Double Delight, and many more varieties graced his gardens. I would trade everything I have left in the world for a single bloom from one of those bouquets, and the proud gleam in his eye when he presented it. 
Al - bouncing baby boy
Bouncing baby
Al as a toddler
Sweetie pie!
In days long gone, Al was a skinny, red-headed, freckle-faced kid often called "Red," with a pet duck and a penchant for mischief. He went to the local matinĂ©e on Saturday afternoons with his big brother, Jack. He explored county roads for miles around on his bicycle, paid for with money from his job at the drugstore. He grew up with cowboys and Indians, WWII heroes, homemade radios and farm chores. 

Cue the "William Tell Overture."  Now close your eyes and see those two young boys in a darkened movie theatre: Al and Jack. Smell the popcorn... don't spill that Coca-Cola! Bouncing in their seats as horses thunder across the screen and fighter pilots scream through the sky... Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Audie Murphy, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, and more... heroes and role models all.  For a long, lazy string of Saturday afternoons, life was simple and full of pleasures. 

As a teen, Al was something of a James Dean wannabe with a white T-shirt, a leather jacket, and a motor scooter. He was a stage hand for school plays (Jackson High School, Class of '56), set up the sound system for a local drag strip, and installed the first intercom system in Foote Hospital. His father was a builder and general contractor; Al learned electrical and construction skills early as he helped his dad create commercial buildings and residences in Jackson, Michigan. He was big brother, babysitter and occasional swim coach to a gaggle of little girls and one little boy who tried to copy his every move (especially those peanut butter sandwiches!).  

Al and Jack, ca. 1945
All dressed up with
big brother Jack,
ca. 1945

"Red"   (larger image not available)

Al with cousin Donnie on scooter
Lookin' cool
on the scooter
A box full of sisters... Virginia, Sarah, and Colleen
Boxful of sisters:
Virginia, Sarah,
Colleen; ca 1960
Al - Class of '55
Class of '56
NASA: Apollo 30th Anniversary, 1969-1999 - Al was part of the team that made it happen.

International Order of Odd Fellows
Friendship, Love, Truth
International Order of Odd Fellows
Career Notes
Al's career in electronics began high atop the radio and television towers of southern Michigan. When his children were small he moved his family to Florida, where he worked for about ten years at the Kennedy Space Center. Al was a Ground Support Communications Manager  with RCA and NASA during the Apollo moon missions. His heart was broken when he lost three good friends in the 1967 Apollo 1 tragedy on the launch pad, and he vowed to maintain a more professional distance from future astronauts. His heart soared with the rest of the team, the nation, and the world in 1969 when Apollo 11 accomplished its moon landing mission. And he was there when Apollo 13 came so dramatically close to disaster. Al left NASA amid the severe budget cutbacks of the early seventies. His collection of patches and memorabilia from the Apollo flights has been passed on to his children.  
In Lexington, Kentucky, Al spent twelve years managing electronic security companies, and ten years as the Corporate Technical Support manager for CBM, a regional chain of computer stores. While employed there, he designed an award-winning system for warranty repairs; he also served on Hewlett Packard's Dealer Advisory Council and IBM's Technical Advisory Board. When CBM was sold and dismantled by a larger company in 1992, Al was faced with starting over once again. 

From 1992 to 1999 Al and I worked together - often around the clock! - as independent computer consultants and owners of an office supply company in Paris, Kentucky - dba Simple Office Solutions Inc. and later Proctor & Associates. Al was serving as Membership Chair of the Paris-Bourbon County Chamber of Commerce at the time of his final illness, and he was a member of the International Order of Odd Fellows. 

Heidi's Lament
Al had a gentle soul, and he was an animal lover. Much to his father's disappointment, he didn't enjoy hunting trips in the Michigan countryside because he couldn't stand to hurt an animal. Dogs and cats seemed to gravitate to him instinctively. We had four dogs over the course of 23 years: Chipper, a yellow Lab; Maggie, a chocolate Lab; Toto, a tiny little black stray; and our beloved blonde mutt, Heidi. 

We had a cat, too, in the early years: a gorgeous gray we called Smoky, who loved to drape himself around Al's shoulders. One day Al carried in his broken body from a nearby highway, crying like a child. For a long time then, cats were taboo. But one day about eight years ago, Maggie, Toto and Heidi "treed" a terrified little kitten in a rosebush in our yard. Al rescued her and we named her Missy. She hasn't seen a blade of grass since, and she is still my comforting companion. 

Al actually 'delivered' Heidi; the tiny, fat pup arrived with eyes closed tight on a warm spring day in our garage. Her father dog, Brownie, had been in my family for over fifteen years, so Heidi was pretty much guaranteed 'favored status' from the beginning. Al and Heidi shared an especially close bond; she positively adored him, and she was his "baby." 

Whenever Al was at home, Heidi was never far from his side. There was no concern about Heidi running away or leaving home if a gate was left open; she would never leave Al for humdrum doggie temptations! She would run like the wind, chasing real and imaginary critters, when he walked the fields around our home. She would jump "a mile high" for a treat from his hand, "sing" for her supper, and perform a string of tricks at his slightest command. 

When Al got sick, Heidi had been with us for fourteen years; she was an important and much-loved part of the family. Losing her beloved master was almost more than she could bear; it was heart-wrenching to watch her pining for him. For one long spell she refused to get up at all, to go outside or to eat. I probably wasn't much help to her, as I felt much the same way myself. 

Almost exactly a year after Al's death, Heidi developed serious health problems and had to be put down... another life slipped away in my arms. She is resting now, literally, right at Al's feet.  I like to think they are keeping each other company, running with Maggie and Chipper in sweet sunshine, waiting for me to join them someday. 

My closest friend from childhood, Geraldine Marshall Gutfreund, is a published writer and an award-winning poet. She put her own life on hold, including a husband, two teen-aged daughters and her work in Paducah, to come and stay with me during those black days after Al's death... Words can never express my gratitude for her kind words, loving support, and hard work during such a traumatic time. She taught me that the most important words a friend can ever say are simply, "I am here for you." 

An animal lover, Gerry showered attention on our little Heidi. In this poem Gerry gave a human voice to Heidi's very real emotion, and whispered  of my own inexpressible grief:
Al and Heidi, fall 1999
Al and Heidi
Fall 1999

  Heidi's Poem
So many smells,
layered in the silence of this house,
but where is the one longed-for scent
of smoke and seedpods,
and the man who brought in his smells
and stroked them into my winter coat
with something the humans call love? 
In his pockets he kept biscuits
and forbidden sweet bits,
and in his slow, deep speech,
the man called me names:
girl and good and even baby.
I answered to all the names he gave,
for dogs cannot divide love into pockets
or names or to-do lists;
into the living or the dead. 
I hear his footfalls returning home,
but the woman answers my barks with,
"Nothing there, baby."
Are his solid steps like the sleep pictures
where the man and I are puppies again,
romping in a yard gone?
I have dug a hole to reach him,
but only torn my dewclaw,
the claw that only touches
morning's first sweet water.
The man would have known to stop my bleeding
with flour and water,
but the woman only knew to hold me
and cry his name. 
Inside, she gives me his slipper,
and the man's smell settles into my soul;
I lose his name in his scent,
lose the taste of dull food not from his hands,
the keening silence of the house
sung into my own howls.
All things but smells, and love, are lost. 
Geraldine Marshall Gutfreund
April 2000

For the Record
Allan Leo Proctor was born May 17, 1938, in Jackson, Michigan, the third child of Lillian (Finch) and George Carleton Proctor.  He married, first, Grace Louise Craig. They had a son, Stephen Allan, and a daughter, Deborah Louise, then later divorced.  Al married me,  Mona Gail Landrum, on March 25, 1978, in Lexington, Kentucky. We had no children. 

Happy times... a birthday dinner at Darryl's

Al died on March 11, 2000, at the Hospice Care Center in Lexington, Kentucky - only five months after being diagnosed with lung cancer that had already spread into his spine when it was found.  He is buried in the Paris Cemetery in Paris, Kentucky; Mona's plot is waiting at his side. And no, he never did quit smoking.

Al's son, Steve, with his wife Ramona, son Sam, and daughter BeckyAl's daughter Debbie, with her husband John and son MatthewAl's son, Steve, married Ramona Spike; they have two children, Samuel Allan and Rebecca Louise Proctor. They live in Minnesota. Steve is another "computer techie." Al's daughter, Debbie, married John Hardin, an attorney; they have one child, Matthew Hardin. They live in Lexington, Kentucky.  Debbie recently earned her Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Kentucky. 

Al was preceded in death by both parents, a stepmother, Esther (Folz) Proctor, and two older brothers: Jerry, who died in childhood, and John ("Jack"), who died in 1999. In addition to Mona, his children and grandchildren, Al was survived by a half-brother, Carleton "Guy" Proctor of Sand Lake, Michigan, and four half-sisters: Cathy Henry of Jackson, Michigan; Virginia Wilson of Spartanburg, South Carolina; Sarah Reeve of Horton, Michigan; and Colleen Burian of Bryant, Illinois.  

Death Is Nothing At All

I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I, and you are you;
Whatever we were to each other,
that we are still. 
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. 
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was,
Let it be spoken without an effort,
without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
Somewhere very near, just round the corner.
All is well. 
Henry Scott Holland