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Sixty-Four Year Commitment: Congratulations to my parents on their anniversary.

Jimmy & Elsie Warnock enjoying fall colors at Artist Point

Jimmy & Elsie Warnock enjoying fall colors at Artist Point

My parents will have been married sixty-four years on March 10th.  After they married, my father went to the Korean War while my mother continued in school. When he returned, they built a life based on commitment and unconditional love. They went through hard times and good times. There would be childhood illnesses and challenging behavior to deal with from their teenage son, but they handled it all masterfully.

I’m sure they haven’t always been completely happy with each other and know for a fact that they can occasionally disagree. But, they’ve never considered abandoning their commitment to each other and their vows of marriage.

Congratulations to my mother and daddy on their sixty-fourth anniversary! Thank you for making sacrifices to provide for sister Martha and me and our families. We love you.

What follows are pictures that represent a few stages of my parents’ lives.

Writing letters to Elsie from Korea

Writing letters to Elsie from Korea.

College days at Ouachita in Arkadelphia.

College days at Ouachita in Arkadelphia.

Jimmy & Elsie Warnock around 1953

Jimmy & Elsie Warnock around 1953

Mother and Daddy in 1956

Mother and Daddy in 1956

This is me trying to help my dad.

This is me trying to help my dad.

The front of Martha's birth announcement.

The front of Martha’s birth announcement.

Baby announcement that mother wrote for Martha. I appreciated her including me, but she probably should have added a statement of the kindness I would show to my new baby sister.

Martha's birth announcement.

Martha’s birth announcement.

Elsie's first year of teaching in South Texas.

Elsie’s first year of teaching in South Texas.

My parents set the example of working hard at their jobs. They didn’t miss work, and they were respected for their quality of work. Mother worked as a teacher for elementary, junior high and high school levels. She even worked in an early childhood program for special needs. Daddy taught a couple of years, but most of his work was as a chemist in oil refineries and later in pollution control. He was very interested in protecting the water table of the area.

Beyond their jobs, they managed to find time to be involved in church and volunteer for community organizations.

Daddy's work to protect water supplies in oil country.

Daddy’s work to protect water supplies in oil country.

Showboat 11 07r

Vacation

My parents flanked by my sister, Martha, and me.

My parents flanked by my sister, Martha, and me.

Jimmy & Elsie Warnock celebrate 64 years of marriage on March 10th.

Jimmy & Elsie Warnock celebrate 64 years of marriage on March 10th.

The El Dorado News Times did a nice story about daddy’s early Valentine gift to mother and their lives together. They still pull this vase out and display it on special occasions.

A Few Things My Parents Didn’t Do… (A note to my parents on their 63rd Anniversary)

Jimmy & Elsie Warnock celebrate 63 years of marriage on March 10th.

Jimmy & Elsie Warnock celebrate 63 years of marriage on March 10th.

There are a number of things you never did….and for these I’m thankful.

You never argued in my presence.   If you had disagreements, I never knew because you resolved things in private and presented a unified front as parents.  Two parents on the same page is a force to be reckoned with and simplified my younger years.

You didn’t speak critically of each other.  You had a genuine appreciation for each other’s talents and skills.

You never struck me out of anger.  Oh, there were a few spankings along the way, but the carefully thought out discussion in preparation for a spanking was where the real teaching occurred.

You didn’t yell at me in a harsh way.  You spoke to each other and to your children in a respectful tone, even when you were disappointed or upset.

You never discouraged me.  You tended to encourage my interests even when you might have liked to shape them in another direction.  Sorry about the drum related headaches.

You never dropped me off at a school music performance and picked me up later.  You stayed and watched the performance.  Any criticism was mild. “Why did the drummers keep talking during the performance?”  Your message to stop talking was received.

You never acted as if you were sacrificing anything for us even though you were.  I remember daddy’s early morning departures for work and years of shift work so he could provide for our family.  I remember mother grading tests and spending time reading to prepare as a teacher.

You never lost commitment for each other.  I remember hearing your late night conversations and knowing that you were committed for the long haul.

My father writing a letter to my mother in the early 1950s from Korea.

My father writing a letter to my mother in the early 1950s from Korea.

You never fail to recognize each other’s strengths.  I remember daddy saying on several occasions, “It’s amazing what your mother can do.”  I remember mother bragging on and thanking daddy for the work he did.

You didn’t make unreasonable demands on each other or your children.  You depend on each other in a healthy way.  This has become even more pronounced during recent years.  You both confirm that the other has strengths that complete you and make it possible for you to continue to thrive as you do.

You never worried about having the “best” of everything.  You taught me it is what you do with what you have that matters. Used or secondhand is just fine if it works.   Note to Daddy: One exception I take to this lesson relates to lawn mowers.  After spending so many Saturdays of my childhood watching you patch up mowers rather than mowing, I now own a very nice mower.

You never belittled what I said even when I was a know-it-all teenager.  You listened even when you probably wanted to show me the irrationality of what I was saying.

You never tried to “go it alone” in life.  You built friendships through your work, church, and your community.  You tended to hang around other good people, sharing your strengths and learning from them.  You made everything you were involved in better.

You didn’t criticize my wife. You treated her like a daughter and accepted her as a true member of your family.

You never rejected friends or family.  You were understanding and showed love for others even when they made mistakes or seemed distant for a time.  You’ve shown a tendency to forgive and move on with others.

To be continued….

Congratulations on sixty-three years together.  That is an amazing accomplishment. I’ve been around to see fifty-eight of those years and have some credibility on the subject of your marriage and your parenting.  I give you highest grades on both areas.

Thank you for your continuing commitment to each other, your family, church, and community.  We are all blessed by your influence.

Jimmy & Elsie Warnock around 1953

Jimmy & Elsie Warnock around 1953

Paying it Forward

Written for the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators newsletter, September, 2013.

After his first year of college my father was back in his hometown of Smackover looking for work.   He wouldn’t be able to continue his education because money for tuition simply was not there.   Two local men learned of his situation and contacted my grandfather.  They told him to send his son right back to school because his tuition had been covered for the next year.   They asked my father not to repay them but to “pass it on.”

My father went on to finish college with a degree in science while working campus and summer jobs and qualifying for scholarships.  His career path eventually led to his directing pollution control in oil and chemical plants.  By the time I entered college my dad operated a water treatment plant for an oil refinery.  I saw dark, sludgy liquids entering this plant only to come the other side as crystal clear water.  He enjoyed his job because it blended his love of science and appreciation for the natural world.  He was able to do this work because of his education.   While he may have doubted the wisdom of my decision to pursue a degree in music, he saw to it that I went to college.

I admire people who can say “I’m a self-made man,” but in my case it just wouldn’t be accurate.  The truth is that my way has been opened by the kindness and generosity of others.  I was once trying to express to my father that there’s no way to repay your parents for all that they do in your lifetime.  He said the only repayment he wanted was to see his gifts passed on to his grandchildren.

Some of the most significant gifts from my parents have been time, unconditional love, and an education.  There was never a question if my father would attend a ballgame, concert, or school event.  I never once wondered if he would come home after work.  His commitment to my mother and his children was unconditional.   He had been given some opportunities and would see to it that those gifts were passed on to his children.   The best I can do is say “thank you” and work to pass those gifts on to my children and the children I’m privileged to work with at school.

In our rush-a-day work as educators it might do us good to pause and reflect on the gifts we’ve been given.  Who has helped us along the way by giving encouragement or supporting our growth?  How have we worked to increase the value of these gifts and paid them forward?  Whose professional growth are we investing in and how are we encouraging others (children and adults) on their paths of learning?

I never met either of the men who covered my father’s college tuition.  Many years later I told the story to one of their granddaughters and learned that her grandfather was a giving person who helped a number of young people in his community in similar ways.  He would have been pleased to learn that his gift of educational opportunity had been passed down to his great-granddaughter’s school principal.

Some gifts have a way of increasing in value over time.  Like that gift of college tuition for my father so many years ago, our investments in others will have positive effects for years and possibly generations to come.

Note: Below is a picture of my dad (blue hardhat) and description of work he was involved with in water conservation.

WarnockWellInspectionPhoto

 

My father writing a letter to my mother in the early 1950s from Korea.

My father writing a letter to my mother in the early 1950s from Korea.

Climbing a mountain in Mexico with my dad in the late 90s.

Climbing a mountain in Mexico with my dad in the late 90s.

My dad in 2013, at 85, visiting his hometown of Smackover.

My dad in 2013, at 85, visiting his hometown of Smackover.

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