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Remembering My Dad on Father’s Day
This is the week the “regular” writers for the Woodall’s Family Camping Blog were asked by our editor to write about Father’s Day activities and remembrances. This is my contribution to the topic for the week:
He was born November 25, 1920, in Lynchburg, Virginia, the second child, and the first boy, to his parents. He was named Luther Thornhill Agee, Jr. – the junior, of course, after his dad.
He disliked the name “Luther” and as he grew older became known to his family and peers simply by his initials, L.T. Later in life, he would become A.G. – most people did not consider using his last name in initial form as being too military or formal. In fact, my Mom even addressed him as A.G. – which always struck people unfamiliar with his history as odd.
Most all of his boyhood years were spent in Lynchburg with the exception of some trips back to the old family home in Glenmore, a community just outside of Buckingham, VA, where many of my ancestors worked the land as farmers.
After Dad graduated from E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, he ventured off to Charlottesville where he studied Architectural Engineering at “The University”. But, this was a difficult time for the United States and after two years at UVA, he joined the Army Air Corps to fight for his Country’s cause.
Dad somehow ended up at Langley Field in Tidewater Virginia after “Boot Camp” performing mechanical service on airplanes. It was there that he met my Mom, a teenage resident of Newport News and sister of the wife of one of his military buddies.
Dad married my Mom in January of 1944 just hours before he boarded a troop ship headed for an unknown destination. He would not see her again until late in the summer of 1945 when she was allowed to come as a civilian wife to Panama, where Dad was stationed working on both P-38 and P-40 military aircraft.
In May of 1946, Dad was discharged from the Army and he and my Mom moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where Dad had a job waiting with the Atomic Energy Commission as an Engineering Draftsman. I was born just two months later in the government run Oak Ridge Hospital.
I have a few memories of those first few formative years. Those that are there include visual snippets of my Dad.
Dad joined the National Guard when he was discharged from the Army in 1946. As luck would have it his Guard unit was called up in 1950 when the Korean War broke out. This time he was a first lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers and was assigned to design and supervise the building of bridges for allied troops in a distant and hostile land.
My Mom and I moved back to Lynchburg where we stayed until Dad came home from Korea in late 1952. His job in Oak Ridge was waiting and we returned to the “Atomic City” to live for the rest of my Dad’s life.
We did make some camping trips back in the late 50’s and early 60’s. I remember the old, smelly canvas tents with wooden poles that would leak in the rain if you happened to touch the inside of the canvas. We used kerosene lanterns, slept on folding wooden and canvas cots and cooked over a campfire. I treasure those memories and can say that they remain vivid in my mind after more than 55 years. One in particular was a Boy Scout Father-and-Son outing at Norris Lake where I caught the “biggest fish”. The fish was a Shad, but it did not matter – it was bigger than any other caught and I received a Ray-O-Vac 6V lantern as my trophy. WOW – a real electric lantern for camping!
The “between years” are the source of many memories and stories of my Dad and me. He was a strong community leader active in several civic organizations. Later, I would learn that his job at the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was key to the development of several significant National Defense projects – but at the time, they were so top secret that not even my Mom knew what he was working on.
In 1991 my Dad and one of his old army buddy’s made the RV trip I often dream about – and hopefully, one day soon, I will follow the same trail. Packed into a 80′s model Chevy van class C the two of them made the trek from Tennessee to Alaska and back in six weeks. I wanted to go, but job obligations stood in the way. I have his daily trip diary and photo album – both of which are awesome.
What I remember most was a call from my Dad in May of 2001. They had discovered a tumor in his lungs that had metastasized to the rest of his body. The Oncologist told us it was untreatable. The disease was perhaps brought about by hundreds of thousands of unfiltered Chesterfield King’s smoked in his teen and military years, and then continued until around 1990 with a different brand of filtered cigarette. He had been tobacco free for at least eleven years – but the damage that had been done earlier in his life was not reversible. His Oncologist told me that his quitting when he did probably gave him a few more years of life – a statement that gave me some comfort.
Dad died while in Hospice on July 20, 2001. Just three days before his death I did what I would have previously considered impossible – I stood by his bedside and prayed with him to die. This was a request from my Dad to me that I answered. His features at the time bore only a small resemblance to the man I knew and his pain was constantly being masked by strong narcotics.
When the attacks against our Country occurred on September 11, 2001, I thought of my Dad and his pride in being part of our defense in WWII and his commitment for the right to freedom during the Korean War. I was glad my Dad was spared the agony of September 11 – a day I knew would have caused him great personal anger and dismay.
My Dad was a true Hero. He made life not only better for my Mom and me, but also the rest of America.
Father’s Day is actually a little harder on me than his Birthday or the date he died. It seems strange even eleven years later not giving him a card and a gift. But, despite the loss, my memories and love for my father will stay with me until the day I die. I only pray that I can leave something behind in the memories of my two boys and two girls that creates a legacy like my Dad did for me.
HAPPY CAMPING TRAILS AND FATHER’S DAY TO ALL!