By J.A. West
I was born and reared in Wilmington, NC, but when I was 18 years old, the US Navy changed all of that. I was about to be drafted into the army, but I chose to join the Navy instead. The Navy took us 19-year-olds and spent a year training us and hoping we would soon look like men, instead of boys. I spent a year in the Navy V-12 program at Duke University, 90 days in Midshipmen School at Northwestern University in Chicago, a year at Pearl Harbor as an Education Officer, and a year on Landing Ship Medium 301 roaming the Pacific Ocean.
When I got out of the Navy I was both amazed and delighted to find that my service time during World War II entitled me to go to college on the GI Bill. I graduated from Wake Forest University in the town of Wake Forest and then from law school at Duke.
In 1950 I began a 44 year practice of law in Shelby, NC and my wife, Evelyn, and I began our 66 year marriage (so far). During that time Evelyn worked as a social worker, stayed home to raise our girls, worked in real estate, taught school, and founded Hospice of Cleveland County and served as its first director. We traveled with our girls all over the United States. After they left home Evelyn and I began going on river cruises in North Africa, China, Russia, Canada, and all over Europe.
Through those years Evelyn and I both were deacons and First Baptist Church, taught Sunday School for over 50 years, volunteered in the community, and spent much time visiting the sick and elderly. We also helped to start Christopher Road Baptist Church. We retired at 70, continued to volunteer for Hospice, continued to do a lot of visiting, I wrote a column for the local paper for many years, and I still volunteer at the Senior Center.
When we neared our 90’s, I began to lose my sight and became “legally blind” so I could no longer drive or read. Evelyn’s soft bones pressed in on the nerves in her back and caused great pain. She had surgery and could still walk but required a leg brace and a walker. However she could still drive so we continued our Sunday school teaching and our visiting. Because of my loss of sight Evelyn reads my Sunday school lesson to me, I dictate an outline that she writes very large, and I am able to review it all week to prepare for Sunday teaching. Evelyn has lost the use of her legs and is in a wheelchair (doctors do not know what caused this) but we have not given up hope of her walking again. Evelyn and I have had 66 years together so far, and we have high hopes that we will be able to visit the elderly and be more active in the church once again.
For now though, neither of us can drive, but we are thankful for friends and family and caregivers who care for us, bring us meals, drive me where I need to go, etc. Our oldest daughter, Evelyn, has spent more time with us recently than with her family in Wilmington, and our other two daughters, Kathy and Betsy, help whenever they can.
God has blessed us with good health most of our 92 years. Now that our health is a bit questionable we find God is still with us, blessing us, and we still count on His presence and provision in our lives every day.