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Richard enlisted at the age of 17, joining the Navy to fight in WWII and, later, in Korea. He said that while he was away, alone in his bunk at night, he'd close his eyes and try to remember all the details of his small Mississippi home town, Waveland.

After returning from the service, he married Barbara. He began doing construction work - primarily painting - as they bought land and planned their future home. With scraps of wood picked up here and there - and some very occassional help from others - he built the house himself. As time passed, Richard began to focus more and more on painting until finally he did that almost exclusively.

In the early years the relationship between our families was based both on convenience and necessity. They had three children and our family had five, so we had that natural interaction. My mother also needed a fried and Barbara was right there. Also, our well was too shallow for the water to be potable so it was my job to carry empty bleach jugs to their home, fill the jugs from the hose, and bring them back. [Nobody was gladder than I when "city water" finally came to our street!]

Time passed and the relationship waxed and waned as they naturally do. As I grew older, Richard began taking me on painting jobs with him both locally and elsewhere. He - and I - always seemd to be among the very first on the jobsite and the among the very last to leave. [To this day, I still think he is the hardest working man I've met.] All the while, he emphasized that I should continue my education and never give up.

Stories and experiences were shared about people, events, and so forth. When word came about Katrina, Richard didn't want to leave the home he'd built there. After all, the place had never flooded and neither Betsy ('65) nor Camille ('69) had really damaged the place. Their children, though, begged both Richard and Barbara to leave. They did so reluctantly, packing only a couple of bags and driving away sure that their home would be fine.

The Katrina storm surge hit dead on the Waveland coast and sent the tidal wave directly into town. Richard and Barbara's home - the one which survived Betsy and Camill and which had never flooded - got hit very badly. Although their house was about 1.5 miles from the beach, they had about 12 or more feet of water inside.

At 78 years old, walking with a cane and struggling with cancer, Richard have every right to give up. But just because he's the kind of guy he is, he began trying whatever he could to fix it before the Army Corps of Engineers came and pretty much explained the house was a total loss and that they'd take it down. Richard said he cried for three days after seeing that home he'd built go down, but then smiled and told of how the Corps buys had remarked it was one of the best, most solidly built homes they'd seen.

Richard and Barbara are now in a small FEMA trailer sitting in one part of their yard while the big black hole behind them serves only as a memory of the home they once had. I visited them a few weeks ago and saw the storm's damage not only on their land but in their eyes. Barbara said more than once that she hoped with all her heart that Richard wouldn't wind up dying in a FEMA trailer.

And when we visited them, I said that I knew most of their photographs and memoirs had been lost but that I had something for them. I gave them an album filled with copies of all my degrees, major awards, pictures from my wedding, etc. In the front of that album is a dedication to the both of them and saying that all the things in that album came true through their friendship and assistance. I also got Richard to give me one of his brushes to put on the wall of my office so that I'd always see it and remember them each day. That brush is up there now.

The good news is that some people have come to the rescue and are working to build Barbara and Richard a small home on that lot where they've lived for so many years. It will be a very modest place and unfurnished, but it's a start -- and that's where some generous Fools can make a difference.

If you are in a position to help, please visit "The Giving Circle" and read their story ( As you wish, donations can be given to the organization or earmarked for Barbara & Richard specifically. It doesn't matter whether you're giving to help out and a honor a vet; it doesn't matter whether you're giving to help out a fellow American. What does matter is that you showed you cared.

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When Life Gives You Lemons
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