Sunday, October 19, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad

by Pa Rock

My father, Garland Eugene Macy, was born eighty-four years ago today in rural Newton County, Missouri. He was the second son of Charles Eugene and Hazel Josephine (Nutt)Macy. His older brother, Wayne Hearcel Macy, died in San Diego, CA, in 1956, his younger brother, Tommy Dean Macy passed away in Newton County, MO, in 2002. His youngest sibling, Betty (Macy) Lankford, lives in Seneca, MO.

My Dad and his siblings grew up in poor circumstances during the Great Depression. His parents raised chickens, a few milk cows, and tried to grow most of their groceries. They worked out to bring in extra money. My grandmother cleaned houses for people in Neosho, and my grandfather, "Chock," worked as a farm laborer. The family never owned a car.

The experience of living through the Depression had a lasting impact on my Dad, influencing him to become focused on gathering wealth and never throwing anything away. Today he lives by himself in the largest house in Noel, MO, and has it literally filled to the rafters with junk. One of his unflinching axioms is "never give your stuff away" - and he hasn't!

My Dad and his siblings attended school at Westview, a small rural school approximately halfway between Seneca and Neosho. He did well and lost some friends when his teachers had him skip a grade in elementary school. Westview only went through grade ten, so when he completed his sophomore year Dad moved to Neosho to live with relatives where he was able to complete high school. He graduated in 1942 and then joined the army.

Dad and his brother Wayne both served in Europe during World War II. Several of Dad's cousins were also in the War. My dad was in the newly formed Army Air Corps, which later became the United States Air Force. He worked keeping machine guns operational on airplanes. Dad advanced to the rank of staff sergeant, the only one of the Newton County Macy's to achieve that rank. Some of his cousins called him "Sarge" for years.

My Dad caught a missile in the arm during a training exercise in France, and wound up spending the last several months of his enlistment at a hospital in Springfield, MO. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the thanks of a proud nation.

After the War, Dad turned his focus to making money and starting a family. He met my mother, Ruby "Florine" Sreaves while he and his cousin, Dalton Macy, were driving a taxi in Neosho, MO. They were married on March 31, 1948, in Columbus, KS. (Ironically, Dalton Macy went on to marry my Mom's sister, Betty Lou Sreaves!) I was born in Neosho on March 23, 1948, and my sister, Gail, was born in the same town on October 10, 1950.

As my parents were getting established, my dad worked at Pet Milk in Neosho. He didn't like working for a salary, figuring that the real money was to be made working for himself, and he hated the union at Pet. Several years ago I talked him into penning a simple biography, and one line I remember was his rant on unions as being "the ruination of America!" He remains conservative to a fault. My parents prided themselves on rarely working for a salary, and usually owning the home they lived in. I believe that Mother told me they only rented once.

My parents joined with Mom's sister and brother-in-law, Christine and Bob Dobbs, to build a truck stop on Highway 71 in Goodman, MO, in the 1950s. It was called "Macy and Dobbs' LaBella View Cafe and Station." The Macy's were bought out by the Dobbs' in 1958, and our family moved south to Noel where my folks bought a tourist court called Riverview on the Elk River. My mother, sister, and I did most of the running of the 8-unit court while Dad ran a DX service station in Noel. Riverview provided a good income in the summers, but the gas station was necessary to tide us over in the winter. They sold the court in 1964, shortly after my dad had opened an appliance store in Noel. In later years he sold real estate and my Mother managed the office.

My Mother was diagnosed with inoperable brain tumors in early 1983 and suffered for nearly four years before finally passing away on December 8, 1986. During the time of Mom's illness, Dad surprised us by taking care of Mom (with hired assistants during the days, and by himself during nights), and working so hard at her care as to place his own health at risk. He was adamant that she would not wind up in a nursing home.

Through smart investing in things like rental homes, the stock market, and church bonds, my Dad has managed to acquire considerable wealth, much of it since my mother passed away. He is getting too old to take care of his rentals, and has begun to divest himself of them. And this year has been especially rough on his stock portfolio. But he remains financially comfortable despite the economic downturn. Growing up in the Great Depression had a life-long impact on his values, and he continues to see wealth as the one true gage of success. And, of course, by that marker, he has been very successful.

His children measure success by other markers, but we love our Dad regardless.

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