JOPLIN, Mo. —
In late December 2009, I wrote about Irene, the mother of my lifelong friend.
The country was embroiled in the Great Recession, and I wrote about how one woman, a member of the Greatest Generation, endured such turmoil. That article was published in this newspaper.
Irene is now under hospice care, and I returned this past week to be by her side. She is the same courageous and compassionate woman I have always known.
But I really got to know her son-in-law, Ralph, during this last visit. He is cut from the same cloth as Irene, a man of tremendous substance. He is of the generation of my children, but he demonstrates the characteristics of the Greatest Generation.
I wonder if it is the water around Georgetown that creates such folks.
Ralph is a man who can do anything. Talk about a self-made man; he is exactly that.
Ralph has only a meager education, but he can make things, fix things and apply a work ethic to every task before him all the time. He puts most of us to shame in doing so. “Tired” is simply not a word in his vocabulary, or so it seems to me.
Ralph and his wife, a Georgetown real estate agent, built their home outside of town, in the country, so to speak. They have lived there for 30-plus years with Irene and raised two kids. Both children are college graduates with one now pursuing her master’s degree.
Ralph has been gainfully employed all his life and always supported his family through hard work, as well.
If I were running any company, I would kill to get and keep an employee such as Ralph. There are simply no finer employees, from executive levels and below, than men and women like Ralph and Irene.
Seeing men like Ralph today around Georgetown reminds me of my high school graduating class in 1960, all 52 of us.
As far as I know, they have lived their lives productively, contributing to society — each and every one of them. None became burdens on society, again, as far as I know.
I don’t know how Kentucky, central Kentucky or Georgetown have done it in the past or seem to still be doing it.
But if Americans want to see what’s right in America, come with me back to that area and just watch and listen carefully.
Those who live there may not really understand such wealth of the human spirit that overcomes almost anything that life throws in their paths. I live in Joplin where over two years ago we had a tornado strike our city.
Well, the “Spirit of Joplin” responded. And guess what?
I see the same spirit around Georgetown as well.
Anson Burlingame lives in Joplin.