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1938 Joe 2021

Joe Rayl Windes

June 17, 1938 — September 22, 2021

This is Joe Rayl Windes of Norman Oklahoma. The date is March 26, 2021. At the encouragement of my sister Patti I'm going to try and dictate a few events from my life just in case anybody cares later on.

Let me give you a little bit of background. The family name is English. Our known ancestors in England go back to before1600 to Charles and Prudence Beacon. They lived in Ipswich on the NE coast. Charles’ son Barnabas came to the new world on the sailing ship Leopard in 1631 landing in Watertown, MA. He married Hannah (Anna) Eddie, also from England, here and started a family. I'm generation 12 in this country. We can trace an unbroken line all the way back to Charles and Prudence. Fortunately, I had some older cousins who did a lot of genealogical research from which I was able to assemble an extensive spreadsheet identifying and locating most of the 12 generations of the family. My father was Kenneth Wasson Windes, born and raised in Washburn, MO. He graduated from Vanderbilt and then the Baylor Dental School. My mother, Inez Carter, is from Martha, Oklahoma. She graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University and earned a Master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma, then taught in Oklahoma City schools for many years. How they met and got together is a mystery. I have two younger sisters. The eldest is Vina Margaret, born in 1941. She was a Journalist but she passed away several years ago in Colorado. The youngest is Patti Ann and she is here with me today looking over my shoulder and correcting my sentence construction. She lives in Phoenix and is six years younger. She has a Master’s degree in Music and is a distinguished writer and arranger of music text books. She teaches private piano and stringed instruments.

I was born 82 years ago in Rogers, Arkansas. Curiously the family never lived there. I presume the reason is because at the time they were building the Grand River dam and dad set up a dental clinic in the boom town of Disney, Oklahoma. Apparently, Rogers was the nearest hospital. Also, dad’s parents, Margaret and Harry Windes lived in Rogers where they owned mercantile stores in AR and MO. When I was one, dad joined the Navy Dental Corps and was assigned to the Dental Clinic at the Philadelphia Navy Hospital. So, the family moved to Philadelphia where Vina was born in 1941. My most vivid memories of Philadelphia (at age 3) were trying to learn to crab fish off the seawall and the incredible, but unknown, aroma of fresh baked Philadelphia pizza. Many years later on a trip to Washington D.C. I unexpectedly encountered that same smell in a downtown restaurant and eagerly asked the proprietor what it was. He said “it’s a secret.”

Dad’s next assignment was the Navy Hospital in Brooklyn, NY, We lived in an apartment just north of the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan. My youngest sister, Patti, was born there in 1944. Memories of New York City included dad teaching me to ride a bike in the nearby park empty wading pool, the newsstand that introduced me to comic books, the day I skipped school (1st grade), hanging out on the street all day because mom dressed me in the wrong suit, dad taking me to a New York Yankees baseball game, and all “lights out” and rationed goods during the war.

After that we lived on the Naval Air Base at Patuxent River, Md where I started 2nd grade, learned to swim, learned not to eat green apples, and was introduced to Chincoteague oysters.

Dad was next assigned to a troop ship, the USS Monrovia, that carried troops to and from North Africa. So, mother packed up us three kids (7, 4, and 1), and boarded a train headed to her parent’s home in Martha, Oklahoma. The 2nd half of Second grade found me in a classroom shared with the 3rd grade at Martha Elementary. It so happened that cousins Reuben and Brooks Ross helped build that school, along with the Baptist church, years earlier. Martha was a 150-population farming town 9 miles north of Altus tucked in the SW corner of Oklahoma near the north fork of the Red River. Our grandparents, Joseph Marion (papa) and Susanna LaVina (Smith) (mama) Carter had the only brick house in town, complete with a chicken coop, a garden, and a dark, scary storm cellar. My grandfather owned and operated the town drugstore, soda fountain, and post office. On benches outside, the town’s old men would sit, whittle, and tell stories to any young people my age who would listen. Brother Collier, a bald cousin, and pillar of the church, would sit there and wiggle the skin on his head to entertain us. Other characters included, Sylvester, the biggest man I had ever seen. The family behind our house kept big noisy pigs that I stayed away from.

My first airplane ride, perhaps a prelude to my future avocation, although unrecognized at the time, was taken across the street on a neighboring farm and piloted by Uncle Reuben Ross.

There were only two churches in town--the Baptist church, on the “right side” of the tracks, and the Methodist church, on the “wrong side” of the tracks.

In 1946 dad returned from the Navy with cancer and a medical discharge and took me on a house hunting trip to Oklahoma City. While he shopped he deposited me alone in a downtown hotel with a silver dollar in my pocket (8 years old at the time) and said “get something to eat.” When he returned, he said he bought a big house on a terrace. I didn’t know what a “terrace” was and thought it must be something like a New York City basement stoop. Turned out it was a large two-story white frame house on a big hill at NW 9th and Indiana (still standing today although the white is now pink).

My first school in OKC was 3rd grade at Whittier Elementary, a block from our house. My best friend was Ron Murray. His dad was the director of the city YMCA. The YMCA sponsored an under-10 Youth baseball league and Mr. Murray decided to see if 3rd graders could play baseball, so he recruited my class to test and that was the beginning of my 1st addiction--to baseball.

My dad’s cancer kept him in the VA Hospital for the next several years and he passed away in 1953. The three of us kids were raised by our single-mom, now a school teacher. Growing up, everything was hand-me-downs from other kids in the neighborhood. I never really had two coins to rub together but I didn’t know that at the time. My senior year in high school, mom got me my 1st new baseball glove, a $14 Ted Williams special from Sears.

Moving on to 7th grade at Roosevelt Jr. High, we had the choice of enrolling in an outdoor gym class or an indoor music class. Easy choice, I decided to enroll in Band (indoors). The director told me there was only one instrument left--a baritone saxophone that was bigger than I was. But I persevered. The next year mother felt sorry for me and bought me a used alto saxophone (much smaller) that I continued to play through high school and college. My best friend and saxophone buddy was (and is) Ben Duncan. That was the beginning of my 2nd addiction--music.

At Classen High School I played in the band--2nd chair Alto Sax to Ben Duncan. I also got rides after school on his red Cushman scooter. My first drivers license at age 16 listed me as 5’2”, 120 lbs. My Senior year at Classen it was announced that school would close and everybody move to the newly built Northwest Classen. So I have the distinction of graduating in the first class from the new Northwest Classen High School In 1956 (motto: the first Knights are the best”). By 17 I did fill out to 6’1” but too late for high school sports.

One of the tests that everyone took was the Iowa Achievement tests that measured our progress in all the required courses. My teachers were shocked to see my results were off the top of the charts (mom always claimed I was borderline Mensa but I apparently hid it well.

I didn’t have any particular plans for college. But I did apply several places including the service acadamies. The Navy came through, granting me an NROTC scholarship at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. While there I joined the OU band and tried out for the varsity baseball team. On a band trip with the football team to Notre Dame I met a flutist, my 3rd addiction—Elizabeth, on a blind date (we won the game 40-0). We have now been married almost 63 years with 3 grown children, Deborah Carol, Connie Allison (Zieba), and Carter Davis. Carter and his wife Andrea (Humpii) have presented us with two grandchildren William (Will) Carter (now 18), and Elizabeth (Beth) Ann (now 16). Both Elizabeth and I worked our way through college and eventually graduated (debt free). My BS was in engineering Physics and hers was in Home Economics. Deborah studied Computer Science at OU and lettered in Volleyball. She had a challenging career working with bank ATM systems. Connie graduated in History at Texas Tech and, inexplicably, never came home. She and her husband, John David (an Electrical Engineer from Texas Tech) live south of Houston. Carter played Volleyball at Graceland in Iowa and then graduated in Sports Medicine from OU. He has fashioned a promising career in Medical Sales.

Upon graduation I went to work for RCA (His Masters Voice) and was assigned to Cape Canaveral, FL (no family). It was an exciting time as the Cape was preparing for the first manned space flights. I reported in at the 2nd floor of a base hanger and they gave me a book to read. In 30 days I was anointed a radar engineer and moved into my 4th addiction--electronics engineering. My first real job assignment was aboard a radar tracking ship that plied the Caribbean Missile Range. My major accomplishment during that period was gaining 15 lbs. from the always open chow hall.

Shortly thereafter I was reassigned to another radar ship in the Pacific Ocean so off I went to Hawaii (still no family). Elizabeth did join me on several occasions in Hawaii. I spent two years exploring the Pacific broad ocean areas looking for missiles (mostly ours but sometimes theirs). At sea, I was recognized by King Neptune for crossing the equator and for crossing the international date line. I also earned the sobriquet of “Range Rat” from the radar team.

At the end of that assignment my shipboard boss James Caskey asked if I would be interested in working on the development of an experimental wide-band radar system at MIT in Boston (with family). Off we went, renting an old house in Newton, MA. (“the 1st company at the bridge”). After completing and testing the ALCOR radar in Boston we shipped it to the island of Roi-Namur in the Kwajalein atoll in the Marshall Islands (2500 miles on the other side of Hawaii—with family). It was 5 years of fun, social and sporting events, parties at the Yokwe Yuk Club, extensive travel through the Pacific islands, and late-night missile radar tracking missions. That earned me the title of “Roi-rat.”I wish I had known then it was the best job I was ever to have. Our baby son, Carter, was born there. We lived in an 8x55 trailer with no place for a baby, so we built a 4x4 plywood bump-out on the back step of the trailer where he spent his first year.

Returning to the land of the great PX in 1973, we bought a house in Norman, Oklahoma (near Elizabeth’s family). I was then reassigned by RCA to a communications project in Newport Beach, CA. (again no family). At the end of that contract in 1975 I returned to Oklahoma and looked for local gainful employment. For the next 35 years I worked in various radar and avionics projects in the Oklahoma City area. At one time I started my own FAA certified avionics shop at the Norman airport (fun, but not particularly financially rewarding), and pursued the MS degree in Computer Science Engineering at O.U. In the meantime, Elizabeth had earned two teaching certificates and a Master’s degree from O.U.and was teaching at the nearby middle school (30 years).

A side benefit of working engineering projects was that we were able to travel many places in the world working on different projects. We’ve enjoyed numerous cruises and visited 6 continents (all except Antarctica). Another side benefit of our music interests is that we went on more than a dozen foreign mission trips with big bands and orchestras.

In 1976 I joined a tournament slow-pitch softball team and, with an oil-boom sponsor, traveled to tournaments all over the country. Over the next 30 years my teams won several national championships, and I was named All American multiple times, eventually being inducted into three State or National Softball Halls of Fame. We also had a tournament volleyball team, the Golden Okies, that won a number of regional titles and played in several National Championships.

My God-given physical, musical, and mental abilities were in general above average but seemed always one notch away from being good enough to turn pro. Ditto for my engineering career, above average, but.....

When the kids were younger I coached their sports teams and was Boy Scout District Commissioner while son Carter was earning his Eagle Scout badge.

I grew up in the days of “joiners” and have been an active member in various civic clubs. During the Goldwater Presidential campaign in 1964 we became committed conservative Republicans. We have volunteered in many local campaigns and were even our party’s nominee for State Representative in 1988 (me) and 1998 (Elizabeth--she was clearly the better candidate).

In 1988 I co-founded a Glenn Miller style Big Band that is still performing today. We started out with a single handwritten page of tunes. When I retired 32 years later, I had acquired more than 6,000 big band arrangements that occupy 7 file cabinets in my garage (they are for sale!). I MISS IT!

Also during this period I became an airplane owner, charter pilot, and mission pilot for Civil Air Patrol, qualified in numerous emergency services missions, as well as Squadron Commander. I earned a commercial rating in single engine, land, sea-plane, and gliders. In CAP, Elizabeth became a qualified ground team leader (and managed to out-rank me).

Elizabeth and I have been active members of the First Baptist Church of Norman for many years, members of the Prime-Timers class, serving on various committees, and playing in the church orchestra.

I was also able to put my electronics background to further use by producing and being the on-air personality for local radio and cable TV interview programs in Norman, OK.

Looking back, I thank God that I was able to earn a comfortable living, find a wonderful wife, mother, partner, and now caretaker, and raise a super family of whom I am justifiably proud. I am also thankful that my body held up through all those years of competitive athletics, music, and the myriad of other activities. Admittedly, things have been in a downward spiral the last 10 years with hip and leg problems, failing kidneys, and a leaky heart.

But as Archie the Immortal Cockroach sang: ”there is life in the old guy yet.”

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