Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Tribute to my Dad

My dad would have been 60 today…As a tribute to him, I thought I would write a few things that I know about his life and some of the memories that I had of him. I know that my children will one day appreciate hearing about the grandfather they never knew. Here is his story...

My dad, Jerry Don Easley, was born on January 22, 1949 in Ft. Worth, Texas. My grandfather was in the military, so the family traveled around for much of his childhood…they lived in Maine, Louisiana, Germany, Oregon and Japan during my grandfather’s military service.

My dad joined the air force after highschool and was stationed in Anchorage, Alaska (Elmendorf Airforce Base).
My parents met while they were both living in Alaska. My dad was working as base security police at the time.

My mother and her friend had heard that there were many jobs available in Alaska, so decided to fly up and begin a new life. My parents met about a year after my mom had been living there.

He loved living in Alaska! He was a true outdoorsman…His passions were:

fly fishing...he even made his own flys!...



and going to the dog sled races in Anchorage

He was very good with his hands…my mom told me that “he could fix anything!”

My parents were married on August 16, 1968. Shortly after, they were introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and became members. I was born two years later in February (1971).

After my father was discharged from the military, my parents decided to move to Texas to be near his family and for him to go to a trucking school which would enable him to start his own business when they returned to Alaska. During that time, the Alaskan pipeline was being built, so there were many employment opportunities due to the amount of trucks that were coming and going to and from Alaska.

What happened in Aug of 1972 changed the course of his life dramatically...

We were living in an apartment in Arlington, Tx. My parents were planning to move back to Alaska with some friends of theirs. They had already packed everything up in boxes and had just sold their kitchen table that night. They had some friends over for a farewell party. My dad and a few other friends were swimming in the pool. Since the diving board was missing, they began jumping from the fence into the pool. There are many speculations as to what happened next…did he hit his head at the bottom of the pool?--was it one of the broken boueys that had been floating in the water that he hit?…Whatever it was, it broke his neck and left him a quadriplegic at the age of 22. I was a year and a half years old.

He went to the hospital in Ft. Worth initially, but then was sent to the Veterans Hospital in Houston where he stayed for 9 months. Suddenly, his whole identity was taken from him…what would he do now that he was confined to a wheelchair? It was a difficult transition for him--one from a life of physical activities to one where he had no physical abilities whatsoever. He had to rely on using his mind exclusively.

During the time he was in the hospital, he applied at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas and was accepted.

He was released from the hospital in October, and shortly after that, we moved to Bryan/College Station.

During the time we lived in Bryan, he took classes in Psychology and was working towards a degree in counseling. He initiated a program called Students Concerned for the Handicapped. He also helped to organize several annual Wheelchair Awareness Days where students and teachers could check a wheelchair out for a day with the stipulation that they had to stay in the chair throughout the entire day. This program brought about many needed accessibility changes on campus.

He made friends wherever he went. He had a very approachable way about him and always made you feel that you had known him for years even after just meeting him. It has been said, “He never met a stranger”.

We had a very close relationship and I’m grateful to have such fond memories of my dad...

I loved riding on the back of his wheelchair and was always very protective of him. His wheelchair always sparked the curiosity of passersby. I didn't like people to stare--so I stared right back at them.

We used to go to the Aggie games together and get awesome seats thanks to his wheelchair!

He and I both shared a love of animals—we spoke their language!

He always had a ready smile and words of encouragement for me…

After my parents divorced in 1978, he remarried a few years later.

He died on October 8, 1993
from unknown causes…

I am grateful to have had my dad in my life…he taught me the true meaning of “get busy living or get busy dying”—he got busy living! He was upbeat and tolerant of others…he helped me to gain an appreciation of people who are disabled.

We were buddies--he and I...

I’m sure that he is in heaven now, fishing in a stream, making up for lost time…

Happy Birthday, Daddy!...


  1. wonderful job, shannon. you captured the positive parts of his life and i know he would be so proud of this tribute and of how you have honored him. you were always the most important person to him. the photos were perfect.this offers me closure,

  2. What a beautiful gift on a birthday. Thanks for sharing. I sure see Riley in some of those pictures of you:)

  3. i didn't know a lot of that stuff about him. very nice post. (don't worry, it wasn't a boring post.) those were great pictures too!

  4. Shannon, your dad sounds like an amazing man and that he rose up and hit his challenges head on.

  5. That was a beautiful tribute. He must have had amazing determination to rebuild his life. You are blessed to have had a close relationship with him.

  6. Very tender. The way you described him makes me wish that he was our dad, too. Great job!

  7. This is such a sweet post. I know your kids will be very glad you wrote this about your father.

  8. So sweet and I can see Reilly in you as a little girl. You had a cool dad! What great memories.

  9. Oh, Shannon. What a life story!

    I can't believe how young your dad looked in those early photos. I can't believe he had such a terrible accident at such a young age. I'm so impressed by the ways in which he made a new life.

    I can't even imagine losing a parent so young, not being able to see him interact with your children. What a tender remembrance on what would have been his birthday.

  10. I was just perusing your posts and came across this post about your dad. Very touching! How nice to have such tender memories of your father, and that you had such a relationship!!