Granddaddy Wes I

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Ray’s parents, Wes and Joan, had been married for thirty years when she died in 1975. Three years later Wes married a former neighbor whose husband had died. Wes and Christine were married for twenty years. Near the end of her life, Granddaddy Wes served as Christine’s caregiver. After she died, Ray and I worried about his ability to continue at home alone. Ray called Wes’ doctor and talked about his concerns. At his next doctor’s appointment, the doctor told Wes he thought it would be a good idea if he went to live with his son. Wes happily told Ray what the doctor said and the process of moving him to our home began.

We soon went to Columbia, Tennessee, and helped Wes move the two-plus hours to our house. I ended up driving his dad while Ray drove the truck. I dreaded this drive, because I was afraid Wes would cry. Instead, he told me, “I’m not a bit sad.” I was astonished that he could feel this way. Except for his four years, one month, and seven days in the Army during World War II, he had spent his entire eighty-five years in Columbia. He soon said something else that we found remarkable: “I don’t think I’ll drive when I get to Cookeville.” Whew! That was a battle we didn’t have to fight either.

The blessings (and, to be honest, the challenges) of Wes living with us were many. This photo is of a very happy Christmas.

Christmas on Pilot with Granddaddy 001
Wes, Ray, Charlene, Mary Evelyn, Bethany, and John

One of the greatest blessings was the opportunity to hear his stories. Suddenly we had entertainment at meal time. The floodgates simply opened and Wes’ stories about his time in World War II flowed. That’s how we all knew that he was in the Army for four years, one month, and seven days. We heard it . . . well, let’s just say a few times! We had a hilarious experience a few years later when we were chosen as one of those families who didn’t simply fill out forms for the Census; we had an in-home interview. When the interviewer asked about the military service of anyone who lived in the house, she asked how long he served. It was fun to say, “Four years, one month, and seven days!”

Our son John was twenty when Granddaddy Wes moved in with us. We all began to collect his stories in our memories, but I also wrote them down. John began putting the stories together into a one-man performance of Granddaddy’s World War II experiences. He called it “One Soldier’s Story.” Today John dresses in the actual uniform that Granddaddy Wes was wearing when he passed by the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor on the Queen Mary, returning to American soil after participating in every major American military campaign in Europe. The uniform fits perfectly.

I love to watch John tell Granddaddy’s story. As long as he lived, Granddaddy did, too. In the photo below John gives a command performance at our house when friends and family came to see Wes. Ray has a great sense of humor as did both of his parents. Near the end of Wes’ life, after dementia had taken away most of the Wes we loved, John performed “One Soldier’s Story” again for Ray’s nephew and his family. Granddaddy sat on the edge of his seat and listened intently. When John finished, Wes said (with tongue in cheek), “I just made all that up.”

Granddaddy Wes, Our Friend Theo, and John

But the lovingkindness of the Lord
is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
To those who keep His covenant
And remember His precepts to do them.
Psalm 103:17-18

 I’m thankful to be the mother of Wesley Notgrass’ grandchildren.


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  1. Sweet memories! I hope I will get to care for my mother in my home someday when she can no longer live by herself. I would count it an honor and a joyful privilege.

  2. I really appreciate this post. We are in the beginning stages of multi-generational challenges. It is nice to be reminded of the blessings to be recognized and savored.

  3. I really like the idea of the generation that is now the age he was when he was in WWII, learning enough about his experiences to tell others about them. I will think about how we can do something along those lines in our family.

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