Alton J (“Jay”) Hoyle – A not so common man…
My father never claimed to be anything too special. Just a hard-working fellow who loved his family and served his God as well as he could. He paid his bills, mowed his lawn, kept his car running, and whenever he could – he’d catch a game on TV. But to his family and friends, Jay was a very special man in ways that even he could never have imagined – actually a very uncommon man indeed.
A typical newspaper obituary tries to wrap up a man’s life in just a few sentences, offering a simple outline that includes the dates of his birth and passing, where he lived, where he died, and maybe some of what he did for a living. The obit might include a truncated list of his survivors. All of that will be important some day to genealogists, census takers, and agencies paying his government benefits – but of only passing interest to those of us who knew him.
Jay’s statistics do not begin to describe the man who owned them. Some of those facts might give small clues as to the events that helped to shape him into the man he would later become. The real man went well beyond being just a poor farm kid from Oklahoma, the painfully shy ladies’ man, or the self-taught “shade-tree” mechanic who worked mostly on old Chevys.
Along the way, Jay not only raised a beautiful family, but he also touched the lives of hundreds of his spiritual “brothers and sisters” that shared his faith in God as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
At 4:30 on Sunday, April 30, 2006, his friends and family gathered at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Morrilton, Arkansas to celebrate a life well lived and the man who lived that life. On behalf of the family and many friends of Alton J Hoyle, I offer up this unworthy biography of a man who we all loved very much. Maybe some of the younger members of his family, many who never had the opportunity to meet him, will be able to get know “Pops” a little better and form their own opinions about our reluctant patriarch.
Alton J Hoyle – The legacy of a good and humble man begins…
“ALTON J (JAY) HOYLE 91, of Morrilton, Arkansas passed away due to natural causes on April 23, 2006 in Morrilton.
Alton Hoyle, all of his friends and family knew him simply as ‘Jay,’
was born in Frederick, Oklahoma on April 5, 1915. He moved to California in the late 1930s, to Nebraska in the 1960s, and finally to Morrilton, Arkansas in the 1970s.
Mr. Hoyle graduated from Frederick High School in 1934 and worked as an auto mechanic for most of his life. He served with the United States Army during World War II, and was honorably discharged in 1945.
He and his wife Patricia raised three children while living in Riverside, California and Columbus, Nebraska. Jay was preceded in death by Patricia, his wife for over 40 years, his second wife Bertha, and his brother, Bertram Verl (Pat) Hoyle of Meeker, Oklahoma. He is survived by two sons, John Alan and Dennis Wayne Hoyle of California, and one daughter, Donna J. Ferren of Morrilton, Arkansas. Mr. Hoyle is also survived by seven grandchildren, five step-grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
He was an active Jehovah’s Witness for much of his life. Memorial services were held at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Morrilton on Sunday, April 30, 2006. At the family’s request, Brother Rick Garlington, a long-time friend of Jay and his daughter Donna’s family, conducted the memorial service and led the group in prayer.”
My father’s life simply cannot be summarized in one long paragraph. For those who knew him well, his rock hard commitment to trying to do the right thing for his friends and family was balanced only by his equally strong commitment to stand true to his religious beliefs. Throughout his life, his actions always spoke much louder than his words. He may have seemed to be a simple man on the surface, but in reality he dealt with challenges and complex issues that many other “common” men will never have to face.
The Early Years
Frederick, Oklahoma was just a small farming community located near the Texas line in the southwest part of the state. Frederick eventually became the Tillman County seat, resulting in its growth being a bit greater than other surrounding communities. It was able to support its own separate high school, although class sizes required combining some grades. Typical graduating classes of 100 or less included students from Frederick and surrounding communities. Frederick would experience occasional growth spurts, but would eventually become only a minor footnote in Oklahoma history and is now nearly invisible on many state highway maps.
It was Frederick that became home for John Richard Hoyle and his family. John Richard’s step-father, George W. Woodall, had been employed by the railroad to lay track between Jacksboro, Texas and central Oklahoma. For his efforts on behalf of the railroad and also in recognition for his Civil War service (he earned a Confederate Medal of Honor), George Woodall was rewarded with one of several special land grants during a visit from President Theodore Roosevelt. Located near Frederick, this land eventually became the site of the Hoyle family home and farms.
John Richard’s son Claude, and Claude’s wife Hersa Mae, also made their home in Frederick. They had two sons, Bertram Verl (later known as “Pat”) born in 1912, and Alton J (later to change his middle initial into the name “Jay”) born in 1915.
Never much of a farmer, Claude spent most of his early life helping out his father and learning to work on automobiles. Figuring that there was more of a future in auto repair than in farming, Claude also taught both of his sons how to make basic car repairs. As the “Great Depression” deepened and money became harder to come by, getting work repairing other people’s’ cars became even more available simply because no one could afford to buy new automobiles – even at prices under $600.
Money was tight for everyone, so Jay and his brother Pat would spend their time trying to find small jobs to make some money for themselves. Unfortunately, Claude would often confiscate their earnings for his own or other family needs. In one case, Jay had worked hard for his father to earn a few extra dollars to buy a bicycle. When he finally had enough to actually buy the bicycle, his father refused to give him the money, instead buying a watch with the money Jay had set aside. Jay wanted a bike, not a watch, but Claude could be cruel at times, so instead of explaining his actions and possibly offering a future payback or alternative, Claude just told Jay that it was his hard luck and that’s the way it was going to be. Jay was brokenhearted over the loss of his hard-earned bike, and his father’s handling of the issue left a deep and lasting wound.
Although he always provided for his family and no one ever went hungry,Claude had some demons that created stress within the family. Although Frederick was located in a “dry county,” and Prohibition was still the law of the land, Claude managed to develop a drinking problem. This only added more stress and friction within the family, so Jay and his brother found friendship and support among their aunts, uncles, and cousins who also lived around Frederick.
One female cousin, Annis, became one of Jay’s best friends and they spent much time together playing, plotting and supporting each other.
As Jay grew into a young man, he became interested in sports. He could hear radio broadcasts and read news stories about the great sports stars of the time – Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Red Grange, Jim Thorpe (another Oklahoman), Bobby Jones, and others who later became legendary members of Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Even at 5′ 9″ and only about 145 pounds, Jay was actually one of the taller kids in his high school class. This gave him the opportunity to play in several team sports, but football became his game. He was fast on his feet, appeared to be fearless, and he truly loved the game. With so few students available to play, making the team was a cinch for anyone with his skill and determination. Most games were scheduled after the local harvests – so Jay could get a pass from his father to actually play on the team.
Playing football in those days was not at all as it developed later in the 20th Century. Football uniforms all looked basically the same, and did not come in “home and away” versions. All players tended to look the same on the field, making it tough at times to determine who was actually a teammate. Playing in the mud made every player in the game anonymous – and in the winter meant playing in the mud, making it difficult to tell the teams apart. Unlike modern high school games, the game lasted a full sixty minutes and team members played in both directions – offense and defense. If a player was hurt and no backups were available, the team often had to play with fewer than eleven men on the field. Sometimes, in a spirit of sportsmanship, the other team would allow a couple of their players to rest on the sidelines, making the game a bit more even – at least until they fell behind in the score. Other teams, however, just saw this imbalance as the luck of the draw, and would play even tougher and dirtier, often finishing a play by “piling on” after a tackle in the hope of injuring another player from the opposing team.
Jay still loved the game and became a minor star of his high school team as one of its half backs. In those years, a half back carried the ball more, frequently handing-off and also passing the ball, so Jay developed into a well-rounded player.
He described his high school football field as uneven and covered with rocks, with a noticeable rise in the area between the 40 yard lines. It was often difficult to see his receiver when he set up to pass – because the other fellow would actually disappear “over the hill.” Since there were usually not enough helmets to go around, Jay often played without one – suffering through the season with bruised and bloodied ears and knots on his head. He was able to wear some shoulder and knee pads, so he considered himself pretty lucky to play so often and yet survive the season with only minor injuries.
In spite of his difficulties with his father and the tight economic times, Jay always felt that he had a pretty good childhood thanks to his love of sports, his friendship with his cousins, and his mother’s good cooking. He always said that “things could have been worse.”
Alton J Hoyle – The legacy continues…
After growing up in the small town of Frederick, Jay graduated from high school in May 1934. The normal course of events for men and women of that era was to try to form alliances and marry someone whose parents had a little money to hold them over until they could find a good job somewhere. But in 1934, the Midwest states were not only suffering the Great Depression along with the rest of the country, but they also had to endure the curse of the droughts leading to the creation of the infamous dust bowl. Texas, Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado were no better off, so young men tended to just try to get along and hope to get a chance to leave for California and hope to get a job there. “If you could not marry well,” the saying went, “then you should not marry at all.”
Jay liked girls a lot, but he was shy and uneasy around most – except for his cousin Annis. But she had her own boyfriends now. His brother Pat had moved out of the family home and had taken on a job as a mechanic in another city. Jay felt that he should also make his move as soon as he could. His father Claude had indicated that they might all move to California together and try to get a new start. Unable to afford the trip on his own, Jay decided to wait and see what his father was going to do and try to shape his life from there. In the meantime, he continued to pick up odd jobs around Frederick and managed to get some part-time work fixing cars and pumping gas.
Starting a Family
Sometime during the mid 1930’s, Claude decided to pack up his wife Mae and son Jay and try his luck in California. After a long and arduous trip over 1300 miles on Highway 66, they arrived in the Golden State. Jay’s father found that things were just as tough in California as they were in Oklahoma, so he decided to pack the family’s meager belongings and return to Oklahoma. Jay did not want to go back to Oklahoma, but was apparently overruled by his father and reluctantly returned in spite of his objections. On their return to Oklahoma, things were still no better. Jay decided to return to California on his own and managed to get back by hitchhiking and catching freight trains accompanied by a friend, finally ending up in the Los Angeles area.
Jay managed to get work in gas stations and repairing cars in the Los Angeles area through the second half of the 1930’s. He seemed to make male friends easily enough, but was painfully shy around girls. He’d often tag along with a friend to go have a few beers and meet a few girls, but most often it was the friend that got the girl and Jay would end up only picking up the check.
Jay’s brother Pat had also made the move to California and settled in the West Los Angeles area. Car dealerships were springing up all over town and work was becoming easier to find if you were a good mechanic. Pat had tried getting work with a Chrysler dealer that paid pretty good money, but eventually ended up working for a Chevrolet dealer. Jay felt that working on Chryslers and Chevrolets would be easier, but Ford was still the most popular car. Jay didn’t like Fords much, an attitude that he carried with him for most of his life. So for the time being, he worked mostly at service stations.
Before long, Claude and Mae returned to California to be closer to their sons, settling in the small town of Riverside. Riverside was close enough for everyone to visit, but both Jay and his brother preferred living in Los Angeles. Jay and his friends were enjoying their bachelor lives, taking time to go out to have a few beers and dance with all the cute gals. Although he had tried living with his folks in Riverside and working with his father at a small service station on south Main Street (just a few blocks from the famous Mission Inn), Jay found that arrangement far from satisfactory.
His father still had a drinking problem and could be abusive at times to his mother, so keeping a safe distance from them made Jay’s life far less stressful.
Jay and Patricia
Apparently Jay was asked by a friend to go on a double date. During the date, the girl he was supposed to be escorting became interested in someone else. Another girl who was there that evening, Patricia Mollin, was a “friend of a friend” and they soon became acquainted. At some point, Patricia became very interested in the young man with the beautiful blue eyes and big white smile, later making it clear to Jay that she was very interested in him. Patricia probably had no idea that this handsome man was going to end up being quite a challenge.
For Jay, the shy young fellow from Oklahoma, being encouraged by this rather worldly young woman was a pleasant but challenging prospect. He soon found out that she was a widow with two teenagers still living at home. Pat was attractive, intelligent, and industrious – but the prospect of getting involved with a woman with two nearly grown children was a little overwhelming to Jay. After all, her son Robert, the younger of her two kids, was only 12 years younger than he was.
For her part, Patricia Mollin was smitten by this handsome young man. She had led a life filled with challenges, seeming only to be able to find men with serious personality faults. She had actually been widowed twice and on other occasions had been involved with men who were severely abusive toward both her and her kids.
Her life story was already littered with tales and events that would make a Marine Sergeant turn pale with fear. But Pat, as she was known, was made of sturdy stuff, refused to give in to her past, and was determined to make a future for herself. Somehow she had managed to keep her family together, watch her son and daughter grow to be beautiful, respectful, and responsible citizens. She owned her own dry cleaning business and managed to maintain a faithful clientele that included several popular movie stars of the time. But she was lonely and eagerly looking for a man that could take care of her and help her get a new start in life. As far as she was concerned, Jay was exactly the right man for her. She was determined to do whatever she could to win his heart.
Jay and Patricia dated for many months. He was still very reluctant to make a more enduring commitment, especially to a woman with so much baggage. But he and Patricia clearly seemed right for each other and appeared to be a much better match than the one that Jay’s brother Pat had made. My Uncle Pat’s new wife Fern was a spitfire who tended to be in complete control of his life. Uncle Pat seemed to manage to make his marriage work, but Jay soon found that his close relationship with his brother was viewed as a threat by Fern. To keep peace, Jay and his brother saw less and less of each other after Pat married. For Jay, someone like Patricia seemed a better match for him – even with all of her issues and her past history.
While they were still dating, Patricia and her roommate were involved in a terrible automobile accident. While driving on a foggy two lane street near San Pedro, California, Patricia had driven into the back of a sedan that was parked in the traffic lane while changing a flat tire. Apparently there were ditches on both sides of the road, so the owner of the other car was unable to pull off the road. Although the collision was at a relatively low speed, the damage was extensive. Patricia hit the middle of her face directly into the center of the steering wheel, shattering her nose, crushing her palate, and knocking out most of her upper teeth. Her passenger had gone through the windshield, shredding her face and the skin on her chest and arms.
People who arrived at the accident later were convinced that both women were surely dead, or would soon be. As always, Patricia’s luck held out; both she and her girlfriend survived and went on to long and productive lives.
While in the hospital, Patricia made it clear that she did not want Jay to visit her. She did not want him to see her in that condition, all bandaged and bruised. She deeply feared that after this accident she would surely lose the man she loved forever.
After this terrible incident, Jay surprisingly seemed to be more dedicated to Patricia. Although she had to call his bluff to get him to finally commit to marriage, when he did it was clearly for a lifetime. They were married in early 1942 and were together until her passing in January, 1985. For Jay, when all was said and done, all of Patricia’s baggage was really no baggage at all.
During the war, Jay worked for Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank, California, building airplanes in support of the war effort. His brother Pat had managed to avoid military service due to his age and the fact that his wife was pregnant with their first child. Jay was clearly available to be chosen for the draft, but since he was working for a defense firm he managed to get some temporary deferments. At the beginning of 1943, he found out that he was going to be a father for the first time.
He continued to work at Lockheed through the early years of the war. The money was good and there was plenty of overtime. He and Patricia lived in North Hollywood. Her son and daughter had left home at that point, so they had the opportunity to get their family life moving in the right direction. The War was still the national priority, and Jay was drafted into the Army in 1944. He had a wife, a baby son (John Alan) less than a year old. The War was heating up – with invasions of Europe and Japan still ahead. At 29 years old, he had everything in place for a great life, but Hitler and Tojo were trying to screw it all up for him. With Patricia following him all over the country to be near while he was in training, he was able to see his wife and son right up until the time that he was shipped to Hawaii for combat service.
Jay was shipped to Schofield Barracks and Hickham Field in Hawaii, two of the sites attacked during the Great Pearl Harbor Raid of December 7, 1941. Because of his automotive repair experience and employment by Lockheed Aircraft Company, he was assigned to the aircraft repair group. He reluctantly did his job, but finally got a transfer to vehicle repair and maintenance. He often said that working on automobiles and trucks was less stressful; when they quit you just pull over to the side of the road. But if he messed up on an aircraft repair, then some poor fellow might die. He just did not want to take on that responsibility.
Soon the war was over, and in late 1945 he was discharged and returned to his family. Not having any place to stay at first, he and Patricia moved to Riverside and lived in a small apartment on the west side of town. During the day, he worked with his father at the gas station on south Main Street. Thanks to his veterans benefits, he and Patricia were able to buy a home on the newer east side of Riverside in the University District in late 1946. Almost as they settled in, they found out that a new addition to the family would arrive in September, 1947 – a daughter to be named Donna Jane. Seventeen months later, in February, 1949, they were once again blessed with a son, Dennis Wayne.
Jay had long since left the gas station behind, and had gone to work for De Anza Chevrolet in downtown Riverside. The money was not particularly great, but it was steady and he was able to afford the $75 monthly house payment. Sometime during 1949, Patricia and Jay found that his after work activities were putting an unnecessary strain on their relationship, so Jay decided to leave De Anza and move to West Los Angeles to join his brother at Hastings Chevrolet in Santa Monica. By now his brother had become a master Chevrolet mechanic, specializing in tune-up work. Pat was making very good money and Jay felt that a move in that direction would be a good thing for everyone.
After renting an apartment in a small court in Santa Monica for a couple of months, the house next door to his brother’s home in West Los Angeles became available. Jay had not sold the Riverside home, but rented it out for $90 per month, enough to make the mortgage payments. In early 1950, Jay and Patricia moved their family into the house at 2440 Bundy Drive. Jay soon found that working with his brother at Hastings was not all that he had hoped it would be, so he went to work at another Chevrolet dealership in nearby Venice, CA.
Life was pretty good for the Hoyle family. John was in first grade and seemed to be a fairly good student. Donna and Dennis were out of diapers. Although the home they were living in was a rental, they had been able to make a few upgrades and turned the home into something livable. Jay would occasionally buy an old car and fix it up in his garage at home, drive it to work for a few months, and then sell it later for a small profit. Although his personal relationship with his brother Pat was still very good, living right next door to him and his wife did not work out as well. As he described it: “Although we were only separated by a chain link fence, we might as well have been a thousand miles apart.”
But Jay’s lifetime also contained many ironies and unexpected twists.
His parents, Claude and Mae – and later his brother Pat, with wife Fern and daughter Mary Teresa – would all move to the small town of Meeker, Oklahoma in the late 1950’s. A few years later, Jay would end up living just a few hundred miles east, allowing him to visit them all together from time to time.
Several years after Fern’s unexpected death in 1960, Pat Hoyle married his cousin Annis, Jay’s childhood best friend and playmate – reuniting and bringing that side of the family even closer together after almost forty years. Annis and Pat were together until both passed away during the 1990’s.
Both Pat’s home and Jay’s rental house on Bundy Drive in West Los Angeles – where they had lived so close to each other, but were separated by the infamous honeysuckle covered chain link fence – ended up being bulldozed and buried under a westbound off-ramp of the Interstate 10 freeway.
Alton J Hoyle – The last 50 years…
Living in Los Angeles had been acceptable for the Hoyle family, but both Patricia and Jay were really missing their home in Riverside. The family that was living there were very good tenants and faithfully paid their rent on time every month, so Jay decided to stay put until he was notified that the lease would end. Jay and the family would visit the home every two or three months to make minor repairs and to cut the hedges, and the occasional visits just made their desire to return even stronger.
Adding to their wish to return to their home in Riverside was the fact that Jay was not making the money he had hoped. He had opportunities for advancement as a service manager, but felt he could make more money on his commission splits instead of the flat salary given to supervisors. He never really wanted to be a “boss” – finding more satisfaction in just being responsible for his own work.
In early 1952, Jay’s life, and the future direction his family would take would be changed forever. They would be visited by a total stranger carrying a short note from his step-daughter, Beverly Bates.
Following a New Path
Jay had always conducted himself in a way that was pretty typical for a man of his generation. He was raised in the Southern Baptist Church – but wasn’t really interested in religion. Drinking beer and wine, but rarely getting drunk and not really favoring anything more potent, his use of alcohol was more for relaxation and socializing, not for a need for release or refuge. His father and brother had both been alcoholics and he knew that in order to keep his family together he would have to control any urges in that direction. Patricia had already spent much of her life being abused by alcoholic men, so she would never put up with that lifestyle again.
Jay smoked, like most young men of his time, and had become pretty much addicted to the Lucky Strike cigarettes freely given to service personnel during the war. By the early 1950’s he had already developed a deep and rasping cough, sometimes spending much of the night sitting on the edge of his bed coughing and hacking.
Jay’s real passion was for good-looking automobiles. He loved Chevys, and his pride and joy was his finely tuned 1941 Chevrolet Deluxe 2-door sedan. He had replaced some rusted chrome, installed a more powerful truck engine and a later model 3-speed transmission, and then painted the car a beautiful royal blue. After adding white walls and stylish fender skirts, he turned this inexpensive car into something he could drive with pride. Until a hit-and-run driver totaled the right rear of the car in 1954 while it was parked in front of the Riverside house, this was the car he loved the most. It was as much a part of the family as any human being.
One afternoon in early 1952, a lady named “Ione” came to the door at the family home in West Los Angeles. She carried a note from Patricia’s daughter, Beverly Bates. Beverly lived in Creswell OR and had recently lost an infant son. The note stated that she would like someone from the local Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall to visit her mother. Beverly was a Jehovah’s Witness and felt comforted by her belief and the hope that the religion offered her. She wanted her mother to understand how she felt, hoping that someone outside of the family would be able to present it less emotionally than she could. Patricia invited Ione into her home, and the foundation for change was about to be laid.
Patricia was nominally a Catholic, but rarely went to church. Jay was nominally a Baptist and never went to church. Their son John had been to Sunday School on a couple of occasions with the neighbors, but found the whole “Jesus died for your sins” concept very confusing. The Hoyle family was basically apathetic toward religion and had functioned well that way. But Patricia and son John listened to Ione describe some of the beliefs of this new religion and readily accepted her invitation to study the Bible with them.
Jay had no problem with Patricia having a Bible study. As long as the kids were fed and the house kept clean, she could do pretty much whatever she wanted the rest of the time. As time passed, however, Patricia began to accept most of what she was being taught by Ione and the books she brought, and eagerly wanted to share everything she learned with Jay. She started “witnessing” to Jay at dinner time and in the evenings after the kids had been put to bed. Jay had a real problem with that.
Jay had always held much the same opinion about religion as his parents. His mother Mae once told him that, “I’m a Baptist, and I’ll always be a Baptist. Even if you proved me wrong and read it right out of the Bible itself, I’d still be a Baptist.” He’d never had an issue with Patricia being a Catholic, but making a change to become a Jehovah’s Witness was not going to be acceptable.
Firmly believing that she was on to something, yet fearing for the health of her marriage, Patricia asked Ione for help. Ione called upon another “brother” from a nearby Kingdom Hall to try to talk to Jay and ask for his acceptance of Patricia’s new beliefs. At first Jay was reluctant and on several occasions lost his temper with Patricia. Finally, a visit was arranged between Jay and the “brother” – a man about Jay’s age named Richard Kelly. Kelly outlined all of the religion’s basic beliefs and convinced Jay that he should be more accepting of Patricia’s religious change. Jay felt that Dick Kelly was understanding and being sincere, so he accepted Kelly’s invitation to study the Bible and Watchtower publications with him. Jay agreed and ceased his angry outbursts toward Patricia over the issue.
Eventually Jay became an active Jehovah’s Witness. He had to fight hard against his smoking habit, but as he would say many times in later years, becoming a Jehovah’s Witness clearly saved his life, if for no other reason than making him give up cigarettes.
Throughout the 1950s, Jay continued to grow into the religion. After moving back to Riverside in 1953, the whole family soon began to fit into the pattern of life practiced by most Witnesses. The family went to meetings three nights a week, knocked on doors on Saturday and Sunday mornings to “place Watchtower and Awake magazines” – and to leave other literature with interested persons. Jay soon took on responsible duties within the Kingdom Hall, and, despite his stage fright, managed to prepare and deliver public talks and other meeting functions.
The family’s direction changed in other ways. Jay still had a love of sports and spent many enjoyable hours playing football and baseball with his sons. Although he was definitely not a “touchy, feely person”, Jay loved to tease and wrestle with his kids, but continued to be a firm and sometimes strict disciplinarian. He often punished his children with a spanking or other corporal means, but he always tried to let them know that he truly loved them – and deep down they knew that – even though his temper and the ferocity of his anger could be very intimidating at times. Jay and Patricia both worked on controlling their sometimes volatile tempers.
A Change of Geography – and Purpose
As the years went on, Patricia and Jay watched their kids grow up, graduate from school, and move out on their own. After their son John moved out and married in 1962, Jay moved the family to Columbus NE. Dick Kelly and his family had moved there some years before and had suggested to the Hoyles that they could do much good by also moving there in order to help support the work of the local Kingdom Hall.
Jay also saw his daughter Donna marry a fine young Witness (John Ferren) and go on to have a long and happy marriage. In spite of the distance, he would often be visited by son John and his growing family.
There were also disappointments. Both of his sons would eventually go their own way, leaving the Jehovah’s Witness religion behind. Although neither of them practiced any other religion, their rejection of the Witness lifestyle would create pressures on the family in many ways. When his beliefs directed him to make a choice between his sons or his religion, Jay made his commitment to his God and made the only choices he felt were right for him. Patricia had mixed emotions about some of the choices they had to make, but always faithfully supported her husband’s decisions.
In the mid 1970s, Jay finally had his fill of the cold weather and allergies that were part of life in Nebraska. Heeding the call from another long-time Witness friend, Benny Learmont, Patricia and Jay decided to pack their belongings and move to the more hospitable climate of the Ozarks. Living was easier and less expensive, and the climate was more like that of Jay’s home state of Oklahoma. By now, Jay’s love of automobiles was limited to just having a good sedan to use for the Witnessing work – hopefully something he could work on when needed. He worked at a Chevrolet dealership for a few years, but really didn’t want to have to learn his trade all over again in his 60’s thanks to the new cars becoming computerized and fuel injected. When he finally reached the right age, he and Mom decided to just retire and enjoy the rest of their lives together. Jay still enjoyed sports, and avidly followed his favorite baseball and football teams on the television.
By now Jay was a grandfather several times over. In spite of the fact that he detested being called “grandpa” or “grandfather,”, he came to accept “Pops” as a suitable substitute. That’s what John’s girls would come to call him – and he seemed to enjoy that very much. He eventually really enjoyed being a grandfather and the time spent with his grandchildren. Most of all – they loved him and enjoyed spending time with him and “Grandma Hoyle.”
Still Faithful After All Those Years
All good things seemingly must come to an end. In the early 1980’s Patricia began suffering from advancing heart disease. She was 7 years older than Jay, so her leaving before him was not unexpected – but still a heavy blow to him when the time came. He was at a loss without Patricia, but his daughter Donna and her family stepped in and helped him get through it all. After 43 years of marriage, Jay found himself a widower with a few health problems of his own, and outside of his religious activities – a man without direction.
Even at age 70, Jay remained a very handsome man. His blue eyes rivaled those of Paul Newman and his skin still had a youthful appearance. Although he often joked that “You don’t have to be too smart, too rich, or too good-looking to live in Arkansas. I guess I fit in real good!” – he soon had the eye of some eligible women at the local Kingdom Halls – even sooner than he might have expected. Reluctant to do anything so soon after losing Patricia, he held off their advances for a proper period of time. But within a year, he met and soon married a widow named Bertha. Bertha had also been a faithful Jehovah’s Witness for many years, so the two of them seemed to make a good match. Plus Jay needed someone to do his dishes and wash his clothes, so having someone like Bertha around the house was definitely an advantage.
Unfortunately, although Bertha was a robust woman who appeared to be strong and healthy, she soon fell ill and was struck down unexpectedly, leaving Jay a widower for a second time in less than three years.
In 1993, my father was able to travel with my then wife Eula and me to Maui, Hawaii to attend the wedding of my daughter Kelly, his first grandchild. In spite of the years that we had been somewhat estranged because of our differences in religious beliefs, we’d never really lost touch with each other. Attending Kelly’s wedding gave us an opportunity to spend some meaningful time together and share some memories of our early years together. During the trip, Dad was able to visit with his granddaughters and other family members, some that he had never met and others he had not seen for many years. That trip also gave him a chance to go back to some of the locations he had served at when he was in the Army nearly 50 years before, including Pearl Harbor and Schofield Barracks. While visiting these locations, he leaned over to me and commented with his usual dry wit, “It’s a lot more fun visiting these places now than it was then.”
As the 1990’s wore down, living alone became more problematic for my father. Typical for many men his age, he began to forget things and would often misplace his money and possessions.
My sister, Donna, and her family checked in on him at frequent intervals, but soon realized that he needed to be in a little smaller environment. For a brief time, he moved into an apartment and seemed to do better. But time and failing health finally began to catch up with him, and the family had to make the difficult decision to place him in a full-time care facility. They chose well and Dad continued to live a comfortable life until his time simply ran out. Fortunately, in spite of the fact that I had not seen him for over thirteen years, I managed a trip to Arkansas and was able to visit with him for several days just two weeks prior to his passing.
In an earlier version of this memorial, this is how I described my final conversation with my father on April 10, 2006 – just before I saw Dad for the last time:
“We spoke of sports and cars. We talked about taking vacations and going to conventions. We talked about playing catch with a baseball in the park or out in the street whenever we would see each other. We talked about his grandchildren and great-grandchildren – and even though he had not met most of them – and wouldn’t remember if he had – I told him that they loved him. I asked him to eat his food, gain some weight, and faithfully do his physical therapy. I told him that if he did, then we’d play catch again when I came back to see him the next time.”
Dad’s response was so typical for him. “Yeah, that would be nice…”