— A Special And Welcomed Effort From Designated Contributor Don Walker
I was born in Dallas, but I’m a Louisianan through and through, even though I transplanted to the Space Coast of Florida in 2006. “You can take the man out of Louisiana, but you can’t take Louisiana out of the man. Ayeee!” I’ve actually said those words to my Florida friends and co-workers who wonder aloud sometimes what planet I’m from.
I still visit Louisiana whenever I can, primarily to see aunts and uncles in Shreveport and even Bossier City, where I now have a 4-month old grandson. My parents are Northwest Louisiana natives. Father was born in Benton; Mom in Jamestown, where she was buried back in 1986.
Funny, now, how my heart springs to life when a slice of home lands on my driveway. Even if it’s not always good news.
Thursday morning I was thumbing through the paper, Florida Today. It’s there that I worked as an editor for seven years before the offer of a job as Communications Director for Brevard County Government came along in 2012. I scanned over the obituaries and my eyes locked-in on one in particular: Bobby Ray DeLoach.
While I did not know Bobby Ray DeLoach, I felt very much akin to Bobby Ray DeLoach. For a little while on Earth, though separated by time and circumstances, we shared the same space.
According to the obituary on Bobby Ray DeLoach: He grew up in Homer, and was the quarterback for the high school football team. He graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering from Louisiana Tech University, and was recruited by NASA, which brought him to Merritt Island in the early 1960s. He worked in the infancy of the Apollo program and extended through the entire Space Shuttle program and beyond, He was branch chief of the Communications Division. His career with NASA lasted 39 years. He got involved in area coaching programs and was affectionately known as “Coach DeLoach.”
Just in reading those few sentences, my mind found me driving down Interstate 20 between Shreveport and my alma matter, Louisiana Tech. Highway signs indicating next exits to small rural towns like Cotton Valley, Minden and, yes, Homer. I remembered Homer’s downtown “Square” and former Mayor Joe Michaels and his perpetual smile.
I wanted to know more about Bobby Ray Deloach and went Internet diving. Under images of Bobby Ray DeLoach, his was the first photo among a sea of Bobby Ray Deloach faces. Beyond the face, however, my search was quickly thwarted by newspaper archive services and “Find People” public records fee-required searches. That’s where my road with Bobby DeLoach ended.
Still, for a brief moment Thursday, I felt closer to home than I had in a long time. Even more, I appreciated NASA taking interest in a small town high school quarterback who – just down the road from me at the Kennedy Space Center – served his university proud, spending nearly four decades helping launch humans into space.
A CLOSING THOUGHT THAT WILL JUST TAKE A MINUTE…OR 60…
While there were times in my life I lived for the weekend, I’ve never lost sight of when the weekend was over.
As a child growing up, I dreaded 6 p.m. Sunday, which is when the television of our home in the Midwest would announce the oncoming school week with the dreaded ticking of the stop watch intro of 60 Minutes.
60 Minutes was my Father’s line of demarcation, of sorts, between freedom and oppression. From that first tick, the excitement of abundant free time grinded to a dead stop. It was time to focus on Monday, to finish homework, to pack the school lunch, to take a bath and to get to bed.
I’m 58 years old now, and I’m living on the east coast, where 60 Minutes comes on at 7 p.m.. And as if conditioned by a Pavlovian trance, 60 Minutes still marks, for me and now my own family, weekend’s end.
And I recall one of my favorite Dad memories, which is him saying, “I’m going to watch 60 Minutes, but only for an hour.”