Joe Boyd





The Joe Boyd Story

As interviewed by Russ Rehm

     Like with so many of us, Joe Boydʼs life is triumph over tragedy. Silver linings out of dark clouds. Persistence that pays off. Deserts that bloom.

     His dad was already a 22-year Army veteran, retired Pearl Harbor survivor, when he and wife Bonnie signed up for 110 acres of Block 15 desert called the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. Look at Google Earth. See all the green crop circles along side the Columbia River, extending from Pasco north to Ephrata? Itʼs a fantastic story of Biblical portion; turning the desert into bloom; a hot, windy hell into paradise ̶ kind of.

     It was said that men would go off to work in the morning at a place called Hanford, and not be able to find their house when they came home in the evening, because so many new houses had been built that day! So Joeʼs dad bought one of these “defense houses”, moved it across the river, plopped it down in the dirt, and thatʼs where Joe and his younger brother shivered in the winter, and slept out underneath the stars in the summer. His dadʼs name was Jackson, but everyone called him, “Reb,” and they called Joe “Rebʼs boy.” Joeʼs email address pays homage to those days.

     Reb was tough, battled alcoholism, and was critical of Joeʼs interests. “He didnʼt like it when I went fishing. I hid my rod and tackle under my bed.” So, when you visit Joe and Ilona, youʼll see a selection of 18 rods and reels, and theyʼre NOT under Joeʼs bed! But his Dad did insist the Joe take typing at PHS. Another dark cloud with a silver lining, because boy, could that Rebsboy type!

     How do you have a sense of humor growing up in a place like that? Of course, Joe would retort, “Growing up in a place like that? How do you not have a sense of humor? We were isolated, no TV, only books and farm work, and it was a great place to let your imagination run wild!”

     These kids were tough ̶ I wrestled with them. Doug Salvadalena, Karl Kinion, Rich Turner ̶ all worthy opponents! Pat Means, Steve Spolek, Mike Gessel, Patty Moore, Lauanna Hope, Carol Trusley, were also some of Joeʼs Eltopia classmates. Eltopia Elementary School graduates, who rode the bus one-plus hours, one way, every school day, into Pasco High School, to try to blend in with the “townies”. A sense of humor surely helped!

     Boy, did we laugh; itʼs was fun; especially with Joe around. His timing was perfect. We thought Joe was clever, but he was also smart. Later at WSU, he put himself through a four-year program in two and a half years, graduating in the top 2% of his class! Part of his motivation was the anti-Vietnam comments classmates vented toward Joe. “I was so pissedoff!” Unlike high school, what they said motivated me! “I would show them! My success would be my revenge!”

     Initially, he had tried Columbia Basin Junior College, but felt directionless, plus he didnʼt like depending on his parents for his educational expenses. Another funny story. Vietnam got hot, and at 19 y.o., he went down to join the Army, except they were closed briefly for lunch, and so he joined the Navy instead. Then he went home to tell his parents! “Looking back, I probably should have done that differently. Letʼs just say it didnʼt float!” Joeʼs typing skills led him to a one-year stint on COMCARDIV 5 (aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam), followed by thirty months as administrative assistant for base communications at the Naval Base in Sasebo, Japan.

     Back home, on the G.I. bill, at WSU, he meets Ilona, but ends up marrying Wanda. Ilona is a school teacher, whose two daughters end up attending Western, and living at Joeʼs house, while my construction company, Doulos Construction Inc., is doing some remodeling work on Joeʼs house (to help Wanda); and I end up being the minister at Ilona and Joeʼs wedding, in my back yard, in Mount Vernon. Confusing, huh? So how did all that happen?

     Wanda, pretty Wanda, an auditor for a local utility, was diagnosed with a form of dementia, called Pickʼs Disease, shortly after she had received a kidney transplant. So, at age 47, she began to show symptoms of dementia, like the inability to complete sentences, do simple tasks, or even be a Mom! Joe and Wanda have two adopted children, are active in their church, Joe is already a successful bank manager, co-owner of the family farm, an avid bass fisherman and model builder. Then, it all goes to hell! Time for tragedy.

     Wanda becomes totally dependent, qualifies for Social Security Disability. Their children, Tom and Becky, handle it differently. Tom hunkers down and gets an online degree; while Becky drops out of school, becomes a drug addict, lives on the streets, and ends up in jail! Joe eventually has to admit Wanda into a care facility, where at age 57, she dies two months later!

     Fortunately, Tom hunkers down and becomes gainfully employed at a computer systems company. Becky, now pregnant, in a halfway house, starts to turn her life around. “I never really believed in miracles until I saw my daughterʼs transformation!” She gets her GED, graduates from the Bellingham Technical College as a Certified Welder! She later marries a great young man, has a second child, a boy, and currently they are the proud owners of Orca Plumbing Inc., specializing in new construction and remodeling. “She keeps a great house, is a wonderful mother, and is fostering a very troubled youngster who is slowly responding to her care. I am so proud of both my kids! Itʼs a miracle!” Flowers bloom in the desert! Triumph over tragedy.

     Then Joe marries Ilona, and ends up with even more grandkids! The really cute ones! Now they happily live in a 55+ park on Chuckanut Drive in a Bellingham neighborhood called Fairhaven, an appropriate moniker for their lives. A story with a happy ending; a tragedy filled with triumph! Way to go Joe! Weʼre proud of you, and happy for you! Thank you for your service! Thank you for your faith! For never giving up; for never quitting. And for making us laugh! We all need to laugh. Because just about the time life couldnʼt get any worse, God reaches into the worst, and pulls out the best. Itʼs The Joe Boyd story! Itʼs our story!

Joeʼs Addendum:

     Thank you Russ, for making my life look, well, interesting. I think we all have tragedies in our lives, that shape us in different ways. Iʼm grateful for the challenges. Do I have regrets? A few, of course. I wasted so much of my class time at PHS. I had teachers and counselors telling me about my “potential”, which I just shrugged off. As a result, I had an active life socially, but a marginal life scholastically. I blew up some relationships, the result of my own ignorance and immaturity.

     But my blessings far outweigh my regrets. I have four adult children who love me, and I them. Ilona and I have a blended family, in which we count all the kids as “our kids”! Iʼve been able to take two of my kids, and a son-in-law fishing in Mexico; a great experience that I hope we can repeat! Last Spring I took Becky and grandson Adrain to Disneyland! Again, something I hope we can do again.

     Most of all, I am content! Fishing, figure building, watching the family grow, and reconnecting with old friends ̶ who would have thought that “Rebʼs boy” could be so fortunate? Any time anyone wants to join me for a day of fishing ̶ I have the boat, tackle, and of course, plenty of extra rods! Stop in for a visit ̶ weʼd love to see you!