Partnering with UMHB and furthering Mom’s legacy…

As many of you know, we lost my mother two years ago in December to pancreatic cancer. Fortunately, we had convinced her and my dad to move up to this area just a couple of years before, so we were able to be there when we were needed most. Through all of it, we felt relieved to have had the availability to be there day and night in her final year.

My mother was one hell of a gal. Born in Wichita, Kansas in 1938, her father Sherman worked as a roughneck in the oil fields and Edna took care of the kids, starting with my mother, her soon-to-follow brother Sherman, and then her third sibling Richard. The men were tall, strapping, hairy, and, well, aggressive. Hard living made them so. Richard was a bit softer, but Richard never left home even in adulthood. He was epileptic and slow, and I’m unsure of whether or not he was born that way or became like that due to an illness. And please don’t be offended by the term “slow.” He was never formally diagnosed and that’s the term they used in the day.

When still a pre-teen, my grandparents moved the whole family from the dust bowl to Coalinga, California, where oil was being pumped from the ground, jobs were available, and meager corporate housing was provided for the workers. Grandpa Hales worked that job and provided for his family while Grandma worked as a telephone operator. Sherman Hales’ career in the oil business ended abruptly one day when a pressurized steam pipe burst with him sitting at ground zero. Amongst other injuries that healed, one leg was destroyed and required amputation above the knee.

Still, they stayed in Coalinga, a dusty, unimpressive little town in central California just about an hour outside of the big city: Fresno. Mom grew up, graduated high school, then went on to the San Diego area where she met my father in a story that I covered in a past blog that's well worth reading and entirely true. 

My mother was cool. And a diva. And demanding. And unpredictable. A SoCal stunner who went from a tough childhood to a tough adulthood married to a Marine and raising three boys of her own. In retrospect, I realize what a fantastic, strong, driven, and unflinching woman she was to have handled herself in her environment and to have accomplished what she did. Her accomplishments were raising three sons (while working) who never got arrested, grew up with table manners, knew how to speak to adults, used a coaster, and all three graduated from The University of Texas. The oldest has a Master's in Aerospace Engineering and works for the CIA. The middle brother is a Dentist near San Antonio. And then there's me. It took them three tries to really knock it out of the park. 

Now let’s switch gears and fast-forward to July 5th, 2018, this past summer, when I received an email from a young, impressive man named Tucker Glaske. Tucker is a graduate of The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and now works as their Director of Development. Completely unexpected, Tucker reached out to me to see if the Linnemanns would be interested in sponsoring a scholarship fund at the university. I discussed it with Priscilla and we both thought it perfectly fitting as we continue to immerse ourselves in the Central Texas community. We replied with interest and set up a time to meet at UMHB.  

Tucker is about 6’-4” tall, thin as a rail, and sharp as a tack. Broad shouldered, square-jawed, and well-spoken. I hated him right away. We met on campus and were taken on our first ever tour of the splendid little world that is UMHB. While I had seen the campus before and driven through it on rare occasion, this was my first time seeing it up close and personal, and my first time to the stadium. We learned some interesting history as well, such as that UMHB used to be a girls college, while Baylor was strictly for boys. That changed in the 70’s amid a fiery, emotional debate. I also learned that they might have occasion to host guest instructors or speakers, so I’m working with Tucker to throw my name into that hat. I would love to tell a room of undergrads what I wish someone had told me at that age. And I intend to do just that.  

I had no idea what our little hometown here had built and actually felt a bit ashamed that after living here almost 14 years this was my first time becoming familiar with the operation. Needless to say, we loved the tour, the campus, and the idea of supporting what is obviously a worthwhile endeavor.  

A little red tape later and we’ve launched the Norma Jean Linnemann Scholarship Fund at UMHB, which will award $2,000 per year for the next five years to a student who needs it. After this initial term I’m sure we’ll renew and hopefully be able to fund it more heavily. It seemed perfectly fitting to both Priscilla and myself that we name this after my mother. So many reasons make it so. She was an ardent supporter of higher education and had zero tolerance for bad grades and poor scholastic performance. And, quite frankly, she had zero patience for ignorant people. Yeah, that sounds awful, but that was my mom. I told you she was a handful, and I can’t list the number of times I would find myself standing there stuck in an awkward conversation with some unfortunate soul who had just committed the crime of being slow on the uptake in front of my mother. Now I smile and just remember some glorious childhood memories from those encounters.  

But I would say the biggest reason we named this in her honor was because I wouldn’t be writing this blog, sponsoring this scholarship, or flying back and forth to our second home in Palm Springs if it hadn’t been for Norma Jean Linnemann. That woman, flaws and all, did what I consider to be a spectacular job of raising a son and I will owe her for the rest of my days. And, to be perfectly frank, if I could tell her about it I would literally say, “Mom look, I’m starting a scholarship to hopefully make someone less annoying to you!” And she would laugh, and we would pour a cocktail, maybe play scrabble.

I miss you mom, and I hope you’re proud. The scholarship launches in January and I can’t wait to meet the young person who becomes our first recipient. Here’s to great things in 2019!