Gerald Love and His Remarkable Mother

While I was in Cape, I got an email from Gerald Love: “Ken, when is the next CHS Reunion?”

Not exactly sure what he was asking, I replied, “The most immediate reunion is this weekend. No telling when the one after that will be held.”

He said that he was going to be in town visiting his mother this weekend and would like to attend. “You could tell ’em you’re Jim Stone,” I told him. “I got an email from his this morning saying he wasn’t going to be able to make it.”

To be honest, the name Gerald Love was familiar, but I couldn’t put a face to the name. That’s not unusual. I have a memory for events and dialog, but have a real problem linking people and names.

Gerald Love AKA Jim Stone

Wife Lila and I were sitting at a table with Joe Snell, Gail Tibbles and Jacqie (Bill) Jackson over a lunch for the Class of 65 when this fellow in a red shirt walks up. “Are you Kenny Steinhoff?”

“I’ve been running from that name since 1967, but I’ll have to say ‘yes.'”

“I’m Gerald Love. I’d heard you were a practical joker, but when you suggested I check in using the name Jim Stone, I thought that might be tough. I remember Jim as being a redhead.”

Retired from the Air Force

Gerald spent most of his adult life in the Air Force, programming coordinates into nuclear missiles. (He assured us that there are safeguards that would keep a rogue programmer from sending a missile into his ex-wife’s house.)

How did he get into that job? When it came time to take tests to determine his occupational specialty, he failed every section except one dealing with electronics. The scorer called him aside and said, “This is highly unusual. How could you fail math, English and all of those other sections, but get 100% on electronics?”

“If I had scored high in those areas,” Gerald said, “You’d have made me a cook or a clerk or something. I wanted into electronics.”

The tester assumed that anyone who could game the system like that was someone who could do well as a programmer, so he passed him on to electronics.

What was Cape really like?

As the conversation went on, I felt like it would be OK to ask Gerald something that had been on my mind for years: race relations in Cape. I raised the issue on Obama’s inauguration day on my other blog.

“Cape schools were integrated by the time we got into high sch0ol and I don’t recall any issues between the races, but I’m looking at it from a majority white viewpoint. What was your perspective?

“There was no friction with the kids,” he replied.  “There might have been some adults with problems, but not the kids.”

This isn’t going to work out

Then, Gerald shared the story of when he first became aware of his skin color and prejudice. You could tell that it was something that bothers him more than half a century later.

“I once heard about a job to go house to house selling stuff. I was the only black kid who showed up. All of the other kids were white. I knew them all from the neighborhood.  This adult called me into the back of the room and said, ‘I don’t this is going to work out.'”

“Why? I can sell.”

“‘No, you don’t understand. This is to go door to door to sell,’ he tried to explain.”

“That’s no problem. I’m used to walking.”

“‘No, you still don’t understand, I’m not sure people will open their door to you,’ he said, finally.”

“There was a narrow little alley running from that store to my house. I cried all the way home because I kept thinking, what is this? [Looking at his arm.] Is the only reason I didn’t get the job? I went and told my mom and she said, “I’ve been meaning to talk with you about this for some time. I guess it’s time now.”

Gerald’s mother was an incredible woman

Gerald told us how hard his mother, Geraldine Love, worked to provide for him and his seven siblings. She saw to it that every one of them went to college.

March 13, 2002, the Missouri House of Representatives passed House Resolution 782 which said, in part:

Whereas, on March 16, 1927, in Belzoni, Mississippi, God brought a special gift to this great nation with the birth of an adorable infant by the name of Geraldine Young; and

Whereas, while celebrating her Seventy-fifth Birthday, Geraldine Young Love will have the opportunity to reminisce about some of the significant events in her life such as moving to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where she graduated from John S. Cobb High School; marrying Henry Love (deceased); and giving birth to two sons and six daughters; and

Whereas, God has blessed Geraldine Love with the loving devotion of a wonderful family whose members include her children, Gerald, a retired member of the United States Air Force who lives in Nebraska; JoAnn, a personnel director for the federal government who lives in the Washington, D.C., area; Hannah, a registered nurse who lives in St. Louis; Glenda, a retired member of the United States Air Force who lives in Nebraska; Henry, a dialysis nurse practitioner who lives in St. Louis; Jennifer, a medical records transcriber who also lives in St. Louis; Jeanne, a computer information specialist and teacher who lives in Jefferson City; and Gail, who was a certified public accountant prior to her untimely passing; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all of whom have been the light of her life; and

Whereas, Geraldine Love distinguished herself after the death of her husband by solely raising eight children under the age of 19 in a two-bedroom shack, where she somehow managed to put enough money aside to eventually buy a nice, clean brick house with three bedrooms and a basement; and

Now, therefore, be it resolved that we, the members of the Missouri House of Representatives, Ninety-first General Assembly, unanimously join in extending our most hearty congratulations and special birthday greetings to Geraldine Love at this significant milestone and in wishing her much peace and contentment as she continues to enjoy her golden years…

Mrs. Love died June 29

When I sent Gerald a note asking for permission to tell his story about the sales job he didn’t get, he sent the sad news that his mother had passed away on June 29. Here is her obituary in The Missourian.

I’m sorry that I didn’t know her. She sounds like an extraordinary woman.

22 Replies to “Gerald Love and His Remarkable Mother”

  1. What an extraordinary woman and a mother to be proud of. I remember seeing Gerald (Jim) at the reunion, but couldn’t place him with that name. On the other hand, I couldn’t place most of the faces there…must have been a senior moment, or weekend.

  2. MAJ Gerald B. LOVE, UFAF, Retired had a remarkable Mother. I know this is a great loss to Gerald. My codolences to Gerald and his family.

    I hope Gerald tells the story of his Mother and his life.

    Joe Snell
    LCDR, USN, Retired

  3. The best gift children can give to their mother is to do well in life. Mrs. Love’s children gave her that wonderful gift.

  4. I was very pleased to run into Gerald at the high school tour during the reunion. After I went into the Air Force in ’68, it seems we ran into each other every time I was home on leave.

    I was also very sorry to read of his mother’s death when I got home. She was an extraordinary woman and I’m very sorry I never got the chance to meet her. Her family is in my prayers.

  5. (I am stll getting the hang of posting.) The best gift children can give their mother is to do well in life. Mrs. Love received this gift from her children.

  6. Ken,
    Once again, THANK YOU for bringing us another wonderful story. I read this one with tears. I salute the Love
    family – ALL of them, but what a woman those children had for a mother. Gerald should write a book about his life. I would be first in line to buy it.

  7. Thanks for bringing this wonderful heartwarming story to us.
    You should be writing a book: From Cape (1965)to Cape (2010)

    with stories like this one, and your humorous ‘top down’ story, it would be great. And you’d have a huge target audience – you could presell it to all of us before you put pen to paper (figuratively speaking)

    Thanks again,

    What does it cost to have an ad on your site? I have an event coming up that I promote and I’d like to advertise: The 9th Annual Off the Beaten Path Studio Tour, September 17 – 19, 2010 – tour artists’ private working studios in and around Mountain View, Arkansas.
    Guess I did just promote it but I’d be glad to pay for an ad.
    Let me know.

  8. Ken, Thanks, once again, for bringing us a wonderful story. I read the story of the Love family with tears. What an amazing woman Geraldine must have been. The success of her children is a living tribute. Gerald should write a book about his life. I would be first in line to purchase it. To all the Love children – cherish the memories.

  9. Ken, and Gerald, thanks for sharing. I knew Gerald’s sister, Jennifer, and she was one of the most genuinely kind people I have ever known – a true testament to the loving kindness of their mother. Geraldine was a truly remarkable woman. She instilled in her children the drive and goodness that produces the citizens that make this country the greatest on earth.

  10. I remember Gerald Love from High School as a quite guy with always a smile and good word for you. I had no idea of his up bringing or his mom until now. What a great story.
    The greatest tribute to her as already been done, Gerald his brother’s and sister’s have lived a good life and will continue to honor her in telling her story to others. She lived a good life so others could live a better one, that is what we all should be trying to do.
    Gerald, I offer a prayer for her and all your family.

  11. Ken, thank you for another story that touches the heart. I was in the CHS class of ’70 with Henry Love and remember him as a very quiet and sweet guy with great dignity – a tribute to his upbringing. I didn’t know he had passed until I read Mrs. Love’s obit just now. My regards and sympathy to all of the Love family on their loss.

  12. Thank you Ken for alll the wonderful stories you have published for our enjoyment. You are truly gifted and we have enjoyed them so much. I worked with Jeanne Love at SEMO in the computer center years ago and she was a wonderful person whom I enjoyed knowing. I was sorry to hear about her mother.

  13. Ken, Thanks again for the inspiring story of Mrs. Love. I went to St. Mary’s Grade School with Jo Ann and always wondered what ever happened to her. Now I know. She lived across from school and I remember her small house. I also remember Gerald as being very protective of his siblings. Thanks

  14. I want to commend Mr. Love for portraying, with such good illustration, the answer to your question about race relations. I have watched movies such as Remember the Titans which focused on race relations in the 1960s, but none achieved the elegance, and inspired the feelings, as Mr. Love’s story. Everytime I find myself slipping, I want to remember Gerald’s story, so that I can understand the magnitude of impact that we have on each other with our prejudices and biases. I was quite a few years behind you (graduated in 1981), and I’d like to think progress was made over that 16 years spanning our graduating classes.

    1. It was one of those questions that was awkward to ask, but I’m glad I did. I only wish I had been able to capture it on video because his delivery made the message so much more powerful.

      Here’s a guy who, literally, had the fate of the world in his hands when he was programming coordinates into nukes, but an incident when he was in grade school continues to stay in his memory.

      His exact words escape me, but he said something to the effect of, “I accomplished every thing I wanted to in my life, except for that sales job.”

      I’m glad he didn’t take offense at my question and I’m glad I asked it of someone as articulate as Gerald.

  15. I met Geraldine several years ago through my work with the Eldercare Center at SEMO University. She was a lovely woman that smiled constantly and loved to laugh. She was so proud of her children and was always getting ready to go visit one of her children that lived away. She was very proud of Gerald for raising his large family. She will be missed.

  16. I had classes with Gerald and got to know him very well. I actually didn’t know Gerald was black until I read this article by Ken. It came as quite a shock to me. As a young person, I didn’t know much about Gerald’s homelife, however, it is obvious that his mother was an outstanding person who has made an impression upon his life as well as his brothers and sisters. I don’t know if Gerald gets this e-mail but I would love to hear from him or have his e-mail address. Paul Kitchen

  17. I was really lucky because I got to know Geraldine and her family really well because she worked for my parents. It was my Dad, Gordon Nunnelly who happened to be on emergency room duty when Gerald’s father was brought in. My Dad has the horribly difficult task of going to our house where Geraldine was working to tell her her husband had passed away leaving her with 8 children. The lovely Hannah Love was in my class of ’67. I learned about how the races can get along by watching my parents and Geraldine Love and the remarkable relationship they had through the years. When my own Mother, Marge Nunnelly was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, Geraldine called immediately to offer to take care of my mother following her surgery and chemo-therapy. Geraldine was really the third parent of us Nunnelly children. She kept our photos and those of our children with those of her family and always told people, we were her “white children.” This was truly, truly an extraordinary woman who lived in an era when she could have had great resentment and anger but who only had love and joy in her heart and kindness enough to share with her entire family–black and white. She will be sorely missed!

  18. My experience of knowing Geraldine is one I treasure. She enriched my life! She was a second mom to us kids in the Nunnelly family (as my sister has mentioned) and we saw her everyday. She taught me how to iron a shirt perfectly and how to live in a world that is filled with rich diversity. She was kind and loving and I have gotten a letter and Christmas card from her for the past 30 years. (She attended my wedding.) If there is hope for the future of race relations, Geraldine paved the way in our home during the era of the sixties. Thanks for that!

  19. I went to school with Henry (CHS,’71) and we played basketball together. My parents, Carl & Millie Meyer, knew Geraldine extremely well, and thought the world of her. She truly raised her kids without much help at all from Henry Sr., and what an unbelievable story it was that every one of her children graduated from college. Can you imagine how hard Geraldine worked to make that happen? For extra money, she helped my mom clean our house from time-to-time, and always did the ironing for us. Before I was big enough to cut our yard with the old manual, push mower we had, Gerald would come over and do it. I remember having some nice talks with him, especially the time he fell asleep under one of the shade trees. I asked him, “Gerald, what are you doing?” He replied that he was “busy listening to the grass grow.” That was over 55 years ago now, and I still remember it like it was yesterday!

    Gerald, I hope you’re still around and in decent health. What a joy to find this article on Ken’s site! Thanks.

    1. Steve,

      I love that “busy listening to the grass grow” line. Thanks for sharing it. I’m not sure, but I think I saw Gerald at the recent reunion, but I can’t swear to it.

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