By Kay Lynn Means-Darling

When I think back on my life, my first thought is the need to honor my heroes…being a true Daddy’s girl, first on my list would be my father.  Oh how I wish I “would have known then what I know now.”   The extent of sacrifices he bestowed upon our family were truly enumerable.

My Dad was orphaned by the time he was three years old.  He was raised by his older sister, until her death, which I believe, was when he was the ripe old age of 7. Because the country was going through The Depression, Daddy was farmed out to other relatives that couldn’t really afford another mouth to feed, so there was resentment and mistreatment.  

At the age of 15 or 16, Daddy lied about his age to join the Army and served our country during World War II as Staff Sergeant (drill instructor) in Italy.  He was tough, but his men disliked how hard he pushed them, to the extent one pulled a knife on him.  It was a pack of cigarettes that saved his life because the knife blade glanced off of it.  

Later, after they were in a serious combat situation, these same men thanked my father for being so tough on them because they knew it saved their lives.  After being furloughed from the Army, my Dad began working in the oilfields where he remained for the next 30 years and retired in a supervisory position.

I don’t remember seeing my father around a lot when I was a kid because he was always working.  That being said, I knew he was always close in heart and would spend time with us as he could.  

One of my favorite childhood memories was going to feed the cows with Daddy after he got off work.  I thought it was just so grand to use the hand pump to fill the trough with water.  During one such trip, I remember seeing a snake near the trough and am so thankful my Dad was watching because I took a flying leap and landed in his arms. Of course, we laughed about that later on, but at the time…

Daddy didn’t have a lot of schooling so everything he did was pretty much self-taught and he became a true perfectionist – excelling at everything he set out to do whether it be at work, working around the house, cooking, but most importantly instilling values from The Greatest Generation into this old girl. 

Let me close with these thoughts:  1) the irony of a cigarette package saving my Dad’s life, but in another 60 years cigarettes would also take his life, 2) the knife fight in Italy with one of his men left a small scar on his chest…I have that scar as well, 3) when my Mom was about six months pregnant with me, Daddy was a passenger in a truck that overturned, smashing his right hand to the extent the doctors had to amputate.  He was right-handed naturally, but he taught himself to write with his left hand and his print was very concise, extremely legible.

When I think of all he accomplished with just one hand…oh my goodness!  For years Daddy was unable to join the Masons because part of the initiation had to do with a certain handshake, which my Dad could not do because he lost his right hand.  Not long before he died, the Masonic Lodge granted Daddy a special dispensation and he was finally able to become a member, 4) last, but definitely not least, I was born with a birthmark on my right arm right where the doctors had to amputate my father’s arm.

Yeppers, he was my Hero!!

Kay Lynn Means Darling was born in a small town in southeast Texas where the townsfolk pretty much all knew one another. Kay Lynn’s most outstanding memories from childhood were: (1) the huge family get-togethers each Easter when relatives from all over the country would drive down for a huge barbecue that began after church services where all were wearing their “Easter best,” (for Kay Lynn that was a fancy dress, Easter bonnet, straw purse, and shoes to match). (2) being a participant in the live nativity scene each Christmas at church. It was always cold outside and each position (Wise Man, Joseph, Mary) required being completely still for 15 minutes, and when that segment was up the kids would run to the Reception Hall to get a cup of hot chocolate that would scald their tongues, but was so good. Good fellowship and good times.

Kay Lynn was on the quiet side, but still loved to joke and smile and laugh. She recalls a pleasant childhood with good friends that remain in her life to this day. From first through eighth grade, her schooling was on a standard level, but in high school, her counselor put her in the “advanced” classes. Mid-way through high school, Kay Lynn joined a group that would go to school half a day and work half a day. Ultimately, she became bored with school and left a few months shy of graduation in order to marry her sweetheart. That marriage last 1 1/2 years and the need for work led her to a secretarial position at the local police department.

Though not all with the same department, Kay Lynn worked approximately 30 years in law enforcement. She held many positions throughout her career, but was so happy to become the first female patrolman in her hometown which opened the door for many more women to follow as the years passed. Kay Lynn also became the department’s first and only Evidence Technician and set that office up for many to follow also. She worked the last 12 years in that position (as well as Telecommunications) and said this is where she found her heart. The work wasn’t easy, required seeing things most people would never encounter in their lifetime, but the teamwork it took to make a case was so unbelievably awesome.

At the time of her retirement, Kay Lynn married again and moved to the mountains of up-State New York where she and her husband remained for three or so years before they came back to Texas to settle in a small town in Deep East Texas where as a widow she lives to this day.

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