Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children

 
James Browning

stories from the book
by James V. Browning


When Adversity Strikes

Veda (McInturff) Cook


I was born in Leslie, Arkansas; the fifth of eight children born of Frank and Myrtle McInturff. I remember only a poor, but cheerful childhood not knowing the family was poor, as were all families in the area.

My mother died Nov. 4, 1927, at age 38, and left my father with eight children to care for with the help of the two older daughters. My father would take the mules and work on the county roads to earn the right to vote. He took us to Morse, and settled in a small dilapidated house.

My father died Sept. 25, 1931, and left six young children without care. My older sisters kept the children together until there was no money, no food and little clothing for the approaching winter. With the help of the community church and school officials, arrangements were made for me and my brothers, Howard, Ben and Dorsey to enter the Baptist Orphans Home in Oklahoma City. Brother Bill stayed with my oldest sister, Ethna. It was E-Day, Nov. 4, 1931, when we entered the Home. “Being without property of estate and wholly dependent,” the court papers read, we entered the Home for “food, shelter and education.” It was at the entrance physical examination I met a man, Dr. F. B. Erwin, who would make a difference in my life.

Soon after I entered the Home, I missed my brother, Dorsey, in the dining hall. I was shy and distressed and did not ask about him. Again at breakfast and supper, he was not at his assigned table. I cried in bed, wondering where he was and what had happened to him. It turned out he had diphtheria and had been taken to a quarantine hospital to recover. At this time, E. A. Howard was superintendent, Mansfield was resident manager and Jennie Lucas ran the place.

The first Christmas I was in the Home, I was driven to Norman by Paul Dennison and Brother Curb to visit my “society,” the Selofa Sunday School Class at First Baptist Church. As there were four people in the cab, I sat on Brother Curb’s lap and fell asleep. That Sunday was a day to remember; I met some very kind and special people that remained my lifetime friends. They were so loving and I needed those expressions.

My time at the Home was a happy time. I attended University Heights School through ninth grade and Britton High School for tenth grade. I was on the editorial staff for the newspaper and held class and school offices. I won $25 for an insurance essay contest, but there was no person to say I did well or “I’m proud of you.”

In 1935, H. Truman and Alice Maxey came to the Home with their young son. This young family was to mean so much in my life.

After finishing tenth grade, I was sent to live in the home of Dr. and Mrs. Erwin in Oklahoma City and I finished school at Classen High School. I remember those two years in sheer terror. I was taken from a school where I knew most all the students to a very large student body where I knew only two people and none of the teachers.

Dr. and Mrs. Erwin were like a family to me and tried to help me shed my shyness. A person called the Home to snitch that I was not attending BYPU and was going dancing. Dr. Erwin knew it was not true, for I did not go dancing Sunday nights. He told me many times WHEN ADVERSITY STRIKES, RISE ABOVE THE SITUATION. I later had plenty of adversity to rise above. He made a difference in my life.

One night, I saw a nice-looking young man at the “Y.” I was in business school and my sorority was hosting the party for the young airmen from Will Rogers Field. To make my story shorter, the airman, S/Sgt. John W. Cook, and I were married on Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, 1941. On that day, I stood at the altar with the three important men in my life. Dr. Erwin, who gave away the bride, Truman Maxey, who gave the wedding vows and my beloved John.

John and I moved to Savannah, Ga., for three months before John was sent to Miami Beach, Fla., for Officer Training School. I got a small apartment and thought it was fun to watch Clark Gable do his exercises on the parade field. John finished training and got his commission as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corp. Soon he was off to serve in the Eighth Air Force in England for the duration of the war. Meanwhile I worked in Oklahoma City for the Office of Defense Transportation.

  • Continued...

    The big war was over and time went fast as I followed my Air Force husband from base to base. It was bliss to have him home safely. John’s first assignment was to The Air University in Orlando, Fla. We purchased our first home there and paid $7,500.00. (The house sold for $79,000.00 in 1987.) Dr. Erwin died and Mrs. Erwin came to visit us in early 1946, as did Mom and Pop Maxey. The Air University moved the summer of 1946 to Selma, Ala. We settled into student housing with a card table, toaster, waffle iron, and hot plate.

    John, Jr. was born Oct. 25, 1946, followed by Alice Olivia (name sakes of Alice Maxey and Olivia Erwin). In October of 1949, we learned Alice was seriously ill and in 1950, she was terminal. Again I remembered WHEN ADVERSITY STRIKES, MAKE THE BEST OF THE SITUATION. John was transferred to the Pentagon so Alice could be at Walter Reed General Hospital for care. Alice was in the hospital for surgeries for months.

    In 1953, the children and I followed John to Montgomery, Ala. while he attended Command and General Staff School. Upon finishing school, he received orders to Twelfth Air Force, Ramstein, Germany.

    I accompanied John to many Twelfth Air Force Bases in Germany, Holland, and France, as chapels, clubs, schools, libraries, recreation facilities, and family service buildings were dedicated. The good Southern Baptist Chaplain General Pennington, Twelfth Air Force Chaplain, was working to establish an English-language Baptist church in the Kaiserslautern area. I worked with this group of military and civilians to get it started. John and Alice attended the base school with outstanding teachers.

    From Germany, I returned to the beautiful Washington area where John was assigned to the Air Force General Staff. Again, the family was near super medical care with Alice’s old doctors again. This tour we purchased a house in Annandale, Va., and went to Annandale Baptist Church. The children quickly found new church and school friends. John’s relatives lived in the area.

    The next three years took us to San Bernardo, Calif., where John was assigned to the Inspector General Group for world-wide inspection trips. I spent my time with the children and their school, filling in for the absent John. John, Jr. finished high school with high honors (National Merit) and Alice finished tenth grade and won her letter sweater. She won the physics prize in the Inland Science Fair. John, Jr. was accepted at MIT, his first college choice. John and I worked with a group led by Rev. Russell to establish a Southern Baptist Church in Rialto, Calif. Rialto has become an African-American community and the Memorial Church is an active black church now.

    From California, we moved back to Virginia in 1963 when John was assigned to Weapons Acquisition Systems (his Ph.D. Thesis subject) and later to Research and Development. I became active in hospital volunteer work and taxi services for Alice. John, Jr. moved to college. John retired from the U.S. Air Force April 1, 1967 as a Colonel.

    Alice had to go on home dialysis for 16 hours a week. She had many hours at Walter Reed Hospital and George Washington Hospital. Her condition was grave for months. Discussions and preparations were underway for a kidney transplant when she had severe internal bleeding.

    Alice died May 11, 1969, Mother’s Day. First to arrive were Mom and Pop Maxey with my sister, Ethna. As Pop led the family in prayer, I found a peace that all was well. Family and family friends were so helpful. It is times like these that made me value very much my family and Christian friends. Again I remembered WHEN ADVERSITY STRIKES, RISE ABOVE THE SITUATION.

    John, Jr. was drafted in the summer after receiving his Masters degree, and the house was so empty. John and I went to Oklahoma City for Dr. Maxey’s retirement celebration. It was easy for me to honor this family—yes, it was a family sacrifice. From Oklahoma City, we drove to San Antonio, Texas, to visit John, Jr. in boot camp. I worked in the church library, helped with the annual honors banquet and volunteered in the Red Cross Blood Bank in Washington, D.C.

    John, Jr. arrived home from San Francisco (he was assigned to the Army Medical Corp) on Dec. 13, 1970. The evening of Dec. 14, 1970, John died of a massive heart attack. Mom and Pop Maxey were there soon as possible. God had always provided me with true friendships and what a difference family and friends make. It took me a week to remember WHEN ADVERSITY STRIKES, MAKE THE BEST OF THE SITUATION.

    The doctors at Walter Reed Hospital (because of Alice’s disease, John’s autopsy was done at Walter Reed) arranged for John, Jr. to be assigned to Walter Reed. It was good to have him with me at this time.

    I had no trouble finding work after completing New Horizons for Women at George Washington University. I took a job at Fort Belvoir and worked for more than seven years. John, Jr. was at Dartmouth College working on his Ph.D. in Physics. He finished school and the next door neighbor (a Physics Ph.D.) introduced him to a neighbor who worked at Navy Research Laboratory. John got the job and started looking for a house.

    I continued to work and attended night classes to get a Certification in Business Management. This time around I found the subjects interesting and made excellent grades. After seven years, I decided to stop work and return to Oklahoma City, since John was in his new home and my home was two-story and too big.

    My move to Oklahoma was a difficult decision. I had sold my home and my furnishings were in storage. I missed my work, my Virginia friends and John, Jr. I looked at lots in different areas, drew up specifications for a house and interviewed builders. I thanked God for those seven years working in research and development at Fort Belvoir and the engineers that would take the time to answer my many questions.

    After I was settled in my new home, I entertained eight ladies from the old Selofa Sunday School Class at lunch in my home. I had kept in touch through the years. I loved those ladies and still communicate with some of their children.

    I am now busy with household chores, garden maintenance, playing with my several box turtles, active in Gold Star Wives, attend monthly meetings of Oklahoma Veterans Council, serve on Senator Inhofe’s Veterans Committee, publish two newsletters, am a member of a monthly book review club, am a volunteer tour guide at the Botanical Gardens, on the board of directors for my homeowners association, active in my Sunday School Class at Quail Springs Baptist Church.

    I am most thankful to the generosity of Oklahoma Baptists in giving me a foundation for a Christian life. God has been by my side. Prayers have not always been answered my way, but by faith, always the best way.

    I have been fortunate to see many parts of these beautiful United States, Northwest Canada, Greenland, Northeast Canada, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, England, Scotland, Wales, Turkey, and many of the European countries. Each trip I have to pinch myself to realize it is real; never when I was in the Baptist Orphans Home did I think I would get out of Oklahoma.

    What a great country! What a wonderful God!! What wonderful people have crossed my path. PRAISE THE LORD and I hope to always remember WHEN ADVERSITY STRIKES, RISE ABOVE THE SITUATION.

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