Text by James Norwood Pratt • Photography by Cyndi Harron
Jim told himself a change was going to come. No more weeks away from home, no matter how well paid. No more phone calls home to hang up and face another night without Joan. She had nursed him, a wounded warrior, back to health, married him, and given him a family back before the Beatles first sang “Money Can’t Buy Me Love.”
She’d been chief nurse on the floor at St. Agnes Hospital in White Plains, New York, when they brought him in with his leg injured in training down South at Camp Lejeune. By the time of his discharge in 1961, he had her phone number and the promise of a date. It was not just one of those things—it was the beginning of a life together.
Their comfortable and harmonious life in Pleasantville, New York, soon included Jim Jr., Peter, Cyndi, and Tim and a number of fascinating friends, among them the Kenya-born tea man David Walker. Jim, an ex-Marine, and David, who had served in the Kenya Rifles during the Mau Mau Uprising, became friends when their sons played on the same ice hockey team. David had managed tea estates in Kenya and rose in the tea world until Unilever brought him to the US to work for Lipton. Fluent in Swahili and multiple other tongues, David was full of stories about the romantic world of tea, quite distant from Jim’s job as a business executive engineering textile mill turnarounds. It was a good job and well-paid, but he missed Joan entirely too much and said so to David, who proposed a way for him to change careers.