Soon after we returned from Europe, Bill offered to take me on another journey―this time to the place he called home.
Bill picked me up at the airport in Little Rock on a bright summer morning in late June. We made our way through the Arkansas River Valley with its low-slung magnolia trees, and into the Ouachita Mountains, stopping at overlooks and dropping by country stores so Bill could introduce me to the people and places he loved. As dusk fell, we arrived, at last, in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Hot Springs was Virginia Cassidy Blythe Clinton Dwire Kelley's natural element. Bill's mother was raised in nearby Hope, eighty miles to the southwest. During World War II she attended nursing school in Louisiana, and that's where she met her first husband, William Jefferson Blythe. After the war, they moved to Chicago and lived on the North Side, not far from where my parents were living. When Virginia became pregnant with Bill, she went home to Hope to wait for the baby. Her husband was driving down to see her when he had a fatal accident in Missouri in May of 1946. Virginia was a twenty-three-year-old widow when Bill was born on August 19, 1946. She decided to go to New Orleans to train to become a nurse anesthetist because she knew she could make more money that way to support herself and her new son. She left Bill in the care of her mother and father, and when she got her degree, she returned to Hope to practice.