Sunday, April 1, 2012


This week's Sepia Saturday theme is Work and I'll focus on my maternal grandmother, Betty Whitfield and my father, John Riley.

Betty Whitfield attended nursing school at Vanderbilt University. She did not finish her nursing degree, though, because she contracted tuberculosis and was sent to convalesce. After three year's rest, she had recovered, but had sustained some permanent lung damage.

Betty went on to get a teaching degree in Oklahoma. She taught mostly second grade for decades, but I don't have a photo of her in a classroom -- the photo below is of her retirement party. Betty is standing, holding the package. Her very good friend, Avanelle Burns is seated beside her.

My father, John Riley, also started out in nursing school, but ended up a mechanical engineer. John started work as a young teen with his own lawn mowing business. By the time he received his engineering degree he had worked many jobs including summer farm hand, dental assistant in the US Air Force, mattress deliverer, ice cream scooper, and draftsman. But he was always an engineer at heart, able to design, fix or build pretty much anything.

After retirement, John continued working as a volunteer for the American Red Cross. He is on the left in the photo below. One of his Red Cross assignments was interviewing affected New York City residents after 9/11.

Click below to see more Sepia Saturday entries.


  1. That's quite a chequered career path, but I assume it was a means to an end. I'm married to a mechanical engineer so I salute your dad. My husband's father was also an engineer and he advised his son not to go into engineering as there was no money in what did he do?

  2. From nursing to mechanical engineering - wow! I think it's so admirable when people have the courage to learn new things and try new careers.

  3. Volunteering post-retirement sounds like a good way to stay engaged with the world. So commendable that your dad did post-9/11 work in NYC, must have been difficult at times.

  4. Interesting how both of them felt the need to provide service to others. Very nice.

  5. The one photo of your dad looks like the Rocky victory dance (without the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art). Your post highlights the many twists of fate that change the course of our lives.

  6. While Betty did a great service by teaching young ones, I must say John's resume must have looked impressive, from ice cream scooper to engineer and everything in between? Wow!! And I thought I had quite the journey...