Meeting Grandpa Wayne Kenneth Keeney
By Joshua’s Mom from 1996, revised 2021
The Father’s Day in 1995 was a day like no other. It was the day that a family became complete after 38 years of separation.
When Josh’s father, Curt, was a toddler of two years his parents separated and divorced. His Dad left.
Over the years, Curt knew very little about his dad whose name was Wayne. Curt did not know where he was or whether he was alive or not. There were some papers from when he was in the Navy and some old photographs. In the back of Curt’s mind, he always wondered, however, until January of 1993, the questions remained unanswered. Part of the reason Curt did not seek Wayne out was to honor Curt’s mother, Emma Anderson Manthey, also, Curt had a fear of the unknown.
With the impending birth of Curt’s firstborn child, we decided to search for Wayne. We obtained the phone number listed in the state of New York for Curt’s dad, so I called. Someone named Jessica answered our call. She was confused and baffled by our call. It was difficult to explain our intent. She handed the phone over to her husband, Paul. Paul was Wayne’s son. Paul was somewhat guarded and shocked since the family had not been informed about Curt. We asked about Wayne, his health and his current life.
Wayne had married a lady named Dorothy 35 years ago. (re: 1993) They raised five children. They named their firstborn child Curtis Wayne. The other children were named Shannon, Paul, Brett and Jill. Wayne and Dorothy had three grandchildren, and Jessica was expecting in May.
Over the next two years, we exchanged letters, (some 14 pages long) phone calls, photos, and videotapes. We also received a family tree. It was updated to include Curt’s mother, Curt, me (Val), my older three children, and our son, Joshua Wayne Curtis Keeney. The family tree traced the Keeney family thirteen generations starting with Alexander Keeney from the 1600’s. Alexander was the first Keeney to arrive in the Colonial United States. The town, “Keeneyville, Pennsylvania” was named after the family.
Finally, when Josh was two years old, Curt and I made plans to travel to Northern Pennsylvania to meet Wayne and his family. We brought my ten-year-old daughter, Kaira, along and of course, Josh.
We left on a Thursday, took turns driving, and spent a night near Cleveland, Ohio. We drove across Southern New York about half-way, and straight down to Pennsylvania to our destination—arriving late Saturday night.
The house looked like a charming “Bed and Breakfast.” There were potted and bedded flowers blooming everywhere, and there were stony walkways surrounding the house. We were met by Wayne and Dorothy with warm hugs and hello’s. Inside, we met Jill, her infant daughter, and later, her husband Mark. We were shown photos of the family. There were strong family resemblances between Josh and his cousins, and Curt with his siblings. Brett lived nearby, so he also stopped over.
It was late, so we were escorted to our rooms. Around the turn of the century, the house had been a convalescent home where recuperating patients arrived by train from New York City, therefore, there were several rooms. Wayne, Dorothy, and their children had worked long hours to rejuvenate and adorn the house. We felt privileged and very welcome.
The next morning, Sunday, June 18th, 1995, was Father’s Day. All of Wayne’s children, and grandchildren, were together at last. Wayne was 68 years old, Curt was 41, and Josh was 2, and the circle was finally complete. (Note: June 2, 1996 Wayne will be 70 years old.)
Curt’s aunts and uncles also met their nephew and grand-nephew for the first time. It was a beautiful sunny day. We took many photos and watched the grandchildren play. Kaira made friends with her new cousin, Tasha, who was also ten-years-old. They became inseparable for the first three days.
We stayed almost a week. Father and son were able to go fishing at Wayne’s favorite fishing pond. It was just Curt, his dad, the stars, hills, and whatever wildlife wandered by the shoreline.
We all drove up to see Evergreen, PA, Wayne’s birthplace and original home, his grade school, and his high school. Wayne embellished the journey with antidotes of his boyhood days, showing the hills he used to slide down. Wayne appeared to be a thoughtful, quiet sort of man, but he did like to reminisce and share his past. We drove to a waterwheel that he built along a steep, little mountain stream. It was hooked up to a generator, which powered electricity to a small home above the road. We traveled around a manmade lake that once belonged to a classmate of Wayne’s. Wayne brought us to a stone quarry where flagstone was harvested for walkways and patios. The quarry belonged to a friend of Wayne’s, so he occasionally worked there.
The day we left there were a lot of bittersweet tears. We hugged “goodbye.” Wayne had never forgotten the two-year-old child he left years ago. Now, years later, the child had reappeared as a 41 -year-old son, bringing a two-year-old grandson for a visit, only to depart, again. We knew in our hearts, that the reunion was meant to be.
It is almost a year since we were in Pennsylvania. We hope to return, again. There is another grandson, and another grandchild on the way who we would like to meet. Josh is growing and changing so much. We feel that it is important to continue our lives with our family in Pennsylvania.
Written by Valerie J. Laidlaw (formerly Keeney) on May 30, 1996, revised May 27, 2021.
Here’s an old letter from Josh’s Grandpa Wayne written while he was stationed in California in the Navy to Josh’s Grandma Emma. He eventually married Emma, adopted her daughter, Lois, and Josh’s dad was born in California in the 1950’s.
Dearest Darling, Feb 1st, 1948. Am sending you a few lines in answer to your letter today, was glad to hear from you and to hear all is well. As for me I am ok except in love with you too much. Honey, I am in trouble again as much as I hate to say it but you know the other morning I was supposed to be back to the ship at 6 o’clock and also I missed the ship by 5 minutes so I guess you know why I haven’t been over to see you before this don’t you. Dear, I am a P.H.L. again, don’t know what I will get out of it but am hoping for anything but a B.C.D. as all I think I will get out of it is a few days restriction maybe until I get transferred for discharge but that’s much better than a B.C.D. anyhow for can be together again for good. I’ve only gotten about 14 or 15 days left here but that is a long time to go without seeing you love, Honey, the other morning I made it down to the landing just in time to see the ship pulling out but I caught Hamler just before it shoved off so they transferred me back to the Wiltsie that evening at sea as all they have gotten me for is one hour over leave. Honey, I believe I am going to go crazy if I don’t get off pretty soon as all I have done is worry since I have gotten in this trouble, If I should get a bad conduct discharge I don’t know what I’d do for I wouldn’t dare to go home & would never be able to marry you for couldn’t find a job good enough to support you and baby, Darling as all I am asking of you is to wait for me until I get final out for shore what I will get, you remember you said you could wait for me for 6 mos. if you had to, well it won’t be near that long, but will probably seem like it anyhow. Honey, as far as you giving me a bad time the other night, forget it because I am not mad at you and would be glad right now if I could see you long enough for you to give me a bad time. Darling, you know I never dreamt I loved you as much as I do but now that I am restricted it seems as though there is something missing in this world for I can’t be with you now & maybe never. Honey, I was unable to get paid yesterday because of being a P.A.L. but I am going to try and borrow $10 to send to you to pay on the rent just to keep mom happy until I can pay it all off. You tell mom not to worry about the money for as soon as I get paid off, I will pay up all the back rent. Honey, I am going to try and sneak over on the beach one of the days if I don’t get Liberty soon just long enough to tell you how much I love you, Baby, and that is a pretty big job, anymore. I guess probably you think I am giving you a line but I’m not & no matter what anyone says I am not, no Dear, it is as I have always said if we break up it is going to be you who does it, not me, so remember that. Well Darling guess will close for now hoping to hear from you again soon. All my love & kisses for you & baby always. Yours forever. Wayne