My father, Miguel Ramirez Sausedo, was born on May 8, 1928 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was one of seven children born to Francisco and Susanna Sausedo, who had moved from Mexico to the southeast corner of Wyoming around the turn of the 20th century. My father joined the Navy not long after his 18th birthday and spent all of his adult life in the armed services.
By the late 1940’s, my dad was in the Army and going by the name of Mike. He was on a bus headed for home when a young brunette girl from North Carolina caught his eye. My mother, Janette Florine Spencer, was born in Gastonia, North Carolina, and grew up in the Firestone Mill Village on the west side of town. She was an adventurous young woman who loved to travel and see the world. She and a friend were headed to Illinois to visit another mutual acquaintance, who had arranged a blind date for my mom. While on the bus Mike and Janette struck up a conversation, which led to their having lunch together that day and exchanging addresses. My mom got off the bus in Illinois, went on her blind date, but just couldn’t get Mike off of her mind. Obviously the feeling with him was mutual, because for the next five years, they managed to maintain a long distance, pen-pal relationship. Eventually my dad would be transferred to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, which would allow them to see each other more often. The two fell in love and were married in 1954.
My father’s passing in 1965 would not be the first tragedy my mom would experience. While many who know our family are aware that she lost a husband, not many know that she also lost a child. In 1957 my oldest brother, Johnnie Lynn Sausedo, passed away during delivery. The resilience that my mom had in light of these losses has been incredible. While I am sure she was shaken by both of these events, her strength to endure has been her testimony. I will speak more about my mother in the next post.
Happiness would come their way with the birth of two sons. In 1959, my older brother, Michael, was born, and on July 15, 1961, I was born at Gaston Memorial Hospital in Gastonia, NC.
As an interesting sidebar, my parents had obviously considered the names of their first two children – John was the name of my dad’s brother, and Michael, of course, carried my father’s namesake. When I asked my mom how they came up with my name, she told me that the nurse came in with a list of popular baby names and asked her what she wanted my name to be. Still groggy from the trauma of the delivery, she told the nurse just to give me the first name on the list. I count my blessings that there wasn’t an absolute hideous name occupying that top spot.
Most of what I know about those early years I have learned from pictures and from stories my mom has shared. The old cliché, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” definitely applies in this case.
There is no doubt in my mind that my dad loved my mom deeply, and that he loved his boys the same. From stories I have heard from relatives as I grew up, my dad was extremely proud of his family and was an excellent family man.
When my dad was assigned to a base in the United States, he made every effort to have us with him. Except for the few years my dad was stationed in Pennsylvania, we spent most of my early childhood in North Belmont, NC, mainly staying with my aunt and my grandfather in the mill house on Boundary Street. During the years that he was away from us, he was so faithful to write my mom and stay connected.
When my father died, my mom made the decision to have him buried in his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming. This spoke volumes to me about her character and the expression of love his family in Wyoming had for him. My mom went to Cheyenne for the funeral by herself. A couple of years later, in the summer of 1967, all three of us would board a Greyhound bus and make a visit to see our Sausedo relatives in Wyoming. Thirty-four years would pass before we would visit my father’s hometown again.
My quest to know more about my dad really didn’t begin until I was well in my 30’s. For most of my childhood and adolescence, I really didn’t have any burning compulsion to seek any of those answers. As I grew older, the absence of a father in my life became more pronounced and had much more of an effect on me. When I married and had children of my own, the urge to know more about my father bloomed into fruition and became fully engaged.
While questions about my father’s demise didn’t occupy a great deal of my youth, his absence had a profound impact on me. Consequently, some of the posts that follow will highlight some of those childhood experiences, in hopes that they will offer a framework for understanding the factors that led me to my lifelong quest of “finding father.”