By David Stevens
Sometimes I wonder what my life might have been like if Bobby Jack Chaddick had lived a little longer.
He was born in Bluit, south of Portales, on July 31, 1931, and died in a car crash at age 23 on Sept. 26, 1954, near Deming. His headstone in the Portales cemetery reads, “His record is on high.”
Chaddick died five years before my wife Rhonda and I were born. We consider him part of our extended family, but he is not blood kin to either of us.
Here’s why he matters so much:
Chaddick married Rhonda’s mother, Gayline Shaw, in 1952. They casually mentioned to Gayline’s parents they were going to the Roosevelt County courthouse to get married, but Gailor and Pauline Shaw waved them off with a laugh.
I’m told Gayline and Bobby Jack were both fun-loving and unpredictable in their teens and early 20s, and that story pretty much confirms those reports.
They weren’t married long, barely had a chance to really get to know each other, before Chaddick shipped off to fight in the Korean war.
A newspaper article in the Santa Fe New Mexican reports Cpl. Bobby J. Chaddick, of 413 University Drive in Portales, and 13 other New Mexico men returned from the war on Dec. 17, 1953. They landed in Seattle on the transport Gen. Simon B. Buckner.
Nine months later, Chaddick died in the car crash.
Media accounts report Pvt. Bobby E. Moore, who was stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., was driving the car in which Chaddick was a passenger. Police said a Dublin, Texas, man was driving on the wrong side of the road when his car collided with Moore’s. Both drivers died at the scene. Chaddick died seven hours later in a Deming hospital.
My wife has been told Chaddick was traveling for a job interview in Arizona, but details are sketchy.
What we know for sure is Gayline and Bobby Jack Chaddick never had any children. Gayline married again in 1955 and Rhonda was born four years later.
Rhonda and her brothers grew up with three sets of grandparents, including Bobby Jack’s parents — Arthur and Annie Chaddick — who kept Gayline close the rest of their lives.
So … sometimes I wonder what my life might have been like if Bobby Jack Chaddick had lived a little longer.
Would he and Gayline have stayed near their homes in Roosevelt County or maybe moved away to that job Bobby Jack was after in Arizona?
Would they have had children?
Would Rhonda have still been born in 1959, the same year as me, and ended up going to college at West Texas State University in Canyon where we met?
I guess the novelist John Galsworthy was right: “Life calls the tune, we dance.”
David Stevens is editor of the Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at: