Bob Hope Village Became a New Kind of Home for Me
“I had my memories and my courage which were all that I needed to start over.”
by Amelia Hizer
Every great love story features some sort of adventure, and the story of Melvin and Marjorie is no different. For the first sixteen years of their lives, Marjorie and Melvin grew up within nine miles of one another in different New Jersey towns, although they never met. That all changed in April of their senior year of high school when they went on a blind date. The rest, as they say, is history.
While Marjorie attended New Jersey Teacher’s College, Melvin enlisted in the United States Air Force and began training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Despite the distance, the pair regularly wrote to keep in touch. “We wrote to each other almost every day. We really got to know each other through our letters,” Marjorie said. “I would be blue if a day went by and I hadn’t received a letter.”
For four years, their face-to-face interaction consisted only of brief summer visits. Then, exactly four years and one week after their blind date, Melvin and Marjorie decided to get married. During the course of the next three decades, the couple raised four children and traveled the world.
Melvin and Marjorie lived and raised their children on Air Force bases in destinations such as Italy, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma. When asked what contributed most to their long and successful marriage Marjorie recalls, “We worked together to support our family and our country.”
Marjorie also attributes the happiness of their marriage to the fact that, although they both came from different backgrounds, they each appreciated the value of hard work. “At eighteen months, Melvin was sent to live in foster care and eventually an orphanage with his three sisters,” Marjorie explained. “He had a hard life growing up which has always made me even more proud of his accomplishments.”
Marjorie was an only child who lost her father at a young age, which required her to help her mother make ends meet. In truth, these obstacles and the drive to overcome them bonded Melvin and Marjorie even more.
While Melvin worked as an Air Force Engineer for twenty-eight and one-half years, Marjorie taught second and third grade wherever Melvin was stationed. Their determination to provide for their family served them well.
Marjorie was almost always able to find a teaching position, and Melvin rose in the ranks to earn Chief Master Sergeant. “I was, and still am proud of everything he did. He grew up with so little and ended up succeeding in everything he did,” Marjorie said.
Despite all their hard work, Melvin and Marjorie’s marriage was constantly filled with laughter and adventure. “It was quite an experience having a two-year-old and a two-month-old going across the Atlantic Ocean with waves rocking the boat,” Marjorie recalled. “Melvin and I have so many memories with the children.” Their marriage continued to be full and bright until a difficult day in 1987.
Just thirteen days after Melvin’s fifty-sixth birthday, he passed away, leaving Marjorie a widow in their large house in Oklahoma. After selling their family home and moving to a smaller house in the same area, Marjorie’s health began to deteriorate.
Nearly ten years after her husband’s passing, multiple tornadoes damaging her property, and friends and family encouraging her to seek help, Marjorie decided it was time to look for a place to retire.
After reading an article published by the Air Force Afterburner about the Air Force Enlisted Village, Marjorie decided to schedule an interview. “I met with Opal late in the summer of 1998 and was told that they could have a place ready for me in six months,” she said. “About a week after returning to Oklahoma, I received a call telling me they had a spot open for me. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t expecting to move so soon, but I was grateful they could accommodate me so quickly.”
Marjorie made the move to Bob Hope Village. Despite this seemingly smooth transition, Marjorie came to Bob Hope Village with only a few possessions. “I like to say that I came here with four spoons, a cup, and a lamp,” she said. “Of course, I had a bit more than that, but I had my memories and my courage which were all that I needed to start over.”
After making this transition, Marjorie did just that. When asked how her life has changed for the better after moving to Bob Hope Village, she explained, “My health has improved so much after coming here. I also have met so many great friends who share the same general background; many have even lived on the same bases.”
In essence, the story of Melvin and Marjorie is one of love, adventure, and heartbreak. However, because of the generous supporters of the Air Force Enlisted Village, Marjorie is able to safely and happily enjoy her retirement years. Without that support, Marjorie and many others would not be able to live in such a rich and fulfilling environment.
This commonality is something that the Air Force Enlisted Village strives to provide for all its residents. While Marjorie’s story is unique, many other residents of Bob Hope Village and Hawthorn House have similar stories and have experienced the same sense of friendship and bonding here. In Marjorie’s words, “This is the best move I could have made as a widow. I came through the gate, and I was home.”