Thursday, May 13, 2010

Albert H. Pounds--Searching for Al!

I took a much needed vacation in April 2009 to visit the folks back in Springfield, Missouri where I was raised. While talking to my dad one night, he hauled out a large Rubbermaid container full of old photos. In the container was a crumpled black and white picture I hadn’t seen for many years—a family portrait taken in 1962 of myself, my mother, and my father, Al Pounds. Al was the father who had been out of my life since I was 4 years old.

My mother told me that Al was from Toledo, Ohio. Outside of that lone fact, she didn’t mention any other vital statistics. I found out over the years that Al was in the U.S. Navy for a short period until he was diagnosed with diabetes and discharged. Mom also said that Al was court-martialed for abandoning his ship, because he felt extremely sick and one day decided that he needed to see a doctor. Apparently, as the story goes, his commanding officer wouldn’t let him leave the vessel. As my mother loved to tell it, he managed to jump ship only to pass out on the steps of the hospital, near death.

After his discharge from the Navy, Al came to Springfield where he met and married my mother—Sharon K. Slack in the late 50’s. He also attended Southwest Missouri State University for a short time and reportedly played football. According to Mom, he was a “center” on the team. He was known to have made many trips to a Veterans Administration Hospital in northern Arkansas for the treatment of his diabetes, which got progressively worse.

Al divorced my mother in either 1963 or 1964. I was around 3 or 4 years old at the time. From that point, I was told he moved to Kirkwood, Missouri outside of St. Louis, and remarried. I vaguely remember a few short telephone conversations with him over a 5 year period and do recall a brief visit early on. I had no contact with him after age 10 that I recall. It wasn’t until 1977 that his wife called to inform me that Al died of a massive heart attack. That’s about all I knew of Al Pounds up to April of last year.

Sadly, my beloved mother passed away in 1999 of cancer. I now wish I had asked more questions about Al, but until my trip home in 2009, I had no interest in doing so. From a young age, I always felt Al abandoned us, and that was that. His absence all those years helped galvanize a simple belief I have held for quite some time: it’s easy to become a father, but it takes years of dedication, hard work and love to become a “dad”. Shortly after the divorce, my mother met and married the man who would love and raise me as his own—James D. Hair. He was then and still is “Dad”.

James legally adopted me when I was 10 years old, and my name has been “Hair” ever since. It was a good thing especially since one grade school teacher insisted on hyphenating both surnames to produce an awkward sounding Andrew “Pounds-Hair”. I bristled whenever she corrected me insisting that my name was not legally “Hair”. The teasing from my classmates over my funny sounding hyphenated name was relentless, but I managed to survive. Fortunately, I was bigger than most of my peers. That helped, but honestly, I had something else going for me—I was proud to be a Hair!

I didn’t realize it at the time, but that box of old photos I combed through sparked a burning desire to learn more about the Pounds branch of my family tree, if for no other reason than to know. The discoveries I have made in the past year have truly amazed me and created a passion for learning more about my heritage and the family history that accompanies it. As genealogists say, I have been “bitten by the bug”!

In Part II of this story, I will reveal some of the facts and stories I have unearthed in my search for Al, to include unexpectedly finding a step-sister. Stay tuned!


  1. Andrew.. You have brought tears to my eyes because you and I share a very similar story about our relationships, non-existent so to speak with our biological Fathers. I was 3 when my Mother left my Father. I did see him once when I was 16 but he wouldn't have anything to do with me. 9 years later the woman he married in about 1975 told him that she would not marry him unless he contacted his children. After all those years he and I did start to build a relationship though it was hard for he and even me to change our ways of the past. I did get to go fishing with him once and even visited him 3 or 4 times. In 1981 he developed Lou Gerigs Disease and died in 1982. Yes I was mad at him once again for abandoning me though he did not do it on purpose. I have never found my half-sister and half-brother nor have I ever seen them. There is no trace of them that I can find.
    I am very anxious to read more about your family history.
    Ya know though we have never met I already feel close to you. After all you are family!! Keep up the wonderful artistic expressionistic work you are doing cousin.

  2. Keith,

    I hope to have the next installment posted over the weekend. This one has many dates and other facts and is a bit tedious to write, but it has been fun. By the way, If you subscribe via email, located just under the “Welcome” box in the upper right hand corner of the front page, you will be notified when new posts are available. I would also like to write about how we found each other. We need to talk this weekend. Thanks, Cuz!