It’s been a long time, Wes

It’s always a thrill seeing someone you haven’t seen since you were teenagers. You get a chance to reminisce about the fun times you shared (if your memories allow), catch up on all the years (in this case, four decades), and see how much you’ve both changed while silently picturing what you looked like as kids.

That’s what I got the cherished chance to do last Sunday when I had lunch with Wesley Volberding and his wife, Donna. They live in Tyler in East Texas, where Wes has had a law firm for over 20 years. They set out at 4 that morning so they could run in a marathon (Wes) and half-marathon (Donna) in Arlington, where we live. Wes and I reconnected by email a couple of years ago and have been trying to figure out how to overcome our busy schedules to get together ever since. He texted me recently that they’d be in town for the race and felt sure they could clean up afterward and get together for lunch with Kay and me (sadly, Kay’s now been sick for going on 3 weeks and couldn’t join us).

Needless to say, by the time we’d visited for two and a half hours after their marathon morning, Wes said tiredly, “I’m fading fast.” I could see the aches in their steps as we got up from the table, but they were happy to pose for this photo before we left. What’s amazing — and crazy — is that Wes, who’s been a serious runner for about 20ish years, has run in over 60 marathons, including NYC, Boston, Chicago. All the biggies.

A flashback: Forty-seven years ago, I was a shy, nerdy goofball, new to public school at Washington Junior High in Conroe. We’d moved from Houston, where Isaac and I had attended a Lutheran school, to Oak Ridge North in southern Montgomery County in December 1971, halfway through my sixth-grade year when I was just 10 and younger than most of my classmates. Across the street from us on Kane Lane lived a kid much like me named Wes, a few months younger and a year behind me in school. He was one of the first couple of friends I made in the neighborhood, along with Jeff Holliman and the late Bill Andrews. Wes and I would hang out at his house, sometimes playing in a fort he’d built in his back yard, riding our bikes or watching Star Trek reruns. We also rode the school bus together, catching it at the corner where our house stood.

When I was in 10th grade at Conroe High in 1975-76, Wes was a CHS freshman, but the following year when a high school opened in The Woodlands, Wes and most of the freshmen who lived in our area transferred to McCullough High. (I’m guessing some folks will remember him from school … Cathy RohdeDouglas PitchfordTresa Kneisel HightowerTammy CraigWes Zwerneman?) As we got busy with school activities — me in band at CHS and Y league basketball, Wes in track at McC — we didn’t spend as much time together. Then in 1977, I learned his family would be moving to Cypress-Fairbanks ISD in Houston before his junior year and my senior year began. So we lost touch (if only we’d had email or smartphones!), but we did end up at Texas A&M the same year (’79) and lived in dorms right next to each other. We were trying to remember at lunch if we ran into each other much at A&M, and we’re pretty sure we did but not often.

Those who remember Wes might be interested to know a bit about what he’s been up to the past few decades. What I learned through e-chatting and today is that when Wes hasn’t been working on law cases or running marathons, he and his wife have been raising 5 kids (now ages 16 to 29), all mostly home-schooled. The oldest three attended college outside the U.S. and are scattered around the world, while the second-oldest is at Texas Tech. Wes actually majored in accounting/finance at A&M, but a few years into his CPA career and after he and Donna married in 1987, they decided to move from New Jersey to Waco (with their first child, a girl) so Wes could attend law school at Baylor.

Something else pretty cool: Wes wasn’t in the Corps of Cadets at TAMU, but he says he always regretted not serving his country in the military. So he joined the Army Reserve and is a lieutenant colonel in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, a duty for which he usually travels a couple of times a month. When he first told me about that in an email a while back, I was really impressed. He says his JAG role will end right around when he turns 60 in 2021.

I figure that’s probably more than you wanted to know about James Wesley Volberding, but it was so great seeing him again after so long that I thought I’d share. I hope some of you who knew Wes will enjoy hearing about him and maybe even drop him a note at his website (volberdinglawfirm.com). I’m hoping that next time we get together, it’ll be out in Tyler this summer. I hear they’ve got really great roses out there — if any are still in bloom.

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