By Jennifer Hallmark
My dad, Jesse Lee Dison, Jr. was a son of Jesse Lee Dison, Sr. and Flora M. Gautney. They lived in rural northwest Alabama. Dad was a quiet young man, well-liked by his fellow classmates and teachers. He was a good student and friendly to all.
He met Stella “Jean” Swet of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania while he was working up there one summer. They married on September 9th, 1961. My mom was the daughter of John Swet, Sr. and Lena Yonish Swet of Good Town, Pennsylvania.
My parents enjoyed the first seven years of their marriage living first in Huntsville, Alabama, then Cape Girardeau, Missouri and ending up in Sarasota, Florida. During this time, Jennifer Leigh Dison (me) and Jesse Lee Dison, III were born.
All was going well. My parents were happily married with a nice home, two kids, two cars and Dad was headed for his next big promotion as the store manager of a local Sears.
Then Dad’s toes started to get numb. I knew something was wrong, but at the age of six couldn’t comprehend much of what was happening. The doctors couldn’t pinpoint the problem. That was in May of 1969. By August 16th, he was in a wheelchair. They rented it for a week, thinking everything would be okay. But it wasn’t. He continued with doctor visits and physical therapy while he worked for Sears for three-and-a-half years in a wheelchair.
In May of 1972, Dad nearly died. The illness had affected his brain. Sears paid to fly my dad and mom to Chicago in an ambulance plane where h was under the care of the best doctors. He spent the month of May in Chicago in the hospital. They never really pinpointed his illness and couldn’t tell him whether or not he would walk again. By November of 1972, he retired from Sears on disability. He was paralyzed from the chest down.
We moved back to Greenhill, Alabama to be near family. When his condition stabilized somewhat, we bought a farm nearby and Dad lived there for the remainder of his life. He enjoyed three of his grandchildren before his passing: Mandy Hallmark and Jonathan Hallmark were born to my husband, Danny, and me. Jeffrey and Jessica Dison were born to my brother and his wife, Rita. Jessica, who was named after him, was born two months after Dad had died. Even though they didn’t take sonograms back then unless it was an emergency, he had always predicted that Rita was going to have a girl.
Before his illness Dad was known as a hard worker who loved his family. But after becoming sick, he gave his life to Jesus and lived the rest of his days studying the Word of God and telling everyone he could about God and his relationship with Him.
Though unable to get out much, he wrote letters and made phone calls to people, always being the one to encourage people. Most people who saw my dad in his later years said that when they came to visit and cheer him up, they left encouraged themselves. In his last couple of years, he often spoke of heaven and was excited to go and see Jesus. He is greatly missed, especially by his family.
Although it’s almost been 25 years, I still miss him. One day, I will see him again and that gives me hope. His years after the illness were filled with small acts of kindness he gave through his letter writing and phone calls. That’s part of why I’m inspired to do what I do.