Mother and son both described the circumstances that led them to each other as “lucky.”
Marion resident Dorothy Melcher, 95, and her late husband Wilbur were having difficulty having a child at the beginning of the 1950s. They knew they wanted to have a child and recognized they weren’t getting younger.
So they decided to adopt. They were told it would take a year to adopt, but it took about half that time. Dorothy was 36 when she brought home 6-week-old Gary in 1951.
In the 18 months following the adoption, Dorothy worried the birth mother might change her mind and take Gary back. Dorothy knew couples that had happened to, and she can’t imagine how emotionally wrenching that would be.
“If they’d come to take him back, they would have had a fight,” she said.
After the 18 months passed, Dorothy didn’t think much about Gary being adopted, but as he grew up she occasionally wished his biological mother could see all of his successes.
Gary competed in football, basketball, and track at Marion High School. Dorothy helped Gary practice his quarterbacking skills by catching passes from him occasionally.
“She and I did a lot of things like that when I was younger,” Gary said.
He went on to play football at Kansas State University, and Dorothy maintains season tickets to this day.
“She was very involved in everything I did,” Gary said.
His parents’ involvement in his activities were essential to Gary’s development, he said.
“My folks missed one game all the way through college,” he said. “And that’s home and away. They made some trips.”
The one game they missed was because Wilbur was hospitalized at the time. Gary appreciates his parents’ devotion more now than he did as a teen-ager.
Gary became a teacher in El Dorado. He is retired now, but continues to coach multiple sports. He has coached several athletes whose parents didn’t attend any events like his parents did.
Gary is married and has three grown children, all teachers.
“What a joy he has been to raise,” Dorothy said. “We were so lucky. He never gave us any trouble.”
Gary said being adopted by Dorothy and Wilbur was the best thing for him.
“I was very lucky, and I don’t think anything could have done more to influence my life,” he said.