Ed & Marilyn 'The Happy Wanderers' travel blog

Jennifer was literally the answer to prayers. After Kelly was born the doctor told us that it would be very difficult for Marilyn to conceive another child due to a "tipped uterus". Later, Marilyn had a fibrous tumor and had a total hysterectomy. We then began to talk about adopting a child and began the long process.

Kelly was nearly 11 years old at this time.

It was three years later that I received a phone call asking if I would be interested in flying for Diemaker’s, Inc. This was a dream come true opportunity and on July 17, 1979, Marilyn and I drove to Monroe City for the job interview. I accepted the job and on the way home we excitedly discussed our future. We decided that after 3 years of interviews, financial checks, health checks and all the different checks and interviews that the adoption people put you through, we would call when we got back home and ask them to take our name off the list. We would be starting a new life, moving to Monroe City from Edina, and facing so many new challenges that we just didn't need the constant stress of waiting for our prayers to be answered with a baby.

When we arrived home we stopped to tell Marilyn's parents of the exciting changes that were taking place in our lives, with the new job. Marilyn's Mom said that the adoption people had called and wanted us to contact them. We said ok, but they probably wanted another financial status update or something else like that and we planned to call them anyway. As we walked in the door of our home the phone rang and it was the adoption agency. The lady asked if we would be home for awhile because she wanted to come by and see us.

We agreed and she arrived a while later. When she came in the door, she looked at us with a smile on her face and asked "how would you like to have a new baby girl born just this morning?"

Marilyn and Kelly began crying and I had a tear in my eye too.

OK, I had tears running down my cheek as we quickly said "YES". Two days later, on July 19, 1979, we brought our new baby, Jennifer Nicole Dray, home from Kirksville.

What a wonderful child Jennifer turned out to be. If ever there was a more perfect child I would have to see it.

O.K., I am biased in my opinion. I admit it.

The truth is that Jennifer has always been nearly perfect. Jennifer is smart, mature beyond her years, loving, compassionate, yet strong, opinionated, idealistic, courageous and strong-willed.

I remember when we took Jennifer in our car to Monroe City, MO to watch fireworks for the first time. She was standing in the front seat between Marilyn and I. When the first fireworks went off, there was a very loud BOOM. Her courage failed her as Jennifer was obviously scared. She ran to Marilyn screaming "Save me!!, Save me!!

She participated in speech in grade school, winning nothing but Blue Ribbons in speech meets around Northeast Missouri.

She played basketball in grade school but decided to become a cheerleader in high school, and was selected to the Varsity cheerleading squad for both basketball and football all four years of her high school career, Three times she cheered in the State Championship football game, twice in the TWA Dome in St Louis.

She also cheered for our basketball team which was in the "final-four" at Columbia, MO.

Jennifer appeared in the school play and played the piano at recitals held in the Catholic Church. She ranked among the top of her class academically and received scholarships to several Colleges, choosing to attend Northwest Missouri State University at Maryville, MO. She ended her Freshman year at NWMSU with a 3.8 GPA and was a member of a National Honor Society.

Jennifer's carefree laughter changed after Kelly was killed.

She became very serious, seldom laughing, and seemed to lose interest in things. Jennifer was always a "homebody" and drove home every weekend while away at school. Although we were unaware of it for a time, we came to realize that Jennifer put tremendous pressure on herself to fill Kelly's shoes.

After Kelly was killed it seems that Jennifer took it upon herself to see that Mom and Dad were happy, by becoming the "perfect person". She excelled at everything, even though we constantly assured her that we loved her unconditionally and she didn't have to do anything to make us love her. As we looked back on it we now know that Jennifer was so unhappy because of the pressure she put on herself. She was unable to cope with the stress of school, and only five days into her sophomore year, we were forced to bring her home from school. She worked at the UMB Bank in Monroe City until she began to take more of an interest in doing things to help people.

If you think this sounds like her older sister, Kelly, you are correct.

Jennifer began working at Hannibal Regional Hospital in the Pharmacy dept. She became interested in becoming a nurse and decided to quit working and devote one year of her life to go to school full time. She graduated from LPN nursing school August 8th, 2002. She had a job at Hannibal Regional Hospital before she even graduated. She had several offers, having graduated as Valedictorian of her class, but wanted to work close to home so that she could drive back and forth from our home in Monroe City.

When the flight operation I ran was closed in December, 1999, Marilyn and I moved to Wichita, KS, so Jennifer moved into our home in Monroe City, MO, and took care of it for us.

Jennifer and her fiance’, Steve Jones, were married Dec 2, 2006.

Jennifer once completed a fun survey that I had sent to most of our family members and here are some of her replies: I should note that Jennifer had not yet met her future husband, Steve, at the time she filled this out.

Jennifer says her favorite books are "Anything by Mary Higgins Clark or any 'Chicken Soup for the Soul books."

Her favorite magazine is "Woman's World". Her favorite board game is "Yatzee". Jennifer didn't answer every question on the survey but she definitely had an opinion about her favorite smells. "Eternity", by Calvin Klein, chocolate chip cookies baking, and roses.

Some of her favorite sounds are birds singing, the sound of a crackling campfire, and a piano playing.

Jen says her first thought when she awakens in the morning is "Do I have to get up already?"

She thinks roller coasters are exciting, but storms are sometimes cool and sometimes scary.

Jen says she tries to answer the phone after one or two rings.

Her favorite food is macaroni and cheese.

When I asked if she drives fast she replied "sometimes but not more than five miles per hour over the speed limit. She says she doesn't sleep with a stuffed animal but she does sleep with her dog, Hannah. Jen's first car was a 1984 Ford Mustang convertible, bright red in color, with a snow white leather interior and a white top. That was a Christmas gift from Marilyn and I when Jennifer became old enough to drive. We had the license plate made just for her with a "message from Kelly". The license plate was "4-U PNUT". Peanut was Kelly's pet name for Jennifer and she was the only person ever to call her that except for the police officer who came to talk with us right after Kelly's accident. As he left, he turned to Jennifer and said "Bye Peanut!" It was as if Kelly was sending a message directly to Jennifer to say goodbye. We were stunned.

Jennifer says she never eats the stems of broccoli, only the florets. She doesn't drink much alcohol but if she does drink something it is a cold Bud Lite beer or an Amoretta Sour.

Jennifer says her glass in life is definitely half full. Her favorite movies are "Pearl Harbor", "Titanic", "Beaches" and "Annie".

Her favorite number is the same as mine, seven.

Jennifer likes to watch sports in person but not on TV.

Her favorites are baseball, basketball and football. Since becoming Steve’s wife, she has also become a Red Wings Hockey fan.

She has been to many St Louis Cardinals baseball games with Marilyn and I.

She has been a cheerleader for the high school team cheering in the State Championship football game three times (twice in the TWA dome in St Louis) and for the high school basketball team in the final four once.

Jennifer married Steven W. Jones on December 2, 2006. Steve is the son of Al & Gloria Jones of Palmyra, MO.

Jennifer and Steve have a son, Colby Jackson Jones, born on Leap day, Feb 29, 2008. At last, Marilyn & I have our first grandchild. He is awesome!

Now another grandchild is on the way!

Jennifer graduated with her RN degree in May of this year and has passed her State Board exams. She is now a Registered Nurse at Hannibal Regional Hospital. She is a fine nurse, and the finest daughter anyone could ever wish for. We are so very proud of her!

Jennifer is the light in our life and we love her with all of our heart!

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

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