Joe Ware was a genius who was never arrogant, confident but never harsh, a conservative superhero with no concept of prejudice who openly married me at his church among friends, who moved as one of the greats in United States’ aerospace yet who was so humble, I didn’t even realize the extent of it for years.
Joseph F. Ware, Jr, son of Joseph F. Ware, Sr. (professor at Virginia Tech and Commandant of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets), was a flight test engineer at Lockheed, Burbank “Skunk Works,” Edwards Air Force Base, Palmdale, and later Area 51 under Kelly Johnson. He was flight test engineer in charge of all Constellation “Connie” variants including those for SIGINT, the U.S. Department of Defense and Columbine II and Columbine III, the 1st two Air Force Ones for President Eisenhower. He later rose to Department Manager of Engineering Flight Test over the U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird.
As a child he was a Dennis-the-Menace-type genius who invented gadgets, got into things out of curiosity, discovering his ability to make things. At the age of 10, in 1926, he designed and built his own radio station (he playfully called the Blacksburg Broadcasting Station, the “BBS”). Then he needed programming, so he bugged his mother’s parlor and broadcast the ladies’ discussions. He’d strung an antenna wire up the block, chimney to chimney, and during a storm, it blew the chimney (shown) down off the roof into the front yard. Joe loved telling stories of himself that way. He once wired a backyard tent from the house fuse box and blew it out. But still, when a new step-father, Charlie Frank Manges, built a house next door, Joe was the one who they asked to wire the whole place.
Joe was born in his mother’s room, “the room over the living room” behind the 2nd story window on front of the house almost obscured by the tree. Joe’s room growing up was the room just behind that (above the car) on the 2nd floor, “the room over the kitchen.” The “BBS” was behind the dormer in the attic (see chapter 9, “Ware Lab, Virginia Tech“).
He was a simple guy, a Christian, an Elder in the Presbyterian church, who did his home work, graduated early from VT then on to Caltech where he graduated early again with a Master’s in Engineering. He was a Wright engine test engineer at Patterson, NJ, taught math at Virginia Tech, then went off to Burbank, CA, to work for Kelly. He admired Kelly and used to tell me, “I couldn’t wait to go to work.”
He had two wives before me, three children from the first marriage. Both his first wives passed away. Then he met me.
I was different: a pilot, like him, who looked at him as if he were Elvis Presley, a rock star in the aviation world I admired. We were double tidal locked from the first day we met. We’d show aircraft at major, military air shows, walk for hours around any airport and talk. I’d ask him more questions than I knew I had, and he’d answer them, often with personal items about the designer, as he knew many of them.
And I was/am transsexual. I waited for years to see if his kindness to me was a front, a curiosity, expecting the usual bigotry with a rejection to follow, but after four years, I was surprised to learn that he did, indeed, love me and I was the one who had been bigoted, against his age: I didn’t think I could love someone 40 years older. Realizing that, I dropped it, and I’ve been thankful ever since.
He was the best, the most intelligent, caring, conservative-yet-compassionate man I’d ever known, and he continues to inspire me today. He teaches me in my dreams.