The Best Kind of Man

Screen shot 2017-11-27 at 8.25.15 AM.png
Left to right: Joe on Ventura Beach; with Tony LeVier; Flight Test Engineer in charge behind Herman “Fish” Salmon in left seat; flying right seat in a Connie.

What kind of man is a genius who is never arrogant, confident but never harsh, a conservative superhero with no concept of prejudice, 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?

What kind of man was he? The kind who married me.

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.

Screen shot 2017-11-27 at 9.12.59 AM.png
Columbine II; Joe on right; SR-71. He said with a smile, “It was a goer.”
house on clay st.jpg
Joe’s childhood home: 404 Clay St., Blacksburg, VA, 2 blocks SE of Virginia Tech.

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 wired a backyard tent from the house fuse box and blew it out. The brick chimney on top is the one the BBS’ block-long antenna pulled off in a thunderstorm. It slid down the roof and crashed into the front yard…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.

Screen shot 2017-11-27 at 10.13.02 AM.png
J2 (“Joe and Jen”) at Le Bourget airport, France, where Charles Lindberg landed in 1927; j2 in Kings Chamber, Khufu’s pyramid, Egypt; j2 at Disneyland and also flying with Troi, both when he had Parkinson’s.

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.

eating at the ath.jpg
Joe on the right in his Ware Lab hat, eating at the Athenaeum, faculty club at Caltech, where he lived when he was a grad student there 1937-1938. In this photo, the main dining hall is decorated for Christmas.

Amazon Kindle or Paperback; Apple iBooks ePub; Barnes & Noble 6×9 Paperback; Kobo, around the world ePub