Jefferson Davis High School - Houston, Texas


Michael Wilkin, 5 July, 2009, West Long Branch, NJ

Posted by jeffdavis64reunion on July 3, 2009 at 9:34 AM

After I graduated from Jeff Davis I went to Texas A & M where

my older brother had gone and later my younger brother also

attended. I majored in physics. That was the subject that challenged me most in school. As I look back on my life, perhaps I should have gone into something related to medicine. I was best in biology, but I didn't go in that direction and all still worked out well.

The night before I graduated from college my German pen pal, Elke, arrived in Houston on a vacation visit. I started writing to her when I was 15 and in Mrs. Haden's German class at JD. I gave Mrs. Haden a quarter which she sent in to the pen pal association to get me an address of someone in Germany to write to. After I graduated I moved to NJ to start my first  (and last) professional job with the Army at Fort Monmouth. One year later Elke returned to the US on another vacation visit. Six weeks after she arrived we got married during a short trip I made to Houston. We had written each other for 8 years, were physically together for for 3 months and were engaged all of 4 days ending in a simple marriage by a Justice of the Peace in his home. We celebrated our 40th anniversary on 4 July.

We have been blessed with three wonderful children, Karen (38), Patrick (35), and Kristen (22). Karen has an insurance agency and a mini-farm of 15 acres nearby with almost 20 horses. Her passion is horses. Patrick lives at home and works as a driver for UPS. Kristen also still lives at home and is going to Monmouth University in our town where she is majoring in psychology.

Although I always worked for the Army at Fort Monmouth, which will close in a year or so, I worked on many different projects over the years. I started there as a physicist, converted to electronic engineer, and finally became a general engineer. I started work in the laboratories, but eventually went into project management. I found that more interesting as I got to see the equipment that I had  worked on actually go into use in the field by the soldiers. The last 14 years of my career were spent working on GPS (Global Positioning System). I was working with GPS receivers before they were known by the public and in so many people's cars. The first portable receivers were large, weighing about 25 lbs.


I was a member of the team that put the current small military handheld receivers into production and into the field today. I was the lead manager on buying and getting survey accuracy military receivers into the Army's engineer companies where they are used by combat surveyors. For that effort I received the "Army Civilian Achievement Medal" which I am very proud of.


I retired in 2003 after almost 35 years of working for the Army. It was a productive career, and I was highly regarded by my coworkers. I could have returned to my office as a civilian contractor. They would have gladly hired me, but I was tired of the constant travel my job required and wanted spend more of my remaining time with my family, especially my youngest daughter who was still a teenager.

It turns out that that was a wise decision as I discovered in early April that I have advanced kidney cancer that has spread to the liver and lungs. The only sympton of a problem was a backache that started in late Feb. I am receiving treatment for it today. I take an oral drug and am participating in a clinical trial at the Cancer Institute of NJ. The clinical trial involves taking irradiated lymphocytes from my son and transferring them in to me to rev up my immune system to work with the cancer drug to attack the cancer. I hope for the best, but it is too early to tell if any of these treatments will be effective against my cancer. One thing is certain. The cancer drug makes me ill so the treatment is not easy,

No matter how my treatments turn out, it has been a good life and I am blessed with a great family for which I am grateful. My experiences and the teachers at Jeff Davis helped prepare me for the life that followed.

I would like to attend the reunion, but it occurs late in one of my treatment cycles, so I may not be well enough to fly to Houston and attend. However, I will be thinking of you and wishing you all the best.



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Reply Sharon
11:30 AM on July 3, 2009 
Happy 40th Anniversary to you and Elke. I'll keep my fingers crossed and say a little prayer that you feel like coming to the reunion in September. Take care, Michael.
BIG HUGS, Sharon
Reply Earl Epps
2:15 PM on July 3, 2009 
Michael, isn't it amazing what we could buy for a quarter back then; but who would have thought you could buy 40 years of married bliss for that quarter ?! Congratulations to you and Elke for 40 years. You are in our thoughts daily, my friend!
Please keep us informed.
Reply Linda Lacy Vestal
11:17 AM on July 6, 2009 
Michael what a beautiful story of you and Elke. Congratulations on your 40th anniversary.You and your family will be in my prayers as you continue your treatment. Cancer can do so much to the body but it cannot stop us from caring about one another. It cannot stop us from praying for one another. It cannot invade the soul. May God continue to bless and renew your soul and spirit each day and give strength and encouragement to you and your family. You and your family are part of our Davis family and we all love you. Like Sharon I'll be praying that you feel like coming to the reunion in Sept. My best to you and your family Michael.
Reply Joseph Montalbano
9:29 PM on July 8, 2009 
Michael, who would have ever thought that you and I would end up spending our careers with the Department of Defense. Unlike you, I retired and went back to work as a contractor. Great to hear that you met and married the love of your life. Sorry to hear about your medical problems. My hopes and prayers will be with you. Take care and hang in there.
Reply Peggy Wilkins
11:57 AM on July 9, 2009 
Michael and Elke Happy Anniversary, what a wonderful love story, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this time, please take care knowing all of your friends at Jeff Davis are thinking of you daily.
Reply bill allbritton
12:09 PM on July 9, 2009 
I wish you all the best,buddy.And congrats on the 40 years you and Elke have had and here's wishing you many more.................Bill
Reply Cecile Land Hunsucker
4:40 PM on July 22, 2009 
Happy 40th Anniversary to you and your wife. I will keep you and your family in my prayers as you go through the treatments.
Best Wishes, Cecile
Reply Mary Helen Saenz Padilla
4:49 PM on July 22, 2009 
Dear Michael: I wish I could say that I remember you, but I don't. Nonetheless, I was deeply moved by your story - both the happy as well as the sad - and decided to send you this message. I am happily married and have two wonderful children who have become responsible adults. My son, Rick, is 39 and is a police officer in Houston. Our daughter, Lisa will be 35 in November and works at home caring for her three beautiful daughters. I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer three years ago, months after my husband lost one of his kidneys to cancer. It was pretty scary when I found out of my cancer, but my inspiration was my husband and my family. Let your family be your inspiration. I'm sorry that you will not be able to join us for this reunion, but maybe for the next. Take care, and God Bless you and your family.
Reply jeffdavis64reunion
5:02 PM on July 22, 2009 
As I've told you before - I, too, have had cancer. It's the most frightening thing in the world; I even refused to renew my magazine subscriptions. It was my beautiful daughter who set my thinking straight: "Would you rather it be me, Mom, or one of the kids?" It was a much needed attitude adjustment and I'll be forever grateful .... That was TEN years ago this October, Michael.
As Mary Helen said, let your family be your inspiration.
MORE BIG HUGS, Sharon Divine
Reply Rosalima Vaughan (Rose Ireland)
5:15 PM on July 22, 2009 
So glad to hear your about your wonderful accomplishments and your romantic marriage :-) Good luck toy ou and your fight, and thanks for showing us the way of a life filled with courage and gratitiude.
Reply Eileen Patton Mills
9:25 AM on July 31, 2009 
Dear Michael - our paths never crossed at JD, but I was very touched by what you wrote. Although you are fighting through cancer and all of the painful treatments and side effects, you are still able to see that your life has been blessed - celebrating 40 years of marriage; three wonderful children; and a remarkable and honorable career. So many people don't experience even one of your accomplishments in life.
On a lighter note, I thank you for your contribution in developing the GPS. Just 2 days ago, mine "found my way" across town - and better yet, got me home!
We will think about you and keep you and your family in our prayers.
Your fellow classmate - Eileen Patton Mills
Reply Mara Smith
3:25 PM on September 8, 2009 were one of those much admired physics geeks(was that a word back then?). I was in awe of you and a couple other classmates in that category... it was a struggle for me in physics class back then. Thanks for the GPS,'s no small potatoes. Since then, so many scientific wonders have kept me thrilled, informed , and fascinated through all these years. Hope you're better and there's a lot more good times ahead for you. Check out graviola or pawpaw tree and essiac tea uses in cancer treatment. Might help...never know.
Sometimes the best treatment is the wonderful family that supports you in all things. God bless!