After I left Army Active Duty in 1974, I worked for the DuPont Company in Rochester, NY for fifteen years, making silver halide-based photographic film. There came a time when it was apparent to me that the plant was doomed by the advent of digital film. So, I started looking for other employment. I knew that the job as Associate Director of Admissions at West Point had been filled as I had reached the fourteen-year mark, so I figured that was out. I had not applied, because the fifteen-year mark was the threshold for survivor benefits for my wife, who I had met and married in Rochester in 1977. It was also the yardstick for an opportunity to take an annuity at age 50—which I ultimately didn’t do. But I asked the Civilian Personnel Office to let me know if the job became vacant again. So, I looked at jobs in the Rochester area and applied to a Search Firm that looked for jobs nationwide. I didn’t have any success.
Then, one day in March 1989, everyone was called in and plant management said we were going to downsize from 1100 to 325, and there was an incentive to leave by the end of the month. I had a fairly decent job at DuPont and didn’t want to leave until I had fifteen years and a definite new job.
That afternoon when I got home, there was a letter from the Civilian Personnel Office at West Point, advising me that the Admissions job was open again. I applied for the job, went for an interview, and was picked. So, twenty years from the day I graduated, I went back to West Point.
I was supposed to start on Monday, June 5, when the new crop of Admissions Officers started their training. The only problem was that I reached the fifteen-year mark on June 17. I had several weeks leave coming, and I expected that that would be enough to carry me over the threshold. However, DuPont personnel said I had to be actually at the Plant past fifteen years for me to get the service credit. My boss in Admissions said they would cancel training on Monday, June 19, so that I could go back to Rochester on the weekend, appear at work there, and close out my career there that day. So, I did. My wife, who was still in Rochester and supposed to be selling the house, soon thereafter informed me that she wasn’t coming and had filed for divorce.
One reason I was picked for the job was that I had been an Admissions Field Force member for thirteen years, receiving Army Reserve retirement point credit each year for the work I had done, so the bosses in Admissions were familiar with me and my work. Admissions rewarded me with a Meritorious Service Medal for the work I had done in Rochester.
When I went to West Point in June of 1976 for training as a Military Academy Liaison Officer, the trainees were stationed outside the Library at one point, with each one being photographed individually, to be accompanied by the form “Information for Hometown News Release.” I remembered seeing two women leave the Library, one very short and one very tall. It turns out that that was the first time I laid eyes on my future wife—the short one. I still remember that clearly.
I also worked for the Army Corps of Engineers as an Individual Mobilization Augmentee in New York District, and ended up as the Deputy Commander before moving on to a colonel’s slot at its higher headquarters, the North Atlantic Division. I also went from one Army School course to another as I worked toward promotion in the Reserves.
More than a year later, in 1990, I was taking a correspondence course that required two term papers. So, on a Sunday night, I went to the USMA Library to check out some books for research. I had been in the library as a high school student and as a cadet. As I went to the Circulation Desk, books in hand, I guess I was transported back in time to the way it had been before. There were no Library Cards when I was a cadet. I just took the card out of the pocket inside the back cover, signed Jannarone H-3, and went on my merry way. When the man in front of me was done, I looked for the card in the first book and was astounded to find that there was no pocket and no card.
The woman at the desk asked what was wrong. I explained that there was no card for the book. Then she asked me for my Library Card. “What card?” I was non-plussed. She asked to see an ID. I showed her my Department of the Army Civilian ID card. When she said she would have to verify my employment in the morning, I took out my Army Reserve ID card and showed her that. It was not acceptable. So, I took off my class ring and held it out to her, saying if she would be good enough to give me the books now, I would be back tomorrow for whatever paperwork was required.
Without a word, she turned on her heels and walked away to a back room. Soon another woman came out. My jaw dropped, as this vision of loveliness, my age, my size, with no ring, asked if she could help me. Regaining my composure, I said I wanted to check out books but didn’t have a Library Card. She said she would put the books on a shelf at the desk, confirm my employment in the morning, and process my Library Card. I thanked her and said I would be back at 1255 tomorrow.
The next day I took my usual two mile run at lunchtime, showered at the gym, and went to the Library at 1255. Two ladies were at the Circulation Desk, and as I approached it, the vision of loveliness approached from the Reference Desk opposite it.
The two asked what I wanted. I replied that I was Bob Jannarone and was coming to get my Library Card and books. The two of them asked in unison if I was related to General Jannarone. I replied that I was his second son. The two of them introduced themselves and said they had known him in the Physics and Chemistry Department and as the Dean. Apparently, they liked him. They should have. Dad treated the civilian staff well.
The Library Card was ready, I got my books, and thanked the two. The vision of loveliness, who had moved to the Circulation Desk, too, tried to go back to her desk. I cut her off at the entrance to the Circulation Desk and said I hadn’t gotten her name. She gave it to me—Linda Thompson— and said she was the Circulation Librarian.
I saw her as I was coming out of the Admissions Office a few days later, when she was going for a walk at break time, and I called out to her. I think she was surprised that I remembered her name. By that time, I also knew her academic credentials by reading the West Point College Catalog, and I knew her address by looking in the West Point Phone book.
One of my jobs as the Associate Director of Admissions was to manage five three-day visits to West Point. Three were for high school guidance counselors, one for Congressional Aides, and one for West Point Admissions Participants. For the counselors and aides, there was a coffee break in the rotunda outside South Auditorium of Thayer Hall, on the Thursday of the visit, before they went to classes with cadets. There was another one on Friday in the West Point Room on the fourth floor of the Library before the Director of Admissions delved into the actual files of candidates for the next class.
After I met Linda, when the coffee breaks were over, I carried the excess doughnuts to the Library Circulation Desk, hoping that she might be there.
One Thursday afternoon, when the counselors were meeting cadets who were from their high schools, I walked to the Library, and she was at the desk. I asked her if she had gotten one of the doughnuts that I left at the desk that morning. She replied that she was on the night shift on Thursdays and had reported for work only a short time ago, and the doughnuts were probably gone within a few minutes of when I left them that morning. She was working days on Friday, and opening shift on that Saturday.
Librarians at that time worked one weekday night and one shift every third weekend. She always picked opening shift on Saturday, so it was a very rare occurrence that she had been on the closing shift on a Sunday when we met.
The next day soon after she got home from her day shift, the local flower shop delivered flowers to her. She lived with her mother and aunt. The aunt asked who they were from. Linda said, “Remember General Jannarone? These are from his son.”
Linda started work at the library in 1975, a year after my father retired, so she didn’t know him. But Aunt Ruth had worked at West Point starting in 1942, first in the Law Department, then the Dean’s Office, as a schoolteacher in the West Point school, then a principal at the school. She knew the name. My brother Dick and my sister Nancy had been at the school when the aunt was there and were good students. Aunt Ruth thought Linda meant grandson—a cadet—but Linda affirmed it was a son. That was a point in my favor.
So, on Saturday morning, I went to the Library, stationed myself at the Card Catalog, and waited until Linda came over.
She said the flowers were very nice, and then I asked her out to dinner. She said no. They were doing an upgrade to the computer system. She was having to reconnect all the computers in the library, crawling under desks and tables, and she would be exhausted by the end of the day. “Can I have a rain check?” “Sure,” I said, “how about tomorrow?”
That was our first date. We married in 1992, and the rest is history, except for one final point.
We bought a house in Cornwall-on-Hudson, furnished it, and settled in. One day, Linda brought out some old pictures. One was a graduation picture from 1983 and in another I recognized the girl in the picture as a younger version of my wife, with a much different hair style. In fact, the one I had seen back in 1976 leaving the library.
*Photos with permission of the Jack Engemann Collection at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County
** Photos courtesy of the West Point Library