Jordi Kimes had been a teacher before becoming a stay home mom. She dreamed of returning to Washington State University and earning a doctorate in pharmacy. But she didn’t want to put her daughters, ages 7, 3, and 1, in daycare. So she called her parents. Would they be willing to watch the girls while she went to school, and her husband, Ken, worked? Without hesitation, her parents said yes.
“I couldn’t believe it,” the WSU graduate (’94 Pharmacy) said.
In the summer of 2002, she and her family moved from Waterville, Washington, to Pullman, where she had been accepted in the College of Pharmacy. Her parents’ move was more difficult. They were living in Frankfort, Michigan. Her dad, Jay Yarwood, was retired after 31 years in teaching and coaching. Her mother, Pam, was a professional singer.
The Yarwoods went from barely knowing their grandchildren to being with them up to 12 hours a day, five days or more a week. Jordi often had late labs and study lessons. Ken worked out of town most of the first semester, trying to transfer his painting business to Pullman. Pam cooked dinner many nights. Jay cleaned up afterwards so Jordi could spend time with her children. Grandpa and grandma took the children on walks, took them to the park, drove them to preschool and gymnastics, and changed diapers for a year.
“I knew in my heart my decision was doing no harm to my kids when I came home late on evenings and found my dad on the floor wrestling with the girls,” Jordi said. With her husband gone so much, the girls missed the physical play, but their grandfather proved to be an able replacement.
The year was challenging for all, says Kimes, yet the joy and fun of living together was so fulfilling that her parents loaded up their 30-foot travel trailer once again last August and headed to Pullman. Midway between Pullman and Frankfort, the Yarwoods received a phone call. Their home of 35 years had burned down. School at WSU was to begin in two days. They didn’t turn around. They arrived in Pullman on time to help care for their precious granddaughters. That left them to deal with their destroyed house long-distance.
Jay Yarwood was named 2003 WSU Dad of the Year and recognized October 25 at the Dad’s Weekend breakfast on the Pullman campus. Jordi’s letter nominating him for the honor was selected from 17 others written by students. Other finalists included Gerald D. Lundt, Olympia, nominated by his son, Marc, and Roger M. Johnson, Bellevue, nominated by his daughter, Elly.
The dads were selected on the basis of their involvement with WSU, their community activities, and their children’s letters.