, Corbin, KY


February 18, 2009

Poverty is not unique to Appalachia

Shirley Caudill


But here in the Appalachian Mountains, as with the rest of the country, there are positive stories to be told. There are many people who get an education and go on to lead successful lives, bringing up children who become successful as well. They live in nice homes and have a balanced family life, taking their children to the dentist and seeing that they have good medical care, taking them to church, teaching them to have respect for their elders and lauding education.

My husband Jeff grew up in Perry County up in a “holler” with a family of 16 children. He never saw one nickel in his life until he went into the Army and got an education. He had not seen electric lights or running water, but he had a homemaker mother and coal miner father with lots of pride who taught their children a work ethic and Christian values.

My husband’s cousin from the mountains became a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force and a professor at a college in North Carolina. Others have become superintendents of school and teachers or professors.

My husband was a first sergeant by the time he was 21 years old and was leading Army troops across Korea, putting down communication lines during the war. He was a troop leader in Vietnam and came out of the military after 22 years and became president of the Optimist Club three times. He retired to sponsor a Junior Optimist Club at a local middle school and work in the community as a mentor of children.

Of the 16 children who made it to adulthood, they left the mountains because of a lack of jobs and went on the be successful men and women with outstanding families.

They were doctors, lawyers, business managers, nurses and beauticians — none of them were addicted to drugs. None of them had “rotten teeth, nor were they ignorant people.

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