Praytor,  Joe
23 Jan 2006
I was born in 1927 in Benton, Arkansas. When I was 16-years-old I decided not to finish
school and with World War II going on decided to ask for my Mother to sign that I might
enter the US Navy, and did so in March 1943. I was sent to San Diego, Calif., and went to
Hospital Corp School, after Corp school I was assigned to the 3rd Marine battalion . . .
shipping out overseas.

On my 17th Birthday, I remember we where making a raid on Bougainville, and I
remember thinking to myself, here it was my 17th Birthday and I was in the middle of a war
and what possessed me to do that! Although scared, I was proud to be serving my country.

I got out of the Navy after World War II, joining the US Naval Reserve, and working as a
traveling salesmen for a tool company out of Arkansas. But then the Korean War came
along and I decided to go back into the Navy, serving in Korea and in the mid 1950’s was
assigned to duty in Japan, staying there until the summer of 1956.

In 1956 I was assigned Recruiting Duty at the Recruiting Station in Oklahoma City,
Oklahoma. It was to be the best duty of my lifetime, for it was there that I was stationed
with a Chief who had a step-daughter, that I was later introduced to and as my luck should
have it, we dated and fell in love. We had decided to get married, but wanted to save and
do the normal engaged things, but her Dad, a  MMC, was transferred to California shortly
after our engagement and so our wedding plans where moved up and in April 1957 I
married Geraldine (Gerri) Twomey. Gerri was  a receptionist for a local Mortgage
Company. We started our family soon after and had our daughter Cynthia, now age 47,
married, lives in our area and she and her husband have blessed us with 5 Grandchildren
and 9 Great Grandchildren.

In Jan. 1958 I was to return to sea duty and applied for Submarine Medicine School,
which I was accepted and attended for 9 months in New London, Conn. Then I was
assigned to Charleston, South Carolina to the new Submarine Base there. Upon reporting
in at the base, was told I was assigned to the USS Thornback, that was being moved up
from Key West, Fla. . . . and I was to take a bus down to Key West to join the crew of the
Thornback . . . I made one Med trip on the Thornback, along with trips to Cuba and other
short trips out to sea . . . but one of the greatest honors I had besides serving with all
aboard, was when I qualified and I received my Dolphins from Capt. Richelieu.

In April 1962 I received my official orders from Capt. Sampson that I had made Chief and
was being assigned shore duty to a recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark. This was really
great, for it allowed us to buy our first home in my hometown of Benton, it being only 25
miles south of Little Rock. And another piece of luck was a fellow shipmate I’d been
stationed with in Oklahoma City, was also from the Benton area and lived up the street
from us, so we carpooled to the recruiting station my whole assignment time there.

In 1965 I was reassigned to submarine service and stationed on the USS Salmon out of
Pt. Loma, Calif. During my time there I also served aboard the USS Volador, USS Diodon
and the USS Redfish . . . by then I had over my 20 years in and was asked if I wanted to
take the test to become an E-8, but with the restriction that if I did and passed, I would go
over to Vietnam with the 3rd Marine Battalion . . . not wanting to do that I opted to retire
from the Navy in Jan. 1968.

A job offer by the University of Oklahoma, brought me to McAlester, Ok. They had a Drug
Research Unit on the Prison grounds, so I took that job, while furthering my College
education. I got my GED and some college credits while in the Navy, but now I wanted a
degree, which I received several years later in Business and Hospital Administration.

In 1973 there was riot at the Prison and the University afterwards pulled the Research
Unit out of the area and I was offered a job with the Dept. of Corrections in the Medical
Dept. in the prison here, which is the Maximum Prison for the state of Oklahoma . . . which
I accepted. During my years with the Dept. of Corrections I was to become the Deputy
Warden of Health Services, i.e., Hospital Administrator II for the Dept. Upon my retirement
in June 1993 I had over 40 personnel working for and with me, including MD’s, Dentist, PA’
s, RN’s and other personnel . . . it was a great second career and I gained many
interesting memories and friends while pursuing it.

Gerri had also worked outside our home as a Dental Asst and also Designer for  JC
Penney Co. and told me when I retired, so did she. In 1993 we did retire and enjoyed
several years of traveling . . . seeing many of the sites and countries we didn’t get to see
when we where in the Navy.

In July 1998 I suffered a stroke and had carotid artery surgery, so my life as well as my
families changed. It left me with a handicap and although I can speak and say many things
. . . I have, due to the stroke, what is known as Expressive Aphasia. This means, for those
that don’t know, I know and my brain knows what I want to say, but many times I just can’t
say it . . . so my gal and first shipmate Gerri, does a lot of talking, emailing and just being
a great first mate to me now that I have this handicap. But it doesn’t keep us from enjoying
a great life together . . . travel some, enjoy friends and family and  really enjoy those Great
Grandchildren.

I would love to hear from any of my ole shipmates from the Thornback and especially want
at this time to thank Pat Gurr for this website and our renewed friendship, Thanks Ole
Shipmate!