Letter intended for 2012 HPU Homecoming honoree arrives two years later

[The following article was written by Dr. Don Newbury, HPU chancellor and former president.]

joe_and_almola_james_for_webBROWNWOOD – August 28, 2014 – Talk about flowers for the living. Sometimes the final blossoms to complete congratulatory bouquets arrive late, but when they do, the aroma of flowers for the living is simply the best.

Joe James, Howard Payne University alumnus—and his wife of 60 years, Almola—were honored as Distinguished Alumni at HPU’s 2012 Homecoming.

They received dozens of letters, e-mails, phone calls and visitors who were profuse in well-wishing for the cherished Homecoming honors. And a few days ago, he received a letter from a player he coached at HPU almost a half-century ago.

It was intended to be more timely—this letter from Walter (Butch) Barthiaume, a 1968 HPU graduate who mailed the letter almost two years ago. Trouble is, it was held up by postal regulations until delivery almost two years later.

It seems the envelope was opened somewhere along the way without authorization, probably by a ring of ne’er-do-wells seeking “checks in the mail.”

So it was held as evidence by postal authorities until the case was cleared. (A letter from postal officials explained all the details.)

“Butch was one of my favorite players,” James said, “I called to explain to him about the letter, and we got a good laugh from it.” (Barthiaume, who now lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., confirmed there was no check sent attached to the letter!)

A native of Spur and an outstanding football player there, James is a 1955 graduate of HPU, where he received numerous football honors. He completed his Master of Science degree seven years later.

Drafted by the Chicago Bears, he began his coaching career at Hamilton High School in 1955, and coached for several years at Waco LaVega High School before returning to HPU in 1964 as head football coach.

Then, he became a sporting goods representative in 1968, driving more than one million miles over a large part of Texas until his retirement this year.

Almola, his wife of 60 years, is a 1955 HPU graduate who received both Master of Education and Master of Arts degrees in 1966. Her teaching career of 34 years included tenures at LaVega High School, Brownwood High School and HPU.

The couple has two children, and they greatly enjoy traveling, having visited all 50 states.
So much of life seems to be of the “how soon we forget” type. How refreshing when the old coach receives congratulations from a player who didn’t forget. And coach didn’t forget the player, either.

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Photo cutline: Joe ’55 and Almola ’55 James were named Distinguished Alumni during Howard Payne University’s Homecoming in 2012.