Richard “Dave ” Hacker may be one of the friendliest men you’ll ever meet. His love for his friends and his family is obvious from the moment he begins to speak. An Army Veteran, Mr. Hacker, served his country from1972-1975 first as an infantryman, then as a driver, and as a drug counselor. He was raised in Kansas City, Missouri but has lived and worked in a variety of places.
Though he left school after the ninth grade, his love of learning continued throughout his life, eventually earning his high school diploma, multiple certifications, and degrees in computer software and engineering.
But the love of his life is his wife, Mary. “We met in Houston. I was working for a friend, and it was love at first sight for both of us. We’ve been together thirty-nine years, through hard times and good times.” They eventually moved to Florida, where her children are. “When I had health problems, all my Mary said was ‘We said for better or worse,’ and she stuck with me.”
Later on, Mr. Hacker went back to long-haul trucking. “I love to see new places, see the country. And Mary had never seen very much of it. She rode with me as my partner for three years. We’ve been to every state in the continental US except for the three farthest east, and Mary collected toothpick holders from every state.”
Unfortunately, after several accidents, Mary’s health and mental health deteriorated. They were living in Oklahoma when things got bad enough that Mary had to go back to Florida, where her children could help care for her. “It was the hardest decision we ever made,” stated Mr. Hacker. “My brother eventually moved me here to Little Rock because I was alone in Oklahoma, and after being in contact with the VA, and the Day Treatment Center, I moved into St. Francis House.”
Mr. Hacker has graduated from the St. Francis House program and is now living in a senior community. Though he would love to move back to Florida to be close to his wife, it is far too expensive for that to be practical. “And she recognizes my voice, but nothing else. She needs full-time nursing care.”
“I have to say that I’ve never been in a place like St. Francis House. Some of the staff care so deeply….I’ve made true friends, and the Day Treatment Center has treated me so well, even helping with furniture when I moved out. Some of the guys don’t have cars, so I drive them places, and we still get together. I’m hoping to help with groups at St. Francis House as well. Vets are different; you bond while in the service, and that bond never really leaves. It’s even there with Vets you meet later like the folks here.”
“But we said ‘for better or worse,’ and so no matter what, I keep calling my Mary, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about her.”