Joseph E. Grady’s story as told to Wil Davis
I was born without a home.
I never knew my biological family.
It took me many years to discover my family’s history, but I remember being able to recite it when I joined the Marines as a young man:
“I don’t know my heritage. All I know is: I was born Peter Daniel Vedo, my mother’s name was Rose Vedo, my father was unknown. I was placed into a Catholic orphanage in Gary, Indiana, at birth. The Grady’s adopted me at six months old and renamed me Joseph Edward Grady. So, I am Joe Grady and I am here to enlist.”
The Grady’s already had a child in their family, but my mom and older brother convinced my dad, who was a bit reluctant, to adopt another child. My brother, Bob, who was 10 years older than me, picked me out from among the other orphans. He said I was the one who looked like I needed an older brother worse than anyone else—I was skinny and scrawny, I guess, pretty pitiful looking. I looked like I needed a home! That’s how I became Joe Grady.
Our family lived in Muncie in a small, white frame house with a front porch and a big willow tree in the backyard. That was my first real home. My dad worked at Warner Gear and my mom was a housewife. Mom was very active in our church, and she helped me become an altar boy at a very young age.
There was some speculation my real father was related to the mob, probably because of my original last name, Vedo; so, they never let me play outside for fear of someone abducting me. I spent a lot of time at home indoors, and I loved to draw, so I became a pretty good artist.
My mom died when I was about five years old, and for a second time in my life, I did not have a mother. My Dad was actually not crazy about being a dad; so, he immersed himself in work and had little to do with me. Bob became my father figure and we were very close. But, Bob joined the Navy shortly after this time, so I was left on my own without any “parents” in my life, and I felt like an orphan again. During Bob’s time in the Navy, I lived with various family members, often changing locations each night. I felt I had no real home of my own.
After graduating from Muncie Central High School, I joined the Marines. I was stationed in California where I took a job in an on-base print shop and fulfilled my military obligation by printing for the US government. After discharge, I began working for a commercial printer in California where I applied the skill I had learned in the military. I ultimately decided to come back to Indiana to help care for my dad and get my college education at Ball State. My main interest in school was marketing, so that was what I majored in. Even while a Ball State student, RJ Poorman Advertising Agency hired me as an artist and I went to work for him after graduation.
I met my wife, Joy, while we were in college at Ball State. We met in the fall and got married in the summer of the next year. I felt for the first time I had a home and family of my own. Joy is the person most responsible for me being able to have success in my business and home life. She introduced me to her faith, and she showed me who Jesus is. Although I was raised initially in the Catholic Church, Joy and I became Methodists and our faith has made all the difference in our lives.
We rented a house on the northeast side of Muncie, a very small white house like the ones Sears used to sell as “kit” houses. It had almost no insulation, and it had no furnace—just a wall heater. The water pipes froze many times and I remember the temperature one winter being 40 degrees inside. We realized we had to move to a warmer place, and bought a much better brick-faced house on contract before we had babies of our own to care for. Our son was born the next spring, and Joy started teaching school at Royerton that fall. We were so poor—we literally had no money—but, we worked hard and God provided for us in amazing ways.
After RJ Poorman shut down his business, I had the chance to start a marketing and public relations firm with some friends, and we became Haines, Grady, Lukens, and Wilson. I stayed with that firm until John Lukens wanted to retire and Phil Haines became sick with leukemia and died. From there, I went to work with Ontario Systems as their first Marketing Director—I think I was the seventh full time employee—and I stayed until I retired more than fifteen years later.
Those were some good years! During that time, we raised our two boys who graduated from Yorktown High School. One became a nuclear engineer and one a physician. Our “home” now includes three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. We are extended from West Virginia to New Mexico while Joy and I remain in Muncie.
They tell me I was born in Gary, Indiana, and Joy was born and raised in southern California, but we both consider ourselves Hoosiers and plan to be here, in Muncie, the rest of our lives:
Our work has been here.
Our friends are here.
Our church is here.
Our sons were raised here.
This is home.
Wil Davis is an experienced entrepreneur, business leader, speaker, author, and father of three children who have all chosen to make Indiana home. Wil serves as President of Ball State Innovation Corporation where he provides support and business strategy consultation. He is also the Co-Founder of Ontario Systems.