Barbara became pregnant within the year and her psychotic episodes continued – if not worsened. Each occurrence was followed by a severe depression as she came to understand that the degradation of her mind was unstoppable and she would continue to hurt the people that she cared about. Her depression was furthered by the isolation that she felt from the real world and she quickly came to miss the comforts of home she was accustomed to. With no electricity or running water, her living conditions had certainly regressed fifty years and she felt the hard sting of a pioneers life – something that she was likely unaware she would be adopting by marrying Ira.

In late August 1946 at seven months pregnant, Barbara could take the solitude and decay of her mind no more and determined to leave Ira. The mountain had seen an early snowfall this year and temperatures were well below freezing at high noon. While Ira worked in town this freezing day, Barbara donned a thin coat and simply walked away from the house, on a road to anywhere – or nowhere at all. Hours later she was found laying on the side of the road, an apparent epileptic attack dropping her to the ditch, leaving her face down, unconscious and mildly hypothermic from the cold. A passing neighbor came to spot her and drove her to the hospital in town, calling Barbara’s mother at their arrival. Ira would not learn of the fate of his young wife until that evening, hours after she had been discharged and left with her mother for the long journey to Salem.

John Ira True in his early years.
John Ira True in his early years.

Barbara was admitted to the Oregon State Mental Hospital shortly thereafter by her own accordance, her mother at her side. On October 5th, she gave birth to a healthy boy and called him John Ira True, and so I came to be. Her incapacitated state left Ira with the final decision about my future.

Ira knew that he was incapable of raising a child on his own. Aside from the financial toll he knew it would take to find someone to care for the child while he gained employment, he understood that he was not equipped personally. Raising two bear cubs was a large enough stress on Ira and neither cried for a diaper change or a middle of the night feeding.

I was sent to Albertina Kerr at two days old, with Ira’s hopes that fate would bring him a secure upbringing – one free of mental instability and social isolation. The idea that nurture played a larger role than nature was heavy on the minds of my biological parents and they both hoped that it would bring me a long, productive life.

Young John Ira True
Young John Ira True

Before I was permanently placed with the Hendricksons, Ira and his brother Glenn took the five-hour trip to visit me at the adoption center. It was most certainly an awkward meeting for Ira as he had come to say goodbye more or less to the only offspring that he would have in his life.

Barbara never did make it to see me off in my life, her mental condition keeping her in the State Hospital for another four years. She sent me a toy fire truck for my first birthday, undoubtedly feeling the pang of a child lost. That was the extent of her contact with me, however, and even fifty years later when reunited she decided to not keep up communication. Perhaps I represented to her a mental state that she had unsuccessfully tried to defeat for most of her life.

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