Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

McClellan: Brothers Pursue Their Education against Long Odds

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

McClellan: Brothers Pursue Their Education against Long Odds

Article excerpt

Edna Fuller had three sons. Each had a different father. All of the fathers were of the absentee variety. An indication of that is the boys bore their mother's last name. Maybe the third father was blameless in that regard. He was murdered before his son was born.

At any rate, that was the family. Edna and her sons. They lived in poverty in Pine Lawn.

That is, of course, a formula for trouble. Our prisons are filled with young men who grew up in fatherless homes, directionless youngsters who drift into the streets, where a "Lord of the Flies" mentality reigns and adolescent males rule. Violence is the norm.

One day, Edna met a man at the laundromat. He was an older man, divorced. He worked as a doorman at a swanky apartment building on Lindell Boulevard. His name was Leroy Williams Jr. He and Edna were soon married. Edna and her sons moved into Leroy's house in Northwoods. Her younger boys were then 5 and 6. Her oldest son was a teenager.

Edna's younger sons were James and Virgil. James was the older of the two. The oldest boy did not adjust well to having a stepfather. He left home as soon as he could. He is not part of this story.

Northwoods is in the Normandy School District. Eleven years ago, when Edna and her sons moved into Northwoods, Normandy was accredited, but even then it was not a good school district. James and Virgil did well that first year in kindergarten and first grade.

Then came disaster. Virgil fell at home and hit his head. A school nurse saw the bump on his head and did not believe his story. She hotlined the family. A caseworker investigated, and the state took custody of Virgil and James.

It's easy to see how something like this happens. A stepfather. A mother who seems irresponsible. It sounds like a recipe for abuse.

The odd thing the heartbreaking thing was that Leroy was not mean. He was kind and loving. The boys refer to him as Dad. And Edna, although guilty of some bad decisions earlier in her life, was not really irresponsible. She worked as a nurse's aide. Still, the state erred on the side of caution.

James and Virgil were separated. James went into foster care. Virgil was sent to a group home. …

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