My parents were the inspiration for the characters of Bob and Anna Williamson in The Children Are Tender. In the book, Anna is Karola School's head cook, while Bob is the head custodian. The character Bob thinks his wife looks just like Grace Kelley, while he himself claims a resemblance to Humphrey Bogart.
"The head cook’s name was Anna Williamson. She was married to our custodian, Bob, who thought her the most beautiful woman in the world. Because I kept such late hours at the school, Bob often found me still at work when he made his rounds each evening. We had shared regular conversations, and I’d learned that he and Anna had married when Bob was a sergeant in the army during World War II and she was a receptionist for an industrial motor company in Kansas City. Because of his hearing disability, Bob had been assigned stateside duty as a military policeman, riding the trains that carried troops. Bob and Anna met when he was home on furlough, shared their first kiss under the Grand Hall clock at Kansas City’s Union Station, and had married just a few months later."My mother actually was an assistant manager for the central kitchen that served the Olathe public schools for a time, and her initial aversion to the use of bulger as an additive to meat served as the basis for the chapter in the book that relates the completely fictional story of how Anna charmed the school board as well as Mayor Burke with her cookies and her smile. However, Dad was never a custodian, although he once thought about applying for a custodial position at the school where I worked. I'm sad to say I objected so strenuously that he gave up the idea. Dad, the real life Bob Williamson, was something a character--not in the literary sense--and I didn't want him to work at the school where I taught. My lingering guilt over not wanting to share my workplace with my own father probably contributed to my decision to model Karola School's head custodian after Dad
In the book, Bob and Anna are about 35 years older than they appear in the wedding photo above. They have both grown slightly rotund, but Bob still believes his wife looks just like Grace Kelley. The real-life Bob Williamson would never have claimed resemblance to a movie star either for himself or his wife, but as his admiring daughter I always thought my dad was even handsomer than Bogart.
I'm blessed to honor the love my parents shared by naming characters after them in my book. Dad would've been proud, and if he were still living I know he would still, as he always did, believe my mother to be the best looking woman in town (even if he never went so far as to compare her to Grace Kelley)!