Positive, caring adults make a difference

John Deeder’s journey from childhood poverty to professional success as an adult is a great example of how the challenges that shape your early years don’t need to limit you later in life.

John was born to 16-year-old parents. His sister was born 10 months later. John’s father found work in a lead smelter in their hometown of Kellogg, Idaho. He later completed an electrical apprenticeship and moved the family to Spokane to find work in the electrical construction industry.

But three months later, they moved back to Kellogg. John was four years old when his brother was born. The family couldn’t afford to pay rent, and the five of them lived for two years in his grandmother’s attic, sharing a space less than 750 square feet.

Money was always in short supply. “None of us ever had bikes or the things other kids had,” John recalls. “I remember mom and dad fighting around the first of every month, arguing loudly about what bills they could pay. It was not a comfortable situation.”

While not the best student, John found a refuge in sports. “I had coaches who really made a difference in keeping me engaged in things that were positive and helping me stay out of trouble, helping me do things I couldn’t have without that support.”

His parents stayed together through tough times. They were determined that their kids would not grow up to be in a similar situation. “They told me I had to go to college. I put myself through college by hitchhiking each weekend from Moscow to Kellogg and working two shifts in the lead smelter.”

The father of one of John’s best friends was the lead smelter superintendent. “He made sure that I could work every weekend and every Christmas and spring break. Those were made-up jobs to help me and my friends get through school.”

When he got out of college, his high school coach got him a job teaching at a middle school in Astoria.

John credits his success to these adults who cared enough to make a difference in his life. “I look back on these folks and will never forget them. I could be living in Kellogg Colorado with no job because the lead smelter went out of business several years ago.”