Dale was born to Noah and Maribell Dale on May 4, 1949 in Tupelo,
Mississippi. Noah served as a corporal in the infantry during the
Korean Conflict and was gone during the early years of Jonah's life.
The young boy and his mother were very close, but when Noah returned
from the service, and after a brief adjustment period, the three became
a devoted family unit. Jonah and his father enjoyed each other's company
and the outdoors. They spent many hours together fishing and talking
until Noah's death when Jonah was 22 years old.
In high school, Jonah was an uninspired student, but kept up his
grades so he would be eligible to play football. He was not a star,
but a good, solid defensive player, respected by the team and the
coaches. By this time, the Dale family had moved to Oxford. Jonah
began to realize he was good with his hands and really liked working
with tools. The one area in school where he excelled was in his shop
classes. He hung around the neighborhood hardware store so much and
asked so many questions that the owner finally offered him a part-time
job. Except during football season, he worked after school and Saturdays
during his senior year. After graduation, he began working full time
and really enjoyed helping customers with their "do-it-yourself"
challenges. The customers liked him, respected his advice and began
looking for him when they shopped.
One night at the bowling alley, Jonah met a lovely girl named Rachel
Lafant. For Jonah, it was love at first sight. They dated for almost
a year before they were married, then Rachel became pregnant almost
immediately. Jonah began working overtime as often as possible to
make extra money for his family, and on weekends took on handyman
jobs. Rachel appreciated the extra money, but resented the long hours
Jonah was away and she was alone.
When Missy was born, it was a difficult birth and she was a colicky,
allergic baby. The responsibilities of dealing with these difficulties
fell to Rachel. Jonah tried to help and to keep their little family
together, but the strain became too much. Rachel withdrew more and
more and became increasingly resentful of Jonah and the work which
kept him away from Missy and her.
In 1980, Rachel finally couldn't deal with it anymore, packed her
bags and left her husband and daughter. Jonah was heartbroken and
lonely, but fought his depression to concentrate on his six year old
daughter. The people at the hardware store had always been his friends
and pitched in now, so he could spend the necessary time with his
daughter. They still think of him as a "good man" and admire
him for the strength he's always shown, especially where his family
Jonah helped Missy with her school work, took a greater interest
in her activities, and even joined the PTA. But he knew all this could
never fully make up for her mother's desertion. His cousin, Johnny
McPhail and Johnny's wife, Adele, took an interest in them and Missy
and Johnny became very close. In 1983, the family learned Rachel had
died of an overdose.
Missy became Jonah's life after Rachel left. He played penny ante
poker with some guys from the hardware store, bowled on a league team
and was a rabid "Ole Miss" football fan. He followed the
team on TV and in the newspaper, but seldom made it to a game.
As Missy grew into adulthood, Jonah was horrified by her choice in
men, but he always tried to be supportive, especially when things
did not go well. When Liddie was born, it was once again love at first
sight for Jonah. He spent as much time as possible with her and, after
Missy got divorced and started working at the hair salon, Jonah took
Liddie to breakfast on Saturday and then bowling or fishing, so her
mother could work.
Jonah's rough exterior masked his warm compassionate nature, but
he never tried to hide his great love for "his girls." The
three of them had a comfortable relationship and he managed to maintain
a balance between being supportive and meddling.