By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
By Angelica Leicht
Dusti says her aunt served spaghetti covered in a milk-and-butter sauce and put ice cream on everything from cantaloupe to cereal. She says Sunnye wore strappy rainbow-colored sandals and shorts to show off her shapely legs. On the weekends she hosted shrimp boils. "Heads and all," Dusti says. "That's where I learned to shuck shrimp." Sunnye always brought sugar cookies with square holes in the center when she took the kids to the beach, Dusti says, and spent Sunday afternoons smoking Salem cigarettes and drinking Korbel champagne.
Her second husband, Hollis Hisey, was a quiet man who rarely laughed or talked much, says Clara. If people asked him how he was doing, Hollis said fine, without elaborating. "He was a closed man," says his longtime friend Frank Williamson. "There's not a lot of people know a lot of things about Hollis other than he worked, he worked, he worked, he worked and he worked."
Hollis spent seven days a week at the office. A maintenance engineer, he served as the superintendent for the ten-story professional building owned by the Sealy Smith Foundation. "If you called him, you could reach him," says Frank, who was a pharmacist in the building. "He was always in his office." Even after he retired, Hollis continued going to work.
Hollis wore dress pants every day and on the rare weekends that he didn't work, David says, the two of them went goose and duck hunting with their mutt, Sparky. Other days they fished for trout and redfish in the bay or from a friend's boat.
The Hiseys rarely traveled or went on vacations. They bought two cars in the last 50 years, and neither was driven more than 50,000 miles. "We'd beg them to come and see us, or beg them to come on a trip with us, and they never would," Clara says.
About ten years ago, Sunnye stopped recognizing people and remembering things. At her sister Helen's funeral in 1991, she kept asking where Helen was. Dusti told her several times that Helen was dead, but Sunnye didn't seem to understand. "It just never really dawned on her," Dusti says. Sunnye was soon diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
Hollis's brothers told him to put Sunnye in a nursing home. But he didn't want to leave her. They told him to move back home to Haskill, a small town near Abilene, so his family could help care for Sunnye. But Hollis said no.
"He seemed to think he could take care of her himself, and we all knew he couldn't," Clara says. "The only one he wanted around him was David."
Hollis was the oldest of five children; he told his younger brothers and sisters to leave him alone. So they did.
David looks like a thinner version of his father. But he inherited his mother's smile and charm. He graduated from Kerwin High School, then a private, all-boys Catholic school (now the coed O'Connell High School). Then he studied two semesters at Lamar Tech (now Lamar University) in Beaumont before dropping out and joining the navy. Stationed in San Francisco, David was a second-class private when he was discharged four years later. He moved back to Galveston and worked as a deckhand on a private boat. When his daughter was born, he started working for his dad. He did maintenance repairs for a few years in the building his father worked in, before becoming a deckhand on a charter boat in Freeport. He fished in the summer, and in the winter he hunted with his black Labs, Lucky, Dan and Harley.
About 20 years ago, David moved to Destin, Florida, where tourists fish year-round and the fish are closer to shore. He spent his days scrubbing decks and helping tourists bait hooks and clean fish.
Dusti says David is her favorite cousin -- he's her son's godfather. She says David would call her drunk in the middle of the night, telling her stories, making her laugh and asking how his ex-wife and daughter were. He told her about his new business ventures and get-rich-quick schemes and often hit her up for money.
His stories were usually lies, she says, but she loves him anyway. His lies, she says, were never hurtful. They were just exaggerations to make himself look more prosperous and important than he really was.
"You'd love him to death, you just couldn't believe him," Dusti says. "It's not a bad thing."
She says David always loved and respected his parents. "If Hollis would yell at him, he wouldn't yell back," Dusti says. "You know kids sometimes set fire to cats -- he never did that kinda stuff."
Hollis and Sunnye doted on and adored David. "Hollis worshiped David," Clara says. "He and Sunnye both." They lent David money when he wanted to buy a boat or was broke, she says. David was all they ever talked about, Clara says.
David visited his parents in Galveston for Christmas in 1994. His mother had a home health-care worker to cook, bathe and care for her during the week, but on Saturday and Sunday, Hollis was alone with Sunnye. "They weren't eating on the weekends," David says.