EVERETT — Randy and Joey Vires of Mountlake Terrace shared an experience Friday night that fathers and sons don’t often get to share.
They stood next to each other in blue caps and gowns during Edmonds Community College’s commencement ceremony.
Randy, 52, received an associate degree in pre-nursing. Joey, 22, earned his GED diploma.
“A father and son graduating together, I don’t think you see that very often,” Randy said earlier this week.
It was a long road for both.
Joey was a star athlete when he was a boy. He didn’t have much interest in school, but sports kept him focused and out of trouble.
When Joey was in 10th grade at Bothell High School, he fell on the basketball court and injured his back. He could no longer play well.
He fell in with the wrong crowd and dropped out.
“That injury took the drive right out of him,” Randy said.
Joey hung out with friends and kept telling his parents he’d be back in school soon. But he put school on the back burner after getting a job stocking boxes at Costco.
He was earning money and partying.
Watching his son’s future slipping away was painful for Randy. He thought his son could do better.
Randy Vires was born in Butte, Mont., and moved to Washington with his family when he was a child.
In 2008, he became the first member of his family to go to college when he enrolled in EdCC to get an associate degree. Health problems had forced him to leave his job driving trucks, and he didn’t want to depend on disability checks.
His wife, Sandy Vires, 54, also struggles with medical issues.
Randy started out wanting to be a nursing assistant and received CPR and first-responder training.
“He always had a knack for helping others,” Joey said of his father.
Not long after starting college, Randy suffered congestive heart failure and spent several days in a coma.
“My teachers told me to stay home and rest, but I went back to school as soon as I could. That was important to me,” he said.
Medical bills piled up, and the Vires family lost their home.
They moved into a Lynnwood motel. Something happened there affected both father and son.
About 2 o’clock one morning, Randy Vires said he left his room to get some ice for his wife. He saw a man lying on the floor in the hallway. The man was unresponsive.
Randy said he dropped on his knees and went through the steps he had learned so well in a CPR class.
All this time he also was banging on the wall so someone would come out and call 911. Joey brought out his dad’s first-aid kit.
They kept the man alive until paramedics arrived.
Some kind of light went on in Randy’s head that morning.
“That’s when I realized there’s a purpose for me in all this, that nursing is for me,” he said.
After completing his associate degree, Randy enrolled in a pre-nursing program. He now plans to apply to the University of Washington’s competitive nursing school. He volunteers at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, helping patients recovering from surgery. He also helped volunteer with the Rolling Tritons, EdCC’s wheelchair basketball team.
The night Randy saved a stranger’s life outside his motel room, a light went off in his son’s head, too.
“He couldn’t stop bragging about it,” Sandy Vires said. “He kept telling me, ‘My dad’s a hero. If he can do something, I can do it.’”
He enrolled in Edmonds Community College to get his GED. He went to classes in the morning right after finishing his early morning job at Costco.
Joey dropped out of the program that first time but, seeing his father keep at it, he enrolled again and finally earned his GED diploma this year.
He credits his father for giving him pride, hope and inspiration.
“He always says he wants to be like his dad,” Sandy Vires said. “It’s the tightest bond I’ve ever seen a son and a dad have.”
Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452; firstname.lastname@example.org.