On a spring, Sunday afternoon, we had the pleasure of reflecting with Josh Haynes and Ashley Haynes Francis about their father and the man he has become as a result of his time at Big Oak Ranch. Josh and Ashley are the adult children of Robert and Malisa Haynes. Robert lived at Big Oak Ranch in the early 80s and attributes much of his success to God and those who cared for him growing up at the Ranch.
Your dad seems to have a deep appreciation for Big Oak Ranch and the time he was here. How has he shared that with you?
Ashley: We don’t have pictures or hear memories from dad about what life was like prior to Big Oak Ranch. He doesn’t really talk about it. It seems like it was very difficult for him. Dad made sure we knew about his houseparents at Big Oak Ranch, they were like grandparents to us. We know John and Tee Croyle and admire their lives’ work and how it has impacted not just the children that have lived at Big Oak, but also their children’s children. We are them. Mine and Josh’s lives are different because of this place.
Josh and I grew up knowing about Big Oak. Any opportunity dad could bring us, he would. Dad brought me out to the backroads around Big Oak to teach me how to drive. We come for reunions, and he always brought us back to his home at the Ranch where we made great childhood memories experiencing the beauty of where he grew up.
Josh: I’ve always enjoyed seeing the Ranch and learning about Dad’s upbringing. One time while visiting the Ranch, I caught a 6 lb. bass!
Years ago, Dad took me to an Alabama game and we got to see Brodie Croyle and meet Kelli. There was a long line and dad said, “We are going to see Brodie and get his autograph. Kelli said to Brodie, “One of your brothers are standing in line.” Brodie saw us and laughed saying, “You don’t want my autograph!” It was a fun day.
What do you love most about your dad?
Ashley: I don’t know how there would be a better father in the world besides my father. If I am sick, my parents are there. If Josh and I need help with anything, dad and mom are there, ready to help. Our spouses are equal to me and my brother. They love them just the same as us. Our family believes in prayer and teamwork, which is directly from Big Oak.
My grandmother is living with my mom and dad. They are committed to taking care of her. Dad drives her to appointments, and makes sure she has everything she needs. He never complains, not one bit.
Josh: Dad is a hard worker, and he will bend over backwards to help you. You will not find anyone that doesn’t like him. He never talks bad about anyone. He is a talented machinist and there is nothing that he cannot build. Dad is known for being dependable. At work, they count on him, and he always comes through with a smile or kind words to share. Our dad is a friend to all, all the time. It is not a face he puts on as he walks out the front door – it is who he is at his core.
What are some of your fondest memories of your dad growing up?
Ashley: Dad always made things fun for us. At Christmas, he would get on the roof and act like Santa. He was always so excited about Christmas, he was up before us getting everything ready to make our Christmas Day fun. Dad made our childhood special.
We like big family gatherings. For my 16th birthday, I wanted a luau and my parents turned my birthday into a Hawaiian party. Dad, being a good cook, prepares an annual 4th of July celebration and assembles a big fireworks display.
Dad invests quality time in his family, from making sure we had family movie nights to modeling a godly spouse. If I need him, he is there in my kitchen to help with any of the cakes or cupcakes I am baking. If my momma wants something, my dad does it. They have been married for over 35 years. We love to take mom and dad with us on vacation. They deserve it.
Josh: Dad coached baseball on my little league teams from the time I was 4 until I was in 7th grade, and he was there to serve all the boys on my teams. He picked up boys for practice and made sure our team gear was in order. He was not just coaching me – dad knows the importance of investing in others as well.
What impact did Big Oak Ranch have on the kind of father your dad is?
Josh: There is no denying the impact Big Oak had on my father. Dad is a family man, he is our family man. He never missed a ball game, band competition or anything else we did. He is still there for us and our family. My father would not be the man he is today if it wasn’t for Big Oak Ranch – who knows where he would have ended up.
A graduate of Jacksonville State University, Josh Haynes is a Job Coach at the Alabama School for the Blind as well as the school’s Assistant Coach for the Wrestling and Track and Field teams.
Ashley Haynes Francis graduated from Gadsden State Community College as a surgical operating room technician, and is a Tissue Coordinator and Inventory Coordinator at Regional Medical Center in Anniston, AL, as well as a licensed cosmetologist and talented baker.