York County fathers, sons and unbreakable bonds


James Sawor remembers clearly the day his only son gave him the gift of a life free from dialysis machines.

"He said he had the perfect gift for me," said Sawor, who has Type 1 diabetes. "I was shocked."

His son, James Sawor II, had already been tested. That Christmas, he told his father his kidney was a near-perfect match.

The elder Sawor had already spent two and a half years on dialysis when his kidneys started to shut down.

Just 25 years old at the time, the younger Sawor endured months of testing and a painful recovery to save his dad's life.

He wanted "to make sure I gave him an opportunity to live like he gave me," Sawor, now 32, said.

The two York City men said they have always been close. The younger Sawor said his father, who raised him alone, remained supportive even when he became a teen father.

Despite the challenge of raising a daughter, Sawor finished college, the first in his family to do so. Today, he also is a member of the York City School District's school board.

The father/son bond stayed strong when the younger Sawor came out as gay more recently.

"I wanted to be the pride of my dad's life," he said.

Now 60, the older Sawor said he lives for his son and granddaughter.

"They're always watching after me," he said.

• • •

Ja'melo Orr is dribbling a basketball on the sidewalk when the ball slips away and comes to rest beneath a truck across the street.

His dad, Jason Orr, watches for cars before giving his son the go-ahead to retrieve the ball.

"That's my heartbeat right there," Jason Orr says. "We do everything together."

Orr, 28, became a dad at age 19, when his daughter was born. A few years later, his son was born.

The York City man admitted he wasn't really ready to be a father.

"But I was man enough to stick through it," he said, crediting his mother with helping him find his way.

Today, Orr shares custody of his children. Being a single father "is not hard, but it's not easy," he said.

Orr, who grew up in the city, said he knows many other men in his situation have walked away. He's determined to be the type of father he never had.

"I just want to be here for them," he said. "I know God's got us."

• • •

Matt Ensminger had the type of childhood most York County kids only saw on television.

That's because his dad, Tom Ensminger, is better known as Professor Noodles.

From 1990 to 2004, Tom Ensminger and his co-stars entertained kids on WPMT Fox 43's "Pete McTee's Clubhouse."

When the show launched, Matt Ensminger was 7 years old and a frequent guest on the show — though he spent much of the time helping behind the scenes.

On the first episode, Matt — who'd become known as "Little Nood" to the cast and crew — introduced himself to the cameras.

"I'm 32 years old. I stand 5-foot-10. I have a full beard and tattoos. And when I run into people I know (from the show) ... they still call me that."

Through the show, the Ensmingers met 1990s celebrities, such as the cast of "Full House" and Jonathan Taylor Thomas of "Home Improvement."

"If nothing else, it gives him great stories to talk about," said Tom Ensminger, who lives in Red Lion.

Matt Ensminger said he "honestly couldn't be prouder of what" his father did.

And Professor Noodles shed a tear.

• • •

Ray Jackson has spent more than three decades crouched behind home plate.

He started umpiring kids' baseball games when his son was 6 years old.

"Thirty-six years later, I'm still doing it," Jackson, 67, said. "I really thoroughly enjoy working with the kids. I have more fun than they do."

During baseball season, Jackson umpires about three games a week all over York County. He works with kids as young as 8 and as old as 17.

Jackson is the patriarch of a three-generation family in love with baseball. His son, Kevin Jackson, is now 42.

"I think it's in our blood," Ray Jackson said.

Some day soon, the York City man is hoping to umpire a game for his grandson.

Jordan Jackson, 4, "loves baseball," his grandfather said. He'll start T-ball next year.

"He's the only 4-year-old that I know that will go to a (York) Revolution game and watch the whole game," Ray Jackson said.

• • •

Stuart Krise's phone rang unexpectedly a few weeks ago. On the other end was his son Brandon Krise.

"He called me and told me that he was going to have a baby," Stuart Krise remembered.

"I thought he was calling to tell me he was going to be deployed."

A teacher at William Penn Senior High School and the father of two sons, Stuart Krise is about to become a grandfather for the first time.

In just the past few weeks, Stuart Krise said he can tell his son is changing.

"You can just tell he's different," he said. "He was talking to me about managing money."

Brandon Krise said he and his wife are expecting a little craziness over the next few months. But he's got a new perspective on life.

"You're not just providing for yourself anymore," he said.

Krise gushes talking about his sons. Brandon, 21, is a Marine stationed in San Diego. Zach, 28, lives in Dallastown and flies Black Hawk helicopters for the Army National Guard.

Brandon Krise said his dad never missed a sporting or school event.

"Every single little dumb school thing we had to do — he was always there," he said.

The family is excited for the new addition, a little girl, Stuart Krise said.

"As a parent, you just want what's best for your kids," Stuart Krise, 55, said. "It's just nice to see your sons happy."

— Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.