He learned to cook, clean and sew. He saw to his son's every need. "He said he even had to learn how to rock a baby to sleep," Kerry Albright said.
He never remarried and chose the role of single father and caregiver at a time when men just didn't do that. He did it well, according to his son. People often ask Kerry Albright if he wished he'd had a mother growing up.
"I'm sure if I'd known her, it would have been tragic. But I never knew her," he said. "I didn't lack for a mother. I had about 20 mothers in Buffalo Creek. The community raises the kids there."
After living several years in a trailer provided by the federal government, the Albrights moved into a house built on the site of their former home.
Life went on
Kerry Albright left home at 18 after graduating from Logan High School to attend college as a theater major at Marshall University. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., today, an upbeat and positive man who spent his early career years performing around the world at theme parks and on cruise ships.
His first job in New York was as a bike messenger, then he worked in advertising, sales and consulting for several national magazines, as a mortgage loan officer on Wall Street and a tour guide at Radio City Music Hall.
In all those years, he returned often to visit his father, who died of throat cancer and black lung in 2000.
"My last words to him were 'I love you.' We always said that when we said goodbye," said Kerry Albright.
Although he was accustomed to interest in his son's survival story, his father probably would have been astounded to know how many readers it would reach 40 years later through Reader's Digest. Kerry was.
"I thought Reader's Digest was something you'd see at your grandma's house. I was floored to read that they're fourth or fifth in circulation in the nation," he said.
Kerry Albright thinks the magazine intended to run his story in the December issue in a section featuring miracle stories. The editors heard about him through an employee who researches stories and used to work with Kerry Albright in 2004. "She said that she always remembered the story and it immediately came to mind when the project came up," he said.
After he told his story, the editors decided it would fit better in the January "Drama in Real Life" section.
He realized that people might want to get in touch after reading his story -- they usually do -- so he set up a Facebook page for Kerry Lee Albright. The responses and letters he's read, mostly from strangers, have warmed his heart.
"I've answered everything that people have sent. I tell them I'm glad they enjoyed the story," he said.
"I always say my life is someone else's story. I have no memory of it. I grew up as part of a story I didn't know."
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.