Batchelor was born and reared in Anniston. The Vietnam Conflict was going on when he graduated from Anniston High School. He wasn’t particularly happy about the war, so he decided to join the Coast Guard, thinking he would probably be sent to Guam.
Instead of Guam, he was sent to school to learn to be an engineer and was stationed near Boston. He spent a lot of his time trying to convert sea water into drinking water.
One day at sea, he began passing kidney stones. He was taken to land and doctors treated him with a dye that had iodine in it. No one knew that he was allergic to the iodine.
After he came out of the coma, he received a medical discharge. “They made me an offer to get out and not take any severance or disability,” he said. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
After realizing that the Coast Guard and college didn’t make him happy, he realized there was only one thing to do, and he’d been doing it all of his life -- repairing vehicles that had been wrecked or damaged.
“I was born and raised in it,” Bachelor said., “I grew up in a car family helping with sales and body shop work. There was a time when my father stopped fixing cars and started driving a truck and that’s when I told him I wasn’t going to work with cars when I got out of school.”
It was too late though. Batchelor’s father had had him in his garage since he was 6 years old and the business had gotten into his blood just as it had his father’s.
Batchelor owns Anniston Body Shop at 3705 Noble St., Anniston. In the telephone directory, the address is listed as South Pelham Road, Jacksonville, but it is actually on Noble Street, in the fork of the road, near the Old Gadsden Highway. His phone number is 236-0240.
“We’re an insurance repair shop,” he said. “We do crash work and paint work. We do primarily insurance repairs, but we welcome anyone who comes in. We have 24 hour towing. We come out to people’s house and pick cars up or we’ll come out and do estimates.”
Batchelor said his days are usually long.
“If I’m out of the house by 6 in the morning, and if I’m back by 6:30 that night, it was a regular day,” he said. “But sometimes they’re longer than that. It’s hard work. You have to have a talent to be good at it. I’ve seen people that want to do it and never can catch on because they don’t have the talent, and then some people learn in the first year. It just comes natural for some.”
Batchelor said his talent has made him a living.
“I’ve made a good, honest living at it,” he said. “I’ve supported my kids and wife and made it possible for my wife and kids to go to school and get their degrees. I think they’ve all turned out good. I’m proud of them.”
Batchelor said he’ll retire when his friends read about him in the obituaries. “I have no intention of it as long as my health stays good enough,” he said.
Since 1993, Batchelor and his wife, Suzanne have lived in the Cedar Springs community on Leyden’s Mill Road. Suzanne teaches math at Saks High School and Jacksonville State University.
Their son and daughter-in-law, Andrew and the former Magan Calhoun, live in Tuscaloosa where Andrew is studying civil engineering at the University of Alabama. Their daughter, Fallan, lives in Orange Beach where she is a marine conservationist. Suzanne’s mother, Sylvia Cashen, lives with them.
“I’ve enjoyed my days in Jacksonville,” Batchelor said. “When we found our home, I said if we were able to buy it I could live there the rest of my life, and that’s what I’m planning on doing.”
Batchelor said it’s seldom in his home that his wife and mother-in-law don’t wake up smelling stock on Saturday mornings. He makes it at least once a week. He starts out with vegetables and eventually adds pork, chicken, fish or beef.
“We use the stock instead of cooking with water,” he said. “It’s really good because it makes the house smell really good and warm.”
Several years ago, as a Christmas gift to her husband, Suzanne surprised him by signing him up to take some gourmet cooking classes from Jack Buchanan of Gadsden. They met Buchanan when he was chef at the Victoria in Anniston.
Learning a new way of cooking has brought about a different way the Batchelors buy food.
“Gourmet cooking changes the way you look at food,” he said. “It changes the type of food you eat too.”
Batchelor now enjoys cooking for charity events, including Relay for Life.
He enjoys listening to music and “playing in the dirt” with his tomatoes, banana plants and flowers. He’s proud to be a member of the Fraternal Order of Police. “This would be a terrible country without law enforcement,” he said. “We don’t appreciate them enough.”
Batchelor’s parents are Jeanelle Batchelor and the late James Batchelor. His mother has resided in Jacksonville Heath and Rehabilitation Center for the past 12 years. It’s there, every Saturday and Sunday morning, where Batchelor can be found.
Contact Margaret at email@example.com.