CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Dave Houser breathed a sigh of relief from inside his stained glass studio in the woods of Preston County when news broke Wednesday that Alan Gross had emerged from five years of captivity in Cuba.
“I’m so tickled that he survived,” Houser, 65, told the Daily Mail on Thursday.
The two came to know each other while pursuing master’s degrees in social work at West Virginia University in 1974.
Houser moved from Iowa that year to pursue his interest in rural community development.
“I came to West Virginia to primarily be in the mountains and never had any reason to leave,” he said.
They took a few courses together and even attended a conference in Washington, D.C. Houser graduated from the two-year social work program in 1976, while Gross ended up leaving the program, later receiving his degree in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Since then, Houser hasn’t heard from or talked to Gross.
“But the one thing I recall as a classmate of his was his sense of humor and wit,” Houser said.
“You weren’t in the social working program unless you related to the human condition,” he said.
Houser became aware of Gross’ situation in 2010 after hearing his name on a National Public Radio program.
“I thought, oh my gosh, that can’t be the same Alan Gross I knew,” he said. He did some research and sure enough it was his old friend…