Happy Birthday to my Dad today! He would have been 92. We miss him but boy did he ever leave a legacy behind.
My dad was born in rural Michigan in a farming community. Anyone who has ever spent time on a farm knows that farmers are both hard workers and optimists. My father was both of those things. He didn't stay on the farm though. He joined the Navy and saw the world, just like the recruitment posters said. He did a lot of radio and engineering work during his military time and when he left the Navy, that interest propelled him toward engineering, radio and television, primarily repair work. That wasn't enough to keep him afloat financially so he also picked up a part time job as a short order cook at a Woolworth lunch counter in Chicago. And that is where he met my mother. They married a mere 6 weeks after they met! Now with a wife to support and a future family on the horizon, he hunkered down and in addition to his work, he went back to school.
It was only a few years before that education and work ethic took him all the way to a job in California working for General Dynamics. They knew a good thing when they saw it and he quickly rose through those ranks. He travelled a lot for the company, solving problems with his engineering mind as he went and impressing his employers even more. They sent him to Missouri with us following close behind and he again went back to school. Degree in hand, he travelled for the company even more and continued to be promoted. And in fact, was promoted all the way to Texas where we again, joined him. Eventually, we again moved with him, this time to Connecticut where he continued to excel right up until they told him he needed to retire. It certainly wasn't his idea.
My dad never understood the concept of retirement or even relaxing for that matter. And he firmly believed in community service. So he ran for Mayor. And won. Following his mayoral stint he continued to be involved in his community serving on and eventually running every organization he joined and there were so very many of them. His home office walls were lined with awards and plaques. And then he decided to move to Florida where, as soon as they were settled into their new home, he continued joining service organizations and once again, eventually running them. More awards and plaques appeared on his home office walls and eventually began to run down the hallways and into other rooms.
He was the guy other people came to with questions and problems because if he didn't know the answer, he didn't stop looking until he found it. He believed in the importance of education, and if there wasn't a good enough program for education, well then by golly, he would create it and then he taught the classes. He did not know how to say "I can't" . Simply didn't believe in it.
It is from my father that I got my love of books. Both of us, voracious readers, often discussed what we were currently reading. Both of us writers, he was fascinated with genealogy and tirelessly researched until eventually he was able to put together an entire book of his family's history. My father taught me the value of hard work and of honour. He showed us every day his commitment to his job, to his community and to his family.
One of my best memories of my dad came from our time in St. Louis. I believe I was in the sixth or seventh grade and still very small, even then looking much younger than I was. There was a small local library nearby that I haunted on a regular basis. I not only read a lot but very quickly and in no time at all, I had literally read every book on the shelves that were marked as appropriate for my age. So I moved on to the next shelves. I was told in no uncertain terms, in unnecessary harsh tones, by the head librarian that I was not allowed to read anything outside of my age group. She was rather nasty about it. I left in tears.
When I got home and told my dad what happened, he marched me right back to the library and told that same overzealous head librarian that his daughter was allowed to read any book in their entire library and she was not to stop me. The librarian, shocked, was appalled that my father would willingly expose his young daughter to ideas and words that were questionable at best. My father responded that he was shocked that a librarian of all people would be in favour of censorship. He went on to say that he had faith in my intelligence in sorting out which ideas were appropriate for my life and which were not. He went on to say that that ideas and words on their own were neither good nor bad and that the librarian should know better. He wrote a letter giving his written permission and that was the end of that. My hero.
It is because of him that I love a good western to this day. It is probably because of him that I was a full time Co-Director of a non-profit assistance organization for three years, which, by the way, was a volunteer position. It is no doubt due to his example that I have always been a very hard worker, always giving my absolute best in every task regardless of what it is.
This weekend, Tim and I will go visit him at the Memorial Plaza, take him some flowers, and spend a little time. I would wish for one more day with him for real, but that would never be enough time. Memories will have to do.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.