One year ago today, July 20, 2007 the world lost a truly great man.
This man was a retired veteran of the United States Navy, having served aboard an aircraft carrier during the time of the Korean War. The skills he learned in the Navy, along with an upbringing that instilled the value of an honest day's work would ultimately propel him to a very successful career in the California Department of Forestry.
This man would meet a beautiful young woman who he would later ask to marry him. This would prove to be one of the best decisions of his young life. They would share some fifty years of marriage and raise three boys along the way. As one would expect in any marriage of that length, there were a few bumps along the way, but through it all they remained faithful to each other and deeply in love to the end. His wife still maintains a residence in the Pacific northwest and spends her time volunteering with youth in the court system and watching her nine grand children grow.
This man's oldest son, who bares the same name as his father, eventually followed in his dad's footsteps by joining up with CDF many years ago. He is currently in his last year on the job overseeing a convict crew, cutting fire lines throughout the hills and mountains of California. In February he will trade in his shovel and chain saw for an iced tea and a table saw as he retires and enjoys long days in his woodworking shop. If you look closely at the sky, you can just about see the man looking down at his eldest son with a beam of pride watching his accomplishments through the years.
This man's middle son was always something of a rebel, maybe not a black sheep of the family, but more like dark gray one. Although he did work for one summer in CDF, the rigid structure of that environment didn't suit his style. As this middle son approached the teenage years, the man's hair turned from black to gray as he watched his son grow from a boy to a man. Through all the wild times however, the love the two had for each other never diminished one bit.
This man's youngest son, (by far the best looking of the bunch), would also find a beautiful woman to marry and later begin the process of raising two boys of his own. He would learn first hand the values his father placed in him, like dedication, honesty, hard work, determination, trust and a host of others. He would watch with great delight as his dad engaged with his own boys, remembering the days of his youth. Some of the lessons his dad tried to teach him so many years before now seemed so clear to him. There was admittedly more than one occasion he wished he could go back and learn them the first time through, but alas, life does not always give us that luxury. This youngest son would vow to raise his children with the same amount of love and integrity that his father had.
So just who is this man that I speak of? Are you wondering who in Hollywood might have passed away a year ago? Maybe he was a political figure that brought great change to the world? Perhaps he was a legendary sports figure that was idolized by fans everywhere?
Well, I'm quite sure you didn't read about his days on Earth in the papers or see his face on the television, let alone the big screen. If you'd seen him at a baseball stadium, it wouldn't have been on the field, instead he would have blended right in with the crowd, sitting there in the stands with his family. As far as politics were concerned? He did meet and shake hands with President Ford once, but that was about as close to the White House as he ever cared to be.
This man was a true hero of mine, a legend to me. He was larger than life and he was always the one I wanted to be growing up. No, to find this man you would have had to look no further than our living room. This man was my father.
There are a million stories I could share with you about the times we spent together, but for now I'm going to keep them tucked away in my own heart. Perhaps that a bit selfish, but today I need those memories to hold me up. I've shed a few tears as I've written this, and I'm sure more will fall before the day is done. That's ok though, it's just part of the process I guess. If I didn't have have such fond memories of my dad, then the tears wouldn't come, and that would be far worse.
I know not everyone is as fortunate as I to have had such a great roll model in their life. For that I'm truly sorry. I can only share my story and hope that it in some way it helps fill a void in your heart.
If you do have your parents still with you, consider picking up the phone or getting in the car and going for a visit. I'm sure they'd love to hear from you.
I love you dad!