Dads know lots of stuff. Some of it is has been corroded and distorted over time — sports statistics, the finer points of fixing things with duct tape or memories of significant life events such as the time he almost set the garage on fire or when he defeated the neighborhood bully with only a copy of Boys Life and a No. 2 pencil to defend himself.
But dads know meaningful stuff, too. I have written before about my frustration that fathers today are frequently portrayed on TV and in movies as nincompoops. Cliff Huxtable and Andy Griffith have given way to Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin. That’s too bad, because Dear Old Dad can be the source of guidance that will serve you for a lifetime.
My dad always reminded me that effort matters; you might get something wrong, but if you are trying your hardest to get it right, there is value in your journey. My grandfather was a bit more blunt: He said that on your first day on the job, “All you need to ask is where is the bathroom and when do we get paid — everything else will take care of itself.”
Diane Simon, of Thompson Hills Investment Corp., told me that her dad, Paul Luebbering, “taught us first and foremost, to love and respect each other, and to respect authority. He also stressed to each of us that education was important and that hard work never killed anyone.”
Bothwell Regional Health Center President John Dawes said his father, Lowell, will turn 89 this year and remains proud of his life as a farmer and as a World War II veteran. Stories about that military service were not shared until recently, after Lowell went to Washington, D.C., as part of an Honor Flight out of Des Moines, Iowa.
“When he came back, his experience had moved him to the point of opening up and sharing with my family his pent up pride and honor of serving his country some 68 years prior,” John wrote in an email. “It meant so much to us (and him) about his military service. I’m blessed and honored to have my dad still here to share his stories and his love.”
Joanna Anderson’s father, Freddie Key, still works the land at age 82. Anderson, president of State Fair Community College, shared that the best advice that her father offered “was not what he said but what he didn’t say, and his actions continue to speak louder than words.
“He never told me I wasn’t capable of doing something, which built confidence. He didn’t criticize me when I messed up, which made me try harder. He didn’t gossip or talk bad about others, which taught me respect. Dad’s actions were profound.”
Furniture Medic’s Phil Kemp once loathed a line that his father, Don, used repeatedly, but he has grown to love it and now uses it on his own children: “I know you know — that’s why I told you.”
William Bondurant’s influence continues to play a role in the life of his daughter, Ann Graff, CEO of Center for Human Services. Bondurant died a couple of years ago, but Graff still finds herself wondering how her father would have responded in various situations.
“He was a gentle man, always polite and very soft spoken,” Graff said. “I never heard him say a cuss word, or talk poorly about people he knew. He always encouraged me to do my best and to be kind to people. He showed me by example that he loved my mother, and what it took to have a marriage that lasts. He and my mom had been married 60 years when my mom passed away. That example has encouraged me to be a better wife and mother.”
Ethan Yazell, a Smith-Cotton High School senior, said his father, Eric, leads by example more than by word. Still, Eric, SFCC’s theater instructor, has told his son to focus more on what he draws out of a life experience than on the label that society assigns it. In essence, it’s not about getting an A in a class, but rather about what knowledge you gained along the way.
When I sent notes asking folks to share the best advice their father had given to them, I wasn’t sure what I would get back. What landed in my inbox were wonderful stories about men who have shaped and are still shaping our community’s leaders of today and tomorrow. Space limitations force me to whittle down the tales to the finer points, but it was rather moving to read about the positive influences these dads have provided.
One of the more touching tributes came from Chris Stewart, CEO of Katy Trail Community Health. Her father, Don Stewart, died unexpectedly in 2010. Chris said the best advice her father provided came when she was up for her first executive position:
“He said life is about balancing the things you must do with the things you want to do. Make time in your schedule to do things that bring you joy, because that will keep you energized to do the difficult things that executives must sometimes do.”
Don Stewart’s passing provided Chris with special insight and motivation for how she lives her life.
“The suddenness of his death has taught me to live in the present and to nurture every moment with friends and family,” she said.
Now that is some good, fatherly advice.