55 years ago…

Guest Columnist

The Ohio Turnpike
Fall 1956

My cousin Vernon is taking me to a Notre Dame football game. Vernon is my second cousin, whose father works for my dad’s company as its accountant. The families are friends, and Vernon is “the man” to me. He goes to Notre Dame, drives a car and has a smile on his face as he takes his younger cousin to a Notre Dame football game on a fall Saturday.

However, it turns out that the football game is not what I will remember about our trip from Cleveland to South Bend on that Friday afternoon. I will discover how the world outside my immediate family felt about my father, Fred, on this day. Of course, I already knew and loved my dad, and, at 14 years of age, I just assumed everyone had a dad like mine.

I do not recall how the conversation began, but talk turned to Fred and how others viewed him. Vernon shared with me anecdotes about kindnesses my father had done for others. It was on this trip to Notre Dame that I first was introduced to the special man who was my dad.

I had often heard the men on the job in my father’s company talking about him. It was always something complimentary. I sometimes thought they might be exaggerating because Fred was my father. It turned out that the things they said about Fred had nothing at all to do with me being present. Vernon relayed to me how the people who worked for my father did not view him as an employer but as a friend and colleague, and he recounted examples of why they felt that way. Vernon told me that whether it was a relative, our church members, our neighbors or acquaintances, people had a genuine affection and respect for Fred.

My father showed me by example how to behave appropriately. He taught me silently by example. He taught me generosity. If one of my cousins needed a job during the summer, Dad always gave him a job. If someone needed a loan or an outright gift of money, he was always there to help out. If the church needed to landscape their new building, I would find myself and a crew from his company there on Saturday and Sunday to do the job. All of this was at his expense, and he never kept score. Fred never asked for anything in return, yet he received his reward. It came in the form of affection and love for the man whose unlimited generosity was always present.

My father was truly a man of conscience. I never heard him tell a lie to anyone; I never saw him take advantage of a situation or a fellow traveler. He never belittled others and never looked for the edge. I never heard a single negative remark made about my father. He was held in great affection by everyone he touched, whether they were employees, family or friends. Certainly he was loved by his son.

What a lucky man I am. I was taught by a genuinely caring father. We never had a heart to heart or a serious argument. I am satisfied today to be half the man he was and give a part of his legacy to someone I might touch along the way. I miss him still and cannot thank him enough for being my guide. I wake each morning with a joyous heart and look forward to each day’s new adventure because of him.

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