Monday, March 18, 2013

Wishing My Dad a Happy 81st Birthday

Wishing My Dad a Happy 81st  Birthday

It is so hard to believe my father turned 81 today. He is such a vibrant man who has defied his age in so many ways. And attempting to write a brief synopsis of his life and contributions is a bigger challenge that I had considered.

My dad was born in Posey County, Indiana in 1932, at home, on a farm approximately 7 miles outside Mount Vernon. When I was a kid we knew that we had to drive on the gravel road to get to the farm. My dad has mixed feelings about his childhood on the farm but to us, his progeny, it was magical.

It is amazing to think from today’s perspective that it was such a short time ago that people lived and thrived in environments that did not include indoor plumbing and refrigeration. My father’s mother died when he was four years old, shortly after giving birth, again at home. My grandfather was busy farming and teaching school in the local schoolhouse (when he wasn’t fired for being Republican).

My dad was always a reader and a dreamer and wanted to leave the farm and teach. So he left Posey County and went to Indiana State University teachers college. After graduation he ended up in Logansport, Indiana where he met my mom, gifted her with a turnip (a vegetable she doesn’t eat – but it impressed her mom) and married her a mere 6 months later after a whirlwind 6 week courtship (because of the turnip). My mom was looked at with suspicion when first introduced to my dad’s family of origin. She was a city girl, had a job, wore make-up, smoked, drank alcohol, and was Catholic. Apparently my dad was a renegade for wanting to marry her. Nearly 58 years later they are still together, happy and living fulfilled lives.

After teaching for nearly 40 years in the Logansport Community School system as an elementary educator, he retired. For much of his career he taught 4th grade at Washington School, which was situated in one of the more disadvantaged neighborhoods in our community. But he loved his students, tried to represent a positive influence among students that often came from single parent families, and tried to encourage his students to reach for the stars (or at least graduate) Many did. He concluded his tenure as an elementary teacher at Fairview Elementary teaching 1st graders – with the goal of starting these young people with a solid foundation, which would give them a chance to succeed in the world.

Not content to rest in retirement, my dad volunteered as a principal for the local parochial schools, which needed an interim administrator. He donated the salary he would have earned to his church. He also volunteered his time as a board member and ultimately president of the local historical society. To this day he and my mom volunteer their time at the Cass County Museum and promote the amazing heritage of his adopted home.  

He leveraged his longtime love of history to write a weekly newspaper column in the Pharos Tribune called “History Buff” that profiled people who had visited, influenced, originated from or ended up in Cass County Indiana. His column was so popular that it led to a radio program on WSAL, the local radio station.  His engaging conversational style and apparent love of his topics resulted in his being invited as a speaker to various organizations.

Whenever I visit my hometown of Logansport, I hear such amazing feedback about the impact his column and radio show have made in the local community.

I am so amazed at the vitality and energy of my dad. He has spent his adult life giving back to his community, raising his children to be independent, celebrating his life, loving his wife and family, and living each day to the fullest. He still looks at the wonder of his life and celebrates his blessings in being able to travel the world, live a life of fulfillment and make his community a better place.

  I am so proud of my dad and the impact he has had on the community in which he lives, the people he has touched, and the gifts he has given his children with his joy of life. He has embraced the changes of the 20th and 21st Century, spread his wings to fly higher in retirement than many even imagine in the whole of their lives. He has lived his dreams. He has come such a long way from the farm in Posey County of the early 20th Century to become a beloved, integral part of his community. He has given so much without the expectation of anything in return. He loves Logansport and Cass County. He has seen and embraced the wonders and miracles of the last 81 years; he has been blessed with marriage to his best friend of the last 58 years; he is grateful for his blessings and accepts life on life’s terms. I love him and admire him and am grateful that I still have him in my life, at age 53.

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