A tribute to a great dad

Dad suffered a stroke today. He is 86 years old. Mother died a few years back but Dad is not alone. My brother moved in with him last year and was there to call the paramedics and get him to the hospital. From what we can tell, the stroke is not that bad but will require some therapy to regain the use of his right side. Luckily his speech and reasoning were not affected.

I have been meaning to write about my dad for a long time. I wrote about my mother in a previous essay and alluded to my dad when I wrote about my own marriage. Dad deserves a tribute and I promised him I would write when I visited him a couple of weeks ago. Time has a way of getting in the way of good intentions but I am more motivated with dad’s stroke today.

I hope you will forgive this personal indulgence but this is after all my blog, and although I write in a manner that I hope will be applicable to a wide audience, I also write to leave something for my own posterity. Will blogs on Blogger be semi-permanent for many years to come? I hope so. Will the world change to the point that someday our electronic archive is severed? I hope not.

A child of the great depression

My dad was born in 1922 in Cordell Oklahoma, about eighty miles west of Oklahoma City. That means he grew up and spent his childhood on the farm during the great depression. There were ten children in Dad’s family and he was fourth oldest. There are only four still alive as I write this. Dad is one of the last of the generation that fought in World War II along with his brothers.

Being part of a family of poor farmers, dad picked cotton from the time he was six years old. All the children in those days worked on the farm from the time they were little. It was a necessity. Even though he had to work to help the family earn a living he also went to school in town and stuck with it through high school and on to business school. But then World War II came along.

There’s just something about the generation that grew up during the depression and the war that made them especially hard workers who are frugal with their money. Dad was no exception. He worked hard all his life, at least six and many times seven days a week. He was a meat cutter by trade, having learned it on the farm and in the Navy. But he always ended up managing others.

Service in the military

Pearl Harbor was in December of 1941. Dad joined the Navy the next year when he was twenty years old. There was a need for dad’s skills so he didn’t even go to basic training. He was sent to the Naval Air Station in Norman Oklahoma where he met my mother, who was 15 at the time. She was doing the patriotic thing by working on the air base which was very close to her home.

Dad served in Southern California in various Naval Air stations, where he fell in love with the beautiful weather here in Ventura County where I now live. He was stationed at Port Hueneme, which is right down the road from me. In early 1945, as a Petty Officer First Class, he and a thousand other sailors shipped out for Okinawa, although they didn’t know that at the time.

At the age of 23, dad was promoted to the rank of Chief Petty Officer, one of the youngest in the Navy at the time. He was placed in charge of setting up and running the galley operations for the entire island of Okinawa after it was secured. In October of 1945, Dad suffered a war injury when typhoon “Louise” caused a 500 gallon water tank to fall on him, crushing his right leg.

A man of responsibility

Personnel casualties were 36 killed, 47 missing, and 100 seriously injured, dad being one of them. Almost all the food, medical supplies and other stores were destroyed, over 80% of all housing and buildings knocked down, and all the military installations on the island were temporarily out of action. Over 60 planes were damaged as well, though most were repairable.

If the war had not ended on 2 September, this damage would likely have seriously impacted the planned invasion of Japan. After helping to repair all the food distribution facilities, Dad was sent to Manila and Japan to set up the galley operations there. He stayed until May of 1946 when he was sent home. He immediately went to Norman Oklahoma to convince mother to marry him.

When he called and said, “This is Jim,” she said, “Jim who?” She had been dating someone else named Jim that she didn’t particularly care for. Dad started courting her then. He says he thinks she was attracted by the white Navy Chief’s uniform. Mother asked Dad, “When are we going to get married?” and Dad said, “Whenever you want to.” Dad was 24 and mother was just 18.

The move to California

They married on 10 August 1946 in Texarkana Arkansas on the way to Dad’s next duty station in Texas. He was soon discharged and began a career as a meat cutter for many Safeway Stores throughout Oklahoma, where five of my brothers and sisters were born. Invariably, Dad would be promoted to manage his department. All the while, dad was active in the Naval Reserves.

In 1955, my Uncle Jessie called dad and told him he could buy a new house in California for $10,000. He was making $25 or $35 a week in Oklahoma and could make $75 a week in California with union wages. He came and interviewed and got the job on a handshake. With that they packed up and moved to California where my sister and I soon joined the family.

Dad stayed active in the Naval Reserve over the years and was able to retire with a full pension and benefits after forty years of service. He would take his two weeks of vacation every year to go on naval cruises, always in charge of the galley, or serve on various naval bases. Sometimes he would serve in San Francisco, other times in San Diego and once as far away as Louisiana.

Joining the LDS Church

In the fall of 1961, my mother was introduced to the LDS Church while teaching public school in the Glendora California School District. You can read more of her conversion story in the essay of her life that I wrote previously. They were taught the lessons and committed to baptism the first week of January 1962. Dad had to make a couple of major changes at this time in his life.

Dad usually worked seven days a week. He also smoked cigars and had done so since he had joined the Navy twenty years previously. He gave that up overnight and made every effort to now work only six days a week so he could attend church with his family. He didn’t always make it but was always supportive of mother in her efforts to live the gospel in our home.

We were all sealed as a family in the Los Angeles temple in 1963. Although I was only six years old, I remember somebody who was not a member of our family joining us around the altar to be a proxy for my brother who had died shortly after childbirth. I have been to the temple perhaps thousands of times since then, but still have a vivid recollection of this sacred and special event.

A loving and kind father

I don’t think I remember dad ever raising his voice in anger at us children. He was kind and patient and loved each of us. He was a happy man and worked hard all the while I was growing up. He enjoyed time with his family when we went on vacations together or to the park or the beach. He was satisfied with life and accomplished something great in providing for his family.

Dad wasn’t a leader in spiritual things in that he didn’t study the gospel or teach it to his family. It was mother who would lead out in prayer and scripture study, or at least that’s the way I have remembered it. Dad provided stability and security for our family and although I know I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I realize it now. That stability was a real strength to me growing up.

His daughters adore him. I honor and respect him. My dad is a great man in my estimation. He did what the Lord sent him here to do and fulfilled his purpose in life in just being a great dad. He adored my mother and treated her like a queen. I know she loved him as she told me so many times. He didn’t mind sacrifice and was always giving of himself to bless and benefit others.

Summary and conclusion

Dad was not one to say much. He was quiet but loved to read. He also loved to serve others. He was happiest when he was cooking a dinner for hundreds or even thousands, as he often did throughout his life. He was the friendliest meat cutter in town and loved to serve his customers, who he knew by name. He was a fair boss and always earned the respect of his employees.

While not overly spiritual, he is spiritually sensitive. With mother, he performed thousands of proxy ordinances in the temples over the years. That constant exposure to the heavenly element made him sensitive to impressions from the spirit world. He has shared with me several sacred accounts of spiritual visits that he has received over the years. And dad always told the truth.

I love my dad. I hope he can stay in mortality as long as he feels the Lord needs him to be here. But I know he misses my mother. He has related that she has visited him several times. There is just something sacred about the bond of a man and woman sealed to each other in the temple who love and served one another all their lives. Dad, I salute you as a great man, patriot and father.

Update: Dad passed away on 18 February 2009 just a month before his 87th birthday.