To make the world a friendly place, one must show it a friendly face. (James Whitcomb Riley)
When I was a young girl growing up in Lafayette, I began to jokingly refer to my Dad as “the Mayor”. I’m not sure if it’s an honorary title conferred on him by my mom or my sister first, but regardless, it’s been in regular use for several decades now. One did not want to “make a quick trip” with Dad to the grocery, the hardware store or anyplace else for that matter if you had made previous plans for your day. DAD KNOWS EVERYONE in Tippecanoe County. Also? He’s extremely friendly and articulate. He’s 45 minutes chatting in the freezing cold produce section friendly…ha?! If you haven’t met my Dad yet, I promise you he will be trying to make your acquaintance if ever you end up in the same room!
Dad is a lifelong member of St. Lawrence Catholic Church on the north side of Lafayette and he graduated from Lafayette Jeff High School where he was a standout in both football and tennis. He then went on to play college football at Franklin College before moving back to Lafayette and becoming a banker. His love of all sports, but especially his hometown Boilermakers, rubbed off on me. There were always Purdue basketball games on TV and plenty of exciting fall tailgate parties in the old bank parking lot across the street from Mackey Arena before kickoff at Ross-Ade when I was a kid. Also, there were cherished vacations every summer to the Kentucky State Parks and then in later years Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
Here’s something that stands out for me, though. Each weekend, the 4 of us (Mom, Dad, Robin and I) would head down to Teal Road and “clean the branch”. It was literally the Teal Rd. location for his employer, Lafayette National Bank. We would sweep the floors, clean out the ashtrays, trash cans, and other similarly glamorous jobs. I was not a big fan of this job, mind you, but it was just what we did. The money we earned, he explained, help to pay for those summer trips we loved. We did this work for many years, and as I look back on it now, I realize what a great lesson it was! I’m pretty sure we stopped not by his choice but because he had been promoted enough times that the management at the bank probably found it a little embarrassing to have an officer at the bank acting as the janitor too? Sometimes on a hot day if we had done a particularly good job, he would take us all for ice cream afterward at the Dairy Queen down the street.
Because Dad had so many relationships with folks around town, it was very common for me to be in line with him at one of the local funeral homes “paying our respects”. Dad’s witness for me was about how showing up for others is well worth any inconvenience. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to learn this lesson as a young girl. He also taught me that it’s more than okay to smile and crack a joke at tough moments, by the way. His kindness and mood lightening smile given generously to aid struggling souls dealing with all sorts of challenges in their lives showed them and me too that there is love all around us. His friendliness is just the state of his being, and I could see that his positivity and his presence made all the difference.
Dad, I hope you know already how much I love and respect you. You have always shown up, and you’ve also always worn your heart on your sleeve, so I think it’s you I have to blame for my sappiness and the constant lump in my throat… but I’ll take it if it means that my heart is half as beautiful as yours. Thanks for always having my back and for making it crystal clear how much you care. I’m grateful for the way you love me, Tom, Nick, Drew and Zach. As a Dad and a Grandpa, I cannot imagine how God could have blessed us any more than He did when he gave us YOU. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!