When I was born in 1955, Daddy had just earned his degree and teaching credential from UCLA. Since my grandma had to work all of his life, Daddy knew that was hard on the kids and wanted Mom to stay at home. To make that goal reality meant he always worked two, and sometimes three jobs.
Daddy’s primary job was educator. He started as a class room teacher. After a short time, he went back to school and earned his Masters Degree and Administrative Credential, becoming a coordinator of teacher training between UCLA and the Los Angeles Unified School District. Next he became a Vice Principal and traveled long distances from our home in CanogaPark to schools in Central and East Los Angeles. Finally, he became a principal.
Through all of this, he also worked after school and during the summers for Los Angeles School playgrounds. He supervised children while they played on the playground after school, taught games, organized tournaments, and had crafts and other activities for kids to do. He was a traveling magician.
And on the weekends, and sometimes at night, he worked all kinds of other jobs: at Lumber City, cutting lumber; at White Front, selling toys; teaching night school to parents who needed help learning the “new math” or to adults working on finishing high school.
Sounds like he’d never have time for home and family, doesn’t it?
Just the opposite.
Here’s what I remember most about Daddy: His presence and influence in the lives of everyone he loves.
Daddy came to every Girl Scout badge ceremony, Father-Daughter dinner, or other event I was in. He was in the audience for all three vaudeville shows my troop performed to raise money for a camping trip to Yosemite. He taught me to roll my sleeping bag, pack my duffle, and provided the base I used for my sit-upon. When my troop wanted to earn the Life-Saving and Swimming badges, Daddy taught every girl and any siblings who wanted to learn.
Daddy bought my first Bible. Every night, he’d come in for evening prayer and taught me The Lord’s Prayer. He made sure I memorized John 3: 16. When Billy Graham came to the Los Angeles Coliseum, Daddy took me to hear the great evangelist. I can still see the green wool blanket laid on the floor of the Coliseum where I accepted Jesus as my Savior.
Every summer, Daddy took our family on vacation to Yosemite. He told stories about the animals, the valley, the trees, and the Indians. We went on hikes, bike and burro rides, and the campfire at Camp Curry every night.
On the Fourth of July, Daddy put my little sister, Robyn, in the basket of his big, red, bike. My brother, Keith, and I rode our own bikes to the local park. We spent the afternoon swimming. When it got dark, we laid a blanket on the grass and watched the fireworks together. On the way home, we stopped at Baskin Robbins for a rare ice cream cone treat.
When I was in sixth grade, Daddy started taking me and my brother to UCLA football games. We always took Italian sausage or meatball sandwiches from our local Italian deli. Daddy taught me every fight song and cheer. He bought me a program for every game. But the best day of all, he picked me up at school and took me to UCLA—just Daddy and me. It will always be one of the best days of my life. Daddy showed me the important and historic buildings, the Inverted Fountain, the student store, and a wealth of other fun things there were to do at this school he graduated from. He made sure I knew what classes to take so I could achieve my dream of going to UCLA myself. When I struggled with algebra, Daddy tutored me patiently until I could do any problem alone. Of course he was there the day I graduated from UCLA, wearing a big smile.
Daddy instituted our annual Labor Day birthday party for my aunt Bev, my sister, Robyn, myself, my grandfather, and my grandmother—all of whom have birthdays within two weeks of one another. We added my daughter, Kim’s, birthday to that celebration too. Even though we don’t make much of birthdays anymore, getting together on Labor Day is still a valued day for our whole family. We gather there for Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving too.
Family drives on Sunday afternoons let Daddy teach us about aqueducts, missions, box canyons, birds, geology, geography, and anything we wanted to know.
Daddy taught me—is still teaching me—the value of being involved in the life of family, of staying connected, of giving all you have to give.
Daddy, I love you. You are my hero. Happy birthday.