Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


June 15, 2013

Father’s Day – one day to celebrate them all — including yours and mine for untold sacrifices

— For years I thought I could make it through reading “Father’s Table Grace” on this weekend. Every time, the same thing would happen. I’d have to stop somewhere about halfway through because something always got caught in my eye or else I would have a little problem with my throat and have to stop. My old friends at church just pretended not to notice, most likely, but they always said how much they enjoyed it.

That recitation, as many of you know, was done mainly by Lester Flatt of Flatt & Scruggs and at my house, at least, the fact that I liked it was as much a combination of not only Father’s Day but more of Mother’s Day, too, because Mom was the one who loved bluegrass music. I grew up listening to nearly every song that could be accompanied by a fiddle or guitar or banjo and all the related material. It just made sense to memorize that poem as well.

Anyway, it’s been almost 19 years now since my Dad passed away and it seems like just about every day I tell somebody about something he said. There is hardly a lesson I teach at Tazewell where I don’t mention that “my Dad said this” or “My Dad said that” so by the end of the year my students probably feel like they are members of the family. I want them, too, because that is how I was raised.

Of course, our heavenly father seems to have all kinds of part-time fathers in just the right places when we need them. From the time I was a little boy until now, one of the finest blessings has been to have those gentlemen in place. Now, keep in mind that I don’t deserve such treatment. Maybe not a lot of people do, although there are a great many who would qualify. As it stands, my Uncle Gene Dalton would be right up there at the top of the list. He’s my Dad’s “little brother” and although we are only 10 years apart in age, I look up to him as one of the finest people I have ever met. Dad never told me anything except the truth and always tried to help in any way he could. Gene is like that. Can you imagine having somebody around who says the right thing all the time — or tries to? Well, that’s Gene.

One of my first memories of him is from Thompson Valley and I must have been about 5 years old. We were groundhog hunting just off Route 16 (what is now called “The Back of the Dragon”) and it came up a big rainstorm. Naturally, I cried and Gene ran up the hill in the pouring rain to get the car. He was the one who went fishing with Dad and when the three of us got to go over on Walker Creek, it was about as close to angling heaven as anything could be.

Daddy always said just listening to us fishing for carp was more fun than catching a whole stringer full himself.

However, just like Mom being the one who liked the music and making sure that I knew it was important, my Aunt Ruth is right there. She sent me a carp bait recipe, for instance, 42 years ago. It’s in my desk drawer, along with the original envelope — you can guess what the postage was at that time. Uncles have been great. My Uncle Frank was my first babysitter and we have been friends, railroad buddies, and family since day one. I talked to him yesterday.

The first time I saw the Cardinals play, he was there. You know how I feel about the Redbirds. My late Uncle Alfred was just the kind of person anyone would want for a father if you had to have another. I miss him a lot. Thank goodness my Aunt Gladys is still here because for every day of my life, she has been a wonderful support person and a friend who is always there when I call.

In my earliest days, another one of my family heroes was my Uncle Jabo. He’s Gene’s brother and somebody who has always given me good advice. I remember so many Christmas plays and other fun activities that Jabo made sure I got to participate in. Along with Jabo —  just like Gene and Ruth and Alfred and Gladys — was Aunt Elizabeth. She was, and is, a true friend who has done so many “not so little things” along the way to help me grow and make my life more productive. I don’t see her and Jabo as much as I should but both of them are in my thoughts and prayers every day.

The many father figures down through the years who have helped me are too numerous to mention. Pocahontas High principal Gaza Kovach worked on my college application and my dear friend and mentor Bill Stone, also a Pocahontas principal, made it possible for me to get my first job. How can you not appreciate men like that? At my long-time summer job, great fellows like Eli Jones, Bill Allison, and Randolph Thompson took care of me for many years. Walter Wright at WTZE Radio got me started in broadcasting years ago and remains a true mentor in my approach to on-air responsibilities.

Every principal I ever had at Tazewell has been a leader who has made my life easier. That covers almost 40 years, so you can see why in many ways I have never had a job with the school system — it’s been a career I have loved. A main reason has been the “part time” fathers who have been there to guide me through a roller coaster series of years. My great friend, the late Daily Telegraph Executive Editor Tom Colley, is another high rung on life’s ladder.

He did so much to help me put words together. Friends at Bluefield College like Charles Addington and over at Bluefield State such as Dean Anthony Puzzouli and Dr. William H. Brothers were always willing to lend a hand that I so often needed.

Mr. Addington and I went to the first college football game and basketball that I ever saw. What a wonderful person he was. Dean Puzzouli helped me with some tricky curriculum concerns and made my diploma a reality on time while Dr. Brothers was a kindly financial advisor in the tough days when money was very scarce. Friends in need, indeed.

There are others and I appreciate you all. I still think Daddy is the finest man I have ever known and although his name may not be up in lights in this world, it shines brightly in the next one. Happy Father’s Day to all of the greats Dads of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

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