May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will leave the world a little better for your having been here. -- Ronald Reagan

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I was thinking about posting this Fathers' Day about the socio-economic impact of  fathers being relegated out of the family, being made out to be idiots and losers by popular culture. New statistics out show an alarming picture of the impact of this mindset on us all. I started to think about my own father though. He was, without a doubt, an amazing man.

Dad's Navigational "Computer"
He was a bombardier/navigator in WWII, Pacific theater. He told me once when we shared a couple war stories, that at Pearl Harbor, he ran to the armory to get a weapon and all that was left were pistols, and he felt pretty exposed and defenseless. I would say so. He told me too that he was amazed that the kind of war I fought in, jungle guerrilla warfare was something he would have had a tough time dealing with. I told him that what he did was crazy, being up in the air, and if he was shot down, where ya gonna go? I've just gone through my memorabilia box of his stuff. His "navigational computer", training flight log, pics of his buddies there in Hawaii, flight engineer log book, completion of training certificates for Aircraft Mechanic in 1941 at Hickam Field Hawaiian Technical School, Air Mechanic Trouble Shooter for the B-29 in Amarillo Army Air Field in Texas.There's his orders assigning him to the 39th Bombardment Squadron 6th Bombardment Group. 

Then there's his Air Medal:
"For meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flights as combat crew members in successful combat missions against the Japanese Empire. All missions were flown under rapidly changing and often-times adverse weather conditions. The flights were subjected to enemy anti-aircraft fire and fighter opposition. There were constantly present difficult navigational problems, danger of engine failure and consequent ditching many miles at sea. Under prolonged periods of physical and mental strain, and undaunted by the many hazards faced regularly and continuously, each crew member displayed such courage and skill in the performance of his duty as to reflect great credit on himself and the Army Air Forces."

In Dad's High School Year Book, North High,  Syracuse NY, 1940, the comment beside his picture:
"'Joe' joined this world on May 28, 1921. He is one of those silent few who can get results without asking too many questions. We have some inside dope that tells us he wants to be an aviator." The class motto by the way was, "Our lives are what our thoughts make them."

His aviation class book pictures him, the dashing, handsome aviator in cravat. One of my aunts said he cut quite the figure in those days. 

Dad was a man who could do anything. He took apart aircraft engines, car engines, did plumbing and electrical wiring, put in the lawn sprinklers, did landscaping, and carpentry. He made his living as an aeronautical engineer for Lockheed from the end of the war until his retirement. He used to joke, 'I can't even spell aeronautical engineer, and now I are one', and laugh. He was a calm man of great humility.

I saw him cry after the divorce, which was unnerving for a ten year old. This man's man, aviator, the man who could do everything, cried? He was an emotional and caring man.  

He raised us right. He has two accomplished sons. I spent more time with him than my brother because I lived with him and my stepmother about half my high school years. We all know how screwed up teenagers are, and I know I gave him more than enough grief. It was clear he understood though, and at the same time forced me to get off my duff, get some direction in my life, and produce. Most grownups and others I knew told me what I couldn't do, what I couldn't accomplish. He told me what I could accomplish, and made decisions that forced me out of my shell. I didn't like it, and got angry, but he was right. He helped me get started in college, supported my military service, and even until his death in the late eighties I relied on him for insight and guidance. Some say they have no regrets in life. I have a few, one of them being that in my twenties and thirties I was more motivated by sex, drugs and rock 'n roll than spending time with him and appreciating him.    

Here's to my father, and to all fathers that raised good kids, lived a good life, and did the right thing.

Color Him Father - The Winstons (1969)

1 comment:

rob said...

That’s a wonderful portrait, Steven. My father, too, was what could be described as “one of those silent few who can get results without asking too many questions.” He was a Navy gunner in WWII, and a regular Navy officer for over 40 years. He taught me the meaning of personal integrity and responsibility. But I owe him more than words can express…