Seniors pay special tribute to their fathers

  • Tue Jun 16th, 2009 4:46pm
  • Life

From milking cows in wee-morning hours to hiding chewing tobacco from their wives, fathers who were loved a generation ago left imprints that remain with their families today. In honor of Father’s Day, seniors from Sumner offered to pay tribute to these remarkable men and some of the greatest lessons they left behind.

Earl Hinz, Seven Hills, Ohio

When it came to having a musical ear, Earl Hinz played the part in just the right key.

“He was a musician’s musican,” said his son-in-law, Larry Heister. “He could pick a song on a record, play it twice and he could play it right back at you; piano, violin, sax, flute – no matter what you handed him, he played it.”

A “bit plump, with gray and curly hair,” said Heister, Hinz became a great role model and mentor for Heister, who grew up without a father but was fortunate to meet his future father-in-law while courting his daughter, Ethel Hinz.

When the two married, Hinz became the father Heister never had.

“He was my only father figure,” he said. “He had three daughters, so when I started dating Elaine, he sort of adopted me.”

Through their relationship, the two men formed a strong bond of mutual respect; Hinz displayed his musical skills and is believed to have once performed with the Benny Goodman Orchestra.

Meanwhile, Heister built a Cushman Eagle motorcycle for his father-in-law to enjoy.

“I put it together out of parts,” he said. “I’m no good at homebuilding, plumbing or woodworking and I’m not musical, but I could put that together.”

Their relationship grew strong. Then, Elaine passed away at the age of 36, leaving behind a grieving young widower to raise his three children.

But through the tears and heartaches, Hinz was there to play the role of father in perfect key.

“His family was one of those you hear about but you never see today,” Heister said. “I have never met a nicer man.”

The lesson learned: “ He was the greatest man in the world,” he said.

Earl Parrish, Buckley, Wash.

Diane “Dee” Parrish was in no hurry to learn how to drive in 1956.

“I had no driver’s permit and I could care less about driving,” she said.

Instead, she relied on her parents to drive her around the Sumner area – in one of Earl Parrish’s new cars, no less.

“My dad had new cars every year,” she said. “He kept them in immaculate condition.”

But one day, the inkling to drive was soon to be combined with one of Earl’s new cars – a 1956 Ford Fairlane.

“Dad called it titty-pink and white and it was a two-door,” she said.

With Mom behind the driver’s seat, Parrish rode as passenger on their trip from Sumner to Orting.

“We were going to purchase tickets for my grandma and me to go to New York,” she said.

Along the way they stopped at a small gas station and grocery located south of state Route 410, on the west side of Valley Avenue.

“Mom said, ‘don’t touch anything while I run in,’” she said.

It started to sprinkle. Parrish decided to help her mother out by trying to pull the car up near the gas pumps and store covering.

Then, it happened. The car – along with one very frightened teen – crashed the car into the store.

“I misjudged,” she said. “I hit the two windows in the store and drove right through. How I got that car stopped, I’ll never know.”

Her mom, not one to swear, swore.

She doesn’t remember how the car made it back home, but one thing was clear: someone needed to inform her dad before he headed home from his job with Puget Sound Energy in Bremerton the following day.

The duty fell on her mom. Parrish, left at home, feared the worst.

“The next day, Dad came in, patted my head and said, ‘hi, Hon,’” she said. “Nothing was ever said about that again and Dad got more new cars.”

Twenty-six years later, Earl Parrish, suffering from emphysema, enjoyed a visit from Dee.

“We’d hold each other and share stories,” she said. Finally, she couldn’t take his silence any longer. “One day, I said, ‘Dad, can I ask you a question? Do you remember when I drove the car …’” she said.

“He said, ‘Diane, I do not want to talk about it,’” she recalled. “And he squeezed my hand. It was like, that was a bad thing you did.”

She laughed.

“Looking back, that was my punishment,” she said. “Instead of him blowing his cork or losing his temper, there was that eye contact.”

She’s never forgotten his response to the accident, although “a lecture would’ve been better than silence all these years,” she said. “Still, I laugh about it now.”

The lesson learned: “Don’t touch the car!” she said.

Tony Miele, Tacoma, Wash.

At least two common threads bind Tony Harris with his grandfather, Tony Miele: first, Miele serves as the namesake for Harris, his grandson; and second, they both learned to invest in land.

“When I was a kid, he would always tell me to invest in property,’” he said.

Miele, a hardworking Italian immigrant who built houses in the McKinley area of Tacoma, Wash. during World War II, believed in investing in land and preached its benefits to Harris throughout his adolescence.

Harris never forgot.

“In the ‘60s I bought a piece of property in Sumner,” Harris said. “It was just a little over two acres.”

The nest egg sat for more than four decades until he and his wife, Edith, decided to sell it two years ago.

Advice spoken seven decades earlier finally paid off.

“We received over a 100-fold return,” Harris said with a smile.

The lesson learned: “Grandpa’s right!” he said.

Karl Howard Smith, Dayton, Wash.

Look on a map of Washington and try to find Walla Walla. Nearby, you’ll see a small farming community of Dayton, where Karl Howard Smith worked his land and raised a family.

“He was a big man – six-foot, one, 250 pounds and he wore pinstripe overalls and a dress hat over his bald head,” said his daughter, Linda Clerget.

Smith was a veteran of World War II.

“Dad served in the Marines and Army,” she said. “In World War II, he served in the Navy aboard the cruiser, USS San Francisco. When they were in the Pacific, they got hit really hard by the Japanese. They had to make their way back to Pearl Harbor to take back the wounded and dead. Dad said it carried the smell of blood.”

A nightmare of reality changed Smith’s life following the war.

“He went through all of that and lived his life to the fullest,” she said.

Clerget learned the value of her father’s appreciation for life when, as a young teen, she decided one day to run away. “I didn’t get my way one day and I told him I was going to run away from home,” she said. “He said, ‘OK, fine. Let me help you pack your suitcase.’”

Smith’s reply hit her like a torpedo.

“I started to cry and I said, ‘you don’t love me!’ My first thought was, wo-ah, he really wants me to leave,’” she recalled. “But I didn’t want to run away!”

“I do love you,” her dad replied.

Clerget changed her mind. She stayed home, grew up and soaked in memories of her father, who occasionally flipped pancakes into the air on early mornings when her mom worked at the Veterans hospital in Walla Walla.

Sadly, Smith’s life was cut short. He died suddenly of cancer at 56. And through his illness, Clerget was reminded of the man who not only fought for his country but remained entirely devoted to family. To life. And even to a teenage daughter who really didn’t want to run away, after all.

“I wish I would’ve gotten to know him better,” she said. “He died at such a young age and I was just getting out of high school. He taught me to be respectful of others and to be truthful.

“We would’ve been good friends.”

Roland Forder, Cringleford, England

Roland Forder was a man of integrity and a hard work ethic, said his daughter, Heather Benoit; even during the World War II bombing that threatened her home in Cringleford, England.

A head cowman of 40 heads of cattle, Forder toiled to provide an honest day’s wage for himself, his wife Ethel and their five children, including Benoit.

“We had to get up early every morning to milk the cows before we went to school,” Benoit said. “We always enjoyed each other’s company. There wasn’t none of this I’m-going-to-do-my-own-thing; we did it with pleasure.”

While the children and their father cared for the animals, Ethel washed clothes over a hot fire in a “copper,” hand-twisted the garments and hung each to dry on a clothesline.

After the milking came the walk to school and the doodlebugs – or what Benoit referred to as bombs that had the capability of scattering three miles once they hit ground.

“Sometimes, we ducked,” she said. “Once, they took the side of our school when my sister and I were on our way to school.”

The family survived the war, the early-morning milking and the risks of doodlebugs. Forder remained faithful to Ethel through 67 years of marriage. He left a legacy for which she is grateful.

The lesson learned: “He always taught me respect for each other, for family,” she said. “In this day and age, you don’t find that always for elders.”

Clifton LaFayette Center, Penn.

Grace Sphar’s dad, Clifton LaFayette Center, was a family man. He also worked hard at his job with DuPont, developing new products – which eventually led to one of her most comical memories of her father.

Sphar and her husband, Lee, moved often due to his own work with DuPont. Because of it, they rarely saw her parents and tried to visit at least once a year.

“Dad was so sad that my husband Lee and I were always gone,” she said.

But then came time for a visit, along with the young couple’s firstborn, Art, 5.

“Dad was working on smokeless powder and the men couldn’t smoke,” she said. “So a lot of them turned to chew.”

Center was one of them.

“Mom wouldn’t let Dad in the house when he was chewing,” she continued. “And one time when we were visiting, Art saw Dad chewing. He asked if he could try some.

“He looked down at Art,” she said, chuckling, “and he said, ‘your mother would kill me!’”

Although Center keeps that memory close to her heart, she wishes she and Lee would have been able to live closer to her parents, especially when Art and later, his sister Nancy, were young.

“He was the only grandson,” she said. “I wish he could have been around when our children were little.”

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