I had just stepped on to the landing outside my older sister's apartment when I heard my mother screaming behind me. I turned around and went back inside and saw my father lying across an easy chair. He had suffered a massive heart attack, and he died later that night.
It was Christmas Eve 1963. I was in the fourth grade.
My father, Fred Phillip Dezotell, was just 48 when he died. He was a young man with five children and two grandchildren and a loving wife that were left behind.
Celebrating Christmas Eve was hard for our family for years after that. As was Valentine's Day; Feb. 14 was Dad's birthday. Father's Day was hard for us too. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows what I am talking about. Holiday celebrations can be hard on loved ones.
I remember making an ash tray one year in school for my dad for Father's Day, and my dad, the heavy smoker that he was, used that handmade gift regularly. That ashtray sat next to his chair for a long time unused after his death.
My dad was a good man. He worked hard to support his family; and he loved all of his children.
Someone once said, "The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."
My father did that. He loved my mother and he loved his mother, and we learned to love and respect them by following his example.
I came across an old poem in my reading one time that speaks about what makes a good father.
It's called, "What Makes a Dad," and it goes like this:
"God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle's flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so, He called it ... Dad"
From the fourth grade on, I grew up without a father. I have such fond memories of my dad, and I have missed him all these years. But, I have had some wonderful men in my life who were great examples of what a good father is. I have seen the qualities talked about in that poem lived out before me over and over again. And I hope that I can be even half of that for my children. I want Father's Day to be a special day for them.
A lady by the name of Sonora Dodd was the first one to come up with the idea for a "father's day." She heard a moving sermon on Mother's Day in 1909, and she wanted a special day to honor her father as well.
Sonora's father was born in June, so she decided to hold the first Father's Day celebration in Spokane, Washington on the 19th of June, 1910.
President Calvin Coolidge, in 1924, supported the idea of a national Father's Day; and in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father's Day. President Richard Nixon signed the law which finally made it permanent in 1972.
So, today we are celebrating Father's Day all across this great country.
I am thinking of Fred Dezotell today, and all of those special men who were great examples of fatherhood for me. I salute them all.
Fathers everywhere, I salute you. May you live a life worth following.
-- Doug Dezotell is the pastor of Mt. Lebanon UMC and Cannon UMC. He is a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette, and he is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend to many. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.