Fathers are our teachers. They support us, set examples and help us enter the world of adulthood. On this Father’s Day, The Advocate’s readers pay tribute to those special men in their lives as they relate some of the lessons they learned from them.
Lessons by example
Laura Daigle wrote that her father, Ralph Wille, sets a wonderful example for her and her six siblings. Wille, who is very active in his church and clubs, has been the caretaker to their mother for the last 25 of their 59 years of marriage as she battles Parkinson’s.
“We all learned how to get up and make the most of the day,” Daigle wrote. “Work or play, we learned how to prepare the night before and how to get out of the door on time. We love mornings and thank Daddy for introducing us to them.”
Sue Jamieson describes her father, James Theron “J.T.” Naugher as the true self-made man. He was orphaned at a very young age but fortunate to be raised in the extended Naugher family in North Mississippi.
Because he did not have the opportunity to attend college, at 18, he set out on his own for Jackson. “In years to come, he was a young policeman, deputy sheriff, owner of a cleaners, had a used car dealership and finally became a successful real-estate entrepreneur,” Jamieson wrote.
Jamieson said that she got her love of football from both her parents. “Even though a Mississippian, he and my mother loved to come to LSU games back in the ’40s. I was so happy when I was old enough to come with them,” said Jamieson, who later graduated from LSU.
“My mother would check with J.T. at Thanksgiving and Christmas as to the football schedule before setting the holiday dinner time. As I recall, he even made her check before my wedding date could be finalized.”
“His friends ranged from simple laborers to governors of Mississippi, and all were welcome in our home, no matter their race, religion or social status. This I try to practice in my own life and household,” she wrote.
Anne Maverick’s father, Ted Beattie, turned 90 recently. At his birthday dinner, he read a passage from Philippians, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”
“This isn’t something he articulated to us kids growing up, he just modeled it our whole lives,” Maverick wrote. “My husband notes that he has never heard my dad say an unkind word about anyone. I can’t say that I live up to this philosophy every day, but I was glad to be reminded to try.”
After the catch
Linda Hansen Manes recalls a wonderful Thanksgiving at her father’s camp in Leeville. “My dad, Robert ‘Bob’ Hansen, who died in 2009, was an avid fisherman all his life, having grown up on the Gulf Coast.”
On that particular Thanksgiving, members of Manes’ family arrived from different directions — her two sons from their colleges and her husband from a work assignment — to meet her parents to go fishing.
Manes easily caught her limit of speckled trout. Usually on these fishing trips with her dad, her father would clean the fish and put them in plastic bags for her family to enjoy. But this time was different.
“This time, he said, ‘Now you are going to see what happens after they are caught and before they are put in those Ziploc bags.”
Manes said she and her father met at the cleaning shed, where she “learned” how to clean and fillet the 25 fish she had caught.
“I had a lot of assistance,” she wrote, “but even as an adult woman, I felt great about learning something new with my dad.”
Julaine Deare Schexnayder, of New Iberia, got more than advice from her father, the late Earl Deare Sr. She got love and attention at a very critical time in her life.
Schexnayder, a breech baby, was born at home in 1943, “in the days when that wasn’t uncommon,” she wrote. “A few weeks later as my daddy was holding me on his lap in the doctor’s waiting room, he noticed that my head seemed to lean to the right.”
Dr. Vellein, who had delivered her, gave her father some exercises to stretch the muscle that extends from the base of the skull to the collarbone. In 90 percent of the cases, Schexnayder said, a child will grow out of the condition that she had, but she never did.
“Years went by and I became known in our small town of Jeanerette as the girl with the crooked neck.” Then she learned about a young girl with a similar condition who had surgery in New Orleans to correct the problem.
“At 12 years old, I started a crusade to convince my parents that I, too, should have it done,” she wrote.
The first step was to be evaluated by a visiting orthopedic surgeon who came to a clinic for underprivileged kids in the basement of the Iberia Parish Courthouse. The doctor said that the procedure was relatively easy and that it could be done at no cost to the family at Mercy Hospital in New Orleans.
Schexnayder’s mother was an invalid with crippling rheumatoid arthritis, and her father was manager of the local electric company, so a cousin, Edna Pedeaux Kobleur, offered to ride the train with her to get her settled the day before the surgery. The problem was that the train arrived at Jeanerette at 4 a.m., when there was no one on duty to signal it to stop to pick up passengers.
“My daddy, my hero, solved the difficulty. He got a special red lantern from the station master, and, as we stood on the railroad siding on a cool, foggy October morning, he raised it high and swung it slowly right and left as he had been instructed. The train stopped just long enough for the conductor to reach down to help my cousin, Edna, and me hop aboard.
“Daddy drove over from Jeanerette early the next day and was there in time to hold my hand as I was wheeled out of my room,” she wrote. “He sat and waited in a very uncomfortable hospital chair and slept there all night at my bedside.”
Joseph Savell Sr., who lives in Mobile, Ala., grew up in the Great Depression, a time when people learned to endure difficulties. “When I would hit my thumb with a hammer, he would say, ‘Think how good it is going to feel when it gets through hurting,’” wrote Savell’s son, Joseph Savell Jr., of St. Francisville.
“When I approached him with a problem with my first car, he would say, ‘You can’t expect them to run right all of the time.’ I have applied this philosophy to other areas of life than auto mechanics, especially my body functions lately,” he wrote.
Using your head
Phil Hannaman, of Tyler, Texas, says that his father, the late Cliff Hannaman, who was born and raised in Baton Rouge, died 14 years ago, but not a day goes by that he doesn’t recall a story or lesson from him.
“One of the things he taught was to give without having to be asked. He always gave without asking and almost always anonymously.”
Hannaman recalls a time when his children were young. He and his son showed up at his father’s house to mow and edge the yard.
“I started my son cutting the grass while I began the edging. Cliff and a neighbor were on the driveway watching and talking while I passed them on my way from the back to the front yard,” he wrote. “About halfway down the driveway, the edger stopped running in that so familiar sound when an engine runs out of gas. I turned to go back to the storage room to gas up and continue my charitable work. As I passed the two fine gentlemen, Cliff went into his teaching mode by saying, ‘If you don’t use your head, then you have to use your feet.’”
This time he gave loudly and clearly without asking, though not anonymously, Hannaman said.
Amy Courter Palmer, of Buford, Ga., still follows “an unwritten rule of the universe in our house when I was growing up...to be respectful of all creatures whether they be two-legged, eight-legged or any-legged,” she wrote. Her father, Robert Courter, taught her “the value of kindness and empathy to all God’s creatures.”
“To this day, I cannot kill any spider and have a great deal of difficulty killing ants, for that matter,” she wrote. “I guess I would make a horrible exterminator, but a promising Buddhist!”
The Rev. Tom O. Crosby Jr. said that his father, Tom O. Crosby Sr., became both mother and father to him and his two siblings after their mother died of breast cancer when the Rev. Crosby’s younger brother was just 2. “A happy memory was going with him from Jackson, Miss., to Louisiana to fish Lake Bruin. He made a bass fisherman of me.”
The Rev. Crosby said that the best lesson his father ever taught him was to be disciplined, both in body and spirit. “Show up to work and stay with the job,” he said. “Dad was a good example of good work and left us three children with an inheritance that came just right at the time we retired.”
‘Values for life’
Betty Singletary Bourque, of Gonzales, wrote that her father, Wade Singletary, was born in May 1888. He was one of 10 children in a family that also took in two cousins whose mother had died.
Bourque’s parents were married when her father was 50. She was their only child.
“He was a wonderful dad who taught me the basic values for life. He would say, ‘Never make a promise that you can’t keep, and a man’s (or woman’s) word is his bond. Never lie. It will always catch up to you, and, of course, Sunday meant church.”
When Bourque was a student at Southeastern, she would catch the bus to Hammond at Colyell Bay in Livingston Parish. Her father would let her drive their 1950 Ford home from the bus stop.
She recalled the time she “took a curve too fast on the graveled rod, jumped a ditch and ended up in the field.”
“He quietly got out, found two fence posts, which he placed across the ditch, backed the car back onto the road and said, ‘Now try again, a little slower.’”
‘New goal on the horizon’
Steve Myers’ father, Charlie Myers, mentored all nine of his children and thousands of other students and athletes at New Orleans Academy, Ecole Classique in Metairie and currently at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans.
“During his basketball coaching years, there were good teams, and there were bad teams,” Myers wrote. “In either case, when his players took the court, the advice was always the same before the game, at every timeout and at halftime break. He would end his coaching points with the send-off, ‘Okay, let’s win this quarter.’”
Steve Myers said his father’s lesson was simple. “It’s good to dream big, winning the championship or a stunning upset, but kids need to be reminded that you get there by breaking down big goals into manageable parts. A 20-point lead in one quarter was never a reason to coast, and a 20-point deficit was no reason to quit because there was always a fresh, new goal on the horizon, the next quarter.”
Steve Myers says that his father, now 91, won a lot of quarters. “Coach Myers was inducted into the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame with more than 500 victories. More important, his students and athletes came away with a skill transferable to life — setting specific, realistic, manageable goals.”
James R. Madden accompanied his father, Paul H. Madden Jr., to Metz, France, in November 2009. The city and surrounding towns were celebrating the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the city from German occupation in World War II.
“On Monday, Nov. 23, we visited the Lorraine American Cemetery, where a number of my father’s comrades are buried along with about 11,000 others. They were members of Company A, 379th Infantry Regiment, 95th Division, 3rd Army, Harry Baron, of New York; Hugh A. Ingalls, of California; Thomas A. Amato, of Ohio; Edward K. Fuller, of Massachusetts; Peter C. Grassman, of Arizona; John D. Noel, of Kentucky; and Marlin J. Boudreaux, of Louisiana.
“The lesson my dad imparted to me during the visit is you never forget your buddies,” James R. Madden wrote.
Albert Hayes Sr. taught his daughter, Deanna Hayes Wilson, many life lessons in the huge garden he grew every summer.
“He said that if I learned how to save and not waste money or food during the plentiful times, then I would be prepared to weather the hard times because I would make a habit of never wasting anything or taking anything for granted. Thanks to my daddy’s lessons on waste not, want not, I was able to survive some rough economic times in my life,” Wilson wrote.
On Saturday mornings, Wilson would fish with her father at Miller’s lake. It was during the fishing trips that Hayes taught Wilson the importance of listening.
“He said sometimes it was better to be silent and listen to what others were saying and learn in that manner. On the other hand, Daddy would tell me that the time to be silent should end whenever I see unfairness or injustice.”
J. Ron Thibodeaux’s father, Alexander Thibodeaux, taught his son how to develop a good credit rating. “He advised that I could start by going to a local department store, open a charge account, charge some clothes and then pay the bill off very soon,” Ron Thibodeaux wrote.
Thibodeaux, then 21, followed his father’s advice, opened an account, charged a $65 suit and went straight to the credit office and paid off the $65 balance. “I was very pleased because I knew I was on my way to building up good credit,” he wrote.
When he got his first statement, instead of a zero balance, Thibodeaux had two $65 charges on his account. Again he asked for advice.
“Dad said to go to the store and explain what happened,” said Thibodeaux, who did what his father advised.
However in the next statement, he had a $65 credit balance. “Again I asked my father, ‘Now what?’”
“Dad said, ‘Go back to the store and ask them for your money in cash. They will check closer and discover their error.’”
“I did that and they finally straightened it out, so I got my zero balance,” wrote Thibodeaux, who described his father as the smartest man he ever knew.
Jenny Bryan Hay says the one thing she learned from her dad, Floyd Bryan, was humility. “He was a Navy pilot in the Korean War and is super intelligent but was, and still is at 85, a very humble man,” she wrote. “He taught us to never brag or complain. He rarely talked about himself. It was always, ‘How are you doing? Is there anything you need?’”
Value of a dollar
Joan Patin Normand said the best lesson her dad, Richard Patin, taught her was the value of a dollar. She was one of six children growing up in New Orleans.
“Anything we wanted, we had to work for it,” she wrote. “In high school, I washed and waxed cars to make money. I saved enough money when I was 16 to buy my first car, a used Delta 88 Oldsmobile.”
Normand was very proud of her car and took excellent care of it. “I would not let anyone eat in it or smoke in it,” she wrote.
When a friend turned 16, her parents gave her a car for her birthday. “Not only did she not take care of it, she would eat in it, throw the garbage in the back and smoke in it,” Normand said. “One night, she had a fight with her boyfriend in her car and kicked in the dashboard. This is when I truly understood the value of a dollar, and I learned that if you have to work for something yourself, you are apt to take better care of it than if something is just given to you.”
Cathy Hudgins Arnett, of Greenwell Springs, said her father, the late Floyd Whitworth Hudgins, had been seriously injured in World War II. “After two years or more of intense physical therapy, he came out of the war missing a portion of his right shoulder and upper biceps,” she wrote. “Since I never knew Daddy without this shrapnel injury, I thought nothing much about this until years later. I began to understand the great sacrifices that not just my dad but all the veterans made during the war. … From him, I learned to appreciate the importance of sacrifice for the well-being of others. ”
Because of her father’s example, Arnett decided to go into nursing.
Susan Dixon, Bobbie D. Shaffett, Verna D. Fletcher and Vernon Dixon Jr. wrote that they learned from their dad, Vernon Dixon Sr., to set priorities — love and service to God, family and your fellowman. “Don’t just be a member. Be an active participant, and don’t give up in hard times,” their father taught them.
“Much of the other advice he imparted dealt with driving,” they said. “He always advised that a car is the most expensive thing you will ever own. It depreciates when you drive it off the lot and sits in your driveway costing you money.”
He also advised his children to never drive a car without a good spare tire. And, as he told his grandson, who was driving a family hand-me-down, not so cool car, “A poor ride beats a proud walk.”
Adelle Anderson describes her father, Steven Anderson, of Lafayette, as quirky, brilliant and a terrible dancer.
He is a geologist by profession, but his favorite hobby is flying planes. “He built a kit plane over the course of four years, assembling the engine, constructing the wings and wiring the circuits with support from my mom and myself,” Adelle Anderson wrote. “He finished the plane the year I graduated high school, and there was no doubt who his first passenger would be.”
Anderson says she and her father fly together whenever they have the chance. “He comes from Lafayette to Baton Rouge on the weekends to visit me, takes me out to breakfast and fills up my gas tank,” she wrote. “He introduces me to great books and tells me stories from World War II. The best adjective for him would be consistent.”
‘Love in deed’
Mary Thibodeaux, of Walker, wrote a poem, “Daddy’s Shoes,” about her father, the late Raiser Rachal, a cotton farmer. “I look at the scars you bear, the weather-beaten look, your wrinkled calloused hand. I see the marks of a good husband and daddy and the love of a family man,” she wrote. “Many times I’ve met someone that shared with me how you brought food to their home, how you would cut firewood for the sick or a widow that was alone. You were known for helping others, reaching out to those in need. You were the kind of man that showed your love in deed.”
Teach by example
Kenneth A. Perret learned many lessons from his father, the late Joseph D. Perret Sr., “He was a businessman in New Orleans who was the owner of Perret’s Mens Wear,” Perret wrote. “I had the privilege to work for him during my high school and college days. He was a tough, but fair boss, and the main lessons he taught me were by example, not by words. He treated all customers honestly and with respect. Above all, he was true to his word and the Catholic faith that guided all the major decisions of his life. He provided well for his wife and eight children and loved to celebrate with family and friends.”