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What one word best describes your father?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 15, 2012 - Ahead of Father’s Day, the Beacon used the Public Insight Network to ask readers to pick one word to describe their fathers. Then we asked them to go further, first to explain why they chose that particular word, and then share an important lesson they learned from their fathers. Here are some of the responses.


He has served the country and our family with dignity, intelligence and love. As a high school teacher, he has shown many boys to be great respectful men.

Life lesson: To be respectful to everyone and treat them as if they were your own family.” — Billie Roberts, 37, Kirkwood, daughter of John Devoto


"He cares about everybody he's close to, starting first and foremost with my mom, my brother and me. He also has deeply cared about his work and his career ever since he entered the workforce in 1982, including pursuing and obtaining both a master's and an MBA while still working full time. This passion has paid off for him in spades."

Life lesson: "That I'm not entitled to anything. That's not to say that he kicked me out on the streets as soon as I turned 18. In fact, he and my mom were very helpful putting me through college and supporting me while I hunted for jobs after getting out. But I digress. The point is that he wanted to make sure that I knew that I would have to work to accomplish my goals and that nothing can be taken for granted or is given to you without hard work being put in first. I think our generation, sometimes fairly, sometimes not, gets criticized for having a sense of entitlement. He made sure that I would not be like that." — ­Spencer Engel, 24, Clayton, son of Loren Engel


"My Dad was a hero in WW II because he saved his ship and shipmates from an unexploded shell that landed on the deck of his ship. He has the commendation to prove it. But he was also a hero because he took care of his family, got up every day to go to work without fail, and sometimes worked two jobs to keep food on the table. He taught me three things: always have a job and do it right, love God, and never cross a picket line. I miss his wit and humor every day. Though he was my step father, he never treated me like anything but his daughter."

Life lesson: "Aside from a strong work ethic, a strong belief in God and labor unions, my Dad taught me to be kind to everyone." — Connie Bollinger, 65, St. Louis, daughter of Vernon Rehmer


"My father took on many projects in his lifetime. And whether it was building a stereo from Heathkits in the 1950s, creating a mosaic tile ceiling for our kitchen or building a boat, they consumed his attention — and the attention of neighbors and friends. The boat he built was a 22 ft. vessel with lots of teak and fiberglass. I have a memory of many people standing behind our house when the finished product emerged from the garage.

His most memorable adventure occurred in October 1958 when he and a friend took the boat to the Bahamas. Dad had a lung removed in May of that year, but with training on how to administer morphine, they went to sea. ... The boat was swamped by a northeaster about 15 miles off Great Exuma Island. After a night being buffeted by waves and wind they awoke to sunshine and a visible island in the distance. My Dad's friend put him on the raft and swam and pushed for eight hours until they reached the island — deserted, of course. After eating prickly pear type fruit and drinking water from a rock formation, they left for the next island. Eventually they made it to Exuma and a settlement, where help was called. What the paper didn't mention was that the morphine went down with the boat, too. Dad talked about that trip as though it was the best of his life, telling and retelling the story. He died three months after the accident, following an equally valiant battle with cancer."

Life lesson: "I learned that it is important to choose activities that interest you and then to give them your full and devoted attention. Hopefully, you won't capsize, and with persistence you will have some successes. But even with the failures there will be stories to tell." — Mary Clemons, 71, Kirkwood , daughter of Richard Poindexter


"On the surface, he was outgoing and affable and approachable. Yet he was not an easy man to know. His public persona was brilliant, fearless and uncompromising. But there was much more to him than that, a profound and large piece that only he knew." 

Life Lesson: "To be true to one's self and remain steadfast in one's beliefs. And to be kind and compasssionate, especially to those less fortunate." —Gail  Milissa Grant, Washington, D.C., daughter of David Marshall Grant


"Johnny was a man of very few words, but when he spoke everyone would listen with attentiveness."

Life Lesson: "Wisely, pick and choose your battles." — Brenda G Ringo, St. Louis, daughter of Johnny Ringo Jr.


"WWII B-24 co-pilot, POW, raised eight kids, never once came home from the office in a bad mood; carpenter, plumber, electrician, gardener, car mechanic, inventor, lighting engineer, city councilman, beekeeper, architect, welder, strong Catholic mentor, intelligent, good listener, loving husband, recovered alcoholic, helpful neighbor ... need I go on?"

Life Lesson: "Leave your business worries at the office, as your family probably doesn't care about your quarterly sales quotas." — Marlott Rhoades, 67, Ballwin, son of John "Jack” Rhoades

This article used the Public Insight Network.

Outreach specialist Linda Lockhart has been telling stories for most of her life. A graduate of the University of Missouri's School of Journalism, she has worked at several newspapers around the Midwest, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as a reporter, copy editor, make-up editor, night city editor, wire editor, Metro Section editor and editorial writer. She served the St. Louis Beacon as analyst for the Public Insight Network, a product of Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media that helps connect journalists with news sources. She continues using the PIN to help inform the news content of St. Louis Public Radio. She is a St. Louis native and lives in Kirkwood.

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