Jana's father

My dad and I have bonked heads at times, but I know without a doubt that he loves me. He is generous with me and my family in many ways. He is the spiritual leader of our family and has been married to my mom for 57 years. I am blessed to be able to call him my dad. When I was a little girl, Dad took me to football games and baseball games, hockey games and at least one go-round of the National Finals Rodeo. He taught me to appreciate sports and to understand the rules.
So years later, I met and married my best friend, who happens to be a certified athletic trainer. He's the guy who runs out on the field or court when an athlete goes down hurt. Then we had a son who has played football, baseball and now at 13 is almost a black belt in karate. So for this band geek, sports are now a huge part of my life. If my dad had not taught me to understand and enjoy sports, I would be one miserable woman!  

— Jana, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Victoria and her dad

One of the biggest gifts my dad has ever given me is the opportunity to travel. We've gone to many Olympic Games together and have traveled throughout Europe, Asia and Australia. But in 2005, my dad changed my life by taking me to Tanzania, East Africa. The year prior, he had completed a dream of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. In 2008, he took my sister Chelsea to Tanzania, where she had an equally powerful experience. 

By taking us to Africa, my dad has completely changed the way we think about everything. We have come to know the meaning of generosity and selflessness through my father. My Korean-American dad is 6 feet tall, handsome, drives a '59 pink Cadillac and is one of the most stylish men around, but more importantly he has a huge heart that has always had room for kids. 

— Victoria, Los Angeles
Melissa and her dad

My father has always been in my life. He's a hardworking man who has always done absolutely everything he could to give us everything we have. As a teen, he was a field worker, traveling to make what money he could. In Vietnam, he served two tours of duty with the Marines. For as long as I can remember, my dad was very quiet and very strict. 

What I didn't know was that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As a result, I never really knew my father although he lived with me my entire life. I never talked to him much or hung out with him, and even hugging him was a little awkward. He has always been there for events and holidays, but I never felt like he actually was present or that I could talk to him. Last year, my father received treatment for his PTSD, and he returned a completely different person. I remember the day he came home, he walked in and he looked me in my eyes and said "Hello!" and hugged me. At that moment, I knew my dad was in there and happy to be home. I felt like at 20 years old I got my dad back. 

— Melissa, Clovis, California
Rahi, her dad and mother

My father died of cancer in 2008. He was suffering from oesophageal cancer, and once it was diagnosed, there were not many options left apart from palliative care. The last few months were terrible for him to live and for us to watch him dying. I felt deeply the meaning of a conscious death. He used to lie on bed and stared helplessly at the mirror. As an anesthesiologist, I realized how traumatic and painful it is to accept when it comes to your own near and dear ones. Being on the other end has made me a different human being all together.
I think my dad was a very brave man. Whenever I am low these days, I just think of him, how strong he was. My attitude toward my profession has changed. When I approach any patient's relatives in a similar situation, I recognize that they are going to lose a very important person. My dad has left me to be a better person and a better doctor. I can't bring him back, but I can try hard to be a better human being, a loving mom, a caring daughter and a great doctor. 

— Rahi, Cincinnati
Paula and her dad

My dad was a disc jockey when I was young, and he was quite the Bay Area personality. At home, he had three kids (later four), and he expected us to behave, do well in school and treat people with respect. He had rules. We followed them. He was also Mr. Fix-It. He fixed everything. He built a patio cover over the backyard, did mysterious electrical projects, put shelving in the garage, planted trees, put in a lawn, built and upholstered furniture and assembled many toys, bikes and weather stations for us. There wasn't anything he couldn’t do. 

My dad loved model trains and built a whole town of buildings, trestles and tracks on a big sheet of plywood in the garage. My mother was not excited about him using the garage, which was for a car of course, so he attached the plywood town to a series of ropes and pulleys that lifted it miraculously to the ceiling. It seems like those trains didn't run very often, but when they did it was fabulous to watch. 

— Paula, San Rafael, California
Judy and her dad

My dad was born on Christmas Day in 1904 on an island in Maine. He was not planned. His mother was 42 and nearly died in the process, and no one thought he'd make it either, though he lived 93 full years. My favorite story about Dad was when he was 80 years old and loved playing tennis. His serve could not be returned. But that spring, the head of the tennis club told him he was too old to play, that they couldn't find a partner for him. Since he'd always had a love for flying, he decided to head to the airport that day and sign up for lessons. 

At 81, he soloed and made the front page of the newspaper. In his words, "That'll teach them to think I'm too old!" Physically, he grew shorter but so much taller as a man. His positive belief that you're never too old and that age is just a number is one I hope I've inherited. I'm 74 and going strong! 

— Judy, Pagosa Springs, Colorado  
Jacqueline and her dad and mom

In February 2003, my mom was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. She was immediately hospitalized and went through months of treatment. While she was still in the hospital, my brother passed away from complications from idiopathic hypertrophic subaortic stenosis. In 2006, my mom was told the leukemia was back full force and that she needed a bone marrow transplant. After months of waiting, Mom had her transplant in October 2006. It was a long, hard road, but she fought and made it through. 

My father was a rock through all of this. He stayed by Mom's side, was there for her emotionally, physically and mentally. This July, my parents will be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, and my dad decided to make it a trip to St. Lucia for 10 days. My dad has taught me the true meaning of life and love.

— Jacqueline, Endicott, New York
Aprils' dad with his bicycle

My father was my role model for much of my life. When I got a D in pre-algebra in 7th grade, he said I "needed to learn discipline" and made me run with him after work every day, 3 miles a day! I hated it at first, but came to love it as our check-in time. Today, I love running because of my father. He was a single dad with two girls when he died, two weeks after my 21st birthday. Had he not raised us to believe we could do anything we put our minds to, we would not be where we are today.
His litany was always, "Look 20 miles ahead, because I'm not always going to be here." My father set a bar by loving and appreciating us and always believing when others doubted. I didn't realize it until I got older that he was teaching my sister and me how to love each other and that his legacy was ensuring neither of us would be left alone in this world.

— April, Pleasant Hill, California
Baylee and her dad

I am a mother of two and wife of an amazing husband who is incredible when it comes to being a dad. If my 4-year-old daughter could have an e-mail address, imagine her writing her dad's story, even though I will be typing: My dad flies planes for the Navy for his real job, but it's no secret his secret job is as a musician. He tells me all the time that I need to serve others and that this life is not about me. I don't get it sometimes, but I'll take his word for it. He keeps telling me about the kids in other countries and how I need to be thankful for the food, clothes and house that I have. 

My dad is going to some country called Africa and is going to write 10 songs in 10 days in the hopes of inspiring generations into global action. I don't even know what global action is, but it sounds important. My dad does a lot of cool things like color with me, take me to the park and take care of my mommy. He tells me that going to Africa to write 10 songs in 10 days is his way to raise awareness. Sometimes I wish I could raise his awareness about me not getting enough candy. 

— Baylee, via her mom, Christie, Conyers, Georgia
Charoltte and her dad

My dad was a Chicago weatherman for more than 40 years. He not only loved broadcasting, he loved the people that he met daily in his line of work. He made speeches at Chicago and suburban schools often twice a day, five days a week, before work. He loved meeting people: children, teachers, waitresses, service people, clergy, postmen. Inevitably, people recognized him wherever we went. Some greetings were gracious and cautious with a polite autograph request. Others were a hearty shout across the room: "Hey, Harry! What's the weather!?" It never mattered, however, what type of greeting was sent. My father always cordially responded to his fans and returned the greeting.
Over the years, I have met hundreds of baby boomers who tell me my father came to their grade school. Amazingly, each person who tells me this story also recounts how great they felt the day my dad came to their school. This is what I have learned from him and have modeled in my life. It is how you interact with people on a daily basis that leaves a lifelong impression. 

— Charlotte, Des Plaines, Illinois
Gwen and her father

My dad is 86 years into his journey of life. His stories are amazing—living through the Depression, obtaining only grade-eight education (that was all his one-room school offered), doing all sorts of jobs and ending as a gas plant operator. My dad taught me honesty, the art of humor, [that] there is nothing I couldn't do if I put my mind and heart into it, and that I am loved and valued. To this day, he is my golfing, fishing, gardening, card playing, Christmas lights decorating buddy. My dad being alive today is the best gift ever.

Gwen, Alberta, Canada
The Sturd Family

In high school I started as a varsity basketball player my freshman year. To say that I was nervous that very first game would be an understatement. My dad knew how nervous I was, so he wrote me a simple note and taped it to my mirror for me to see the morning of the game. All the note said was, "Relax and have fun." That was just the beginning. The next game he wrote another, more detailed note and then another and another. It just became a game-day ritual. I woke up every morning and read the note he left.

The notes would give me pointers like "stay low on defense," "use your legs when you shoot" and "keep your dribble down." He also would pull in the positives from the previous game and also the things I needed to work on. At the end of each note, Dad would remind me to relax and to have fun. The very last line of the letter was always, "No matter the outcome of the game, I'm very proud of you and I love you very much." This simple line to me was huge, considering that I lost nearly three times as many games as I won in high school.

Sometimes I still dig the letters out that he wrote just to read them. My dad would get home really late from work and stay up really late or get up really early in order to get my letter done. On one occasion he forgot to write it before I left for school, but when I got home after school to get my stuff to go back to the gym, you better believe that the note was there. To my dad, the act was simple but to me it was so much more. Just knowing that he believed in me, no matter if we won or lost, helped so much. This is why my dad is great!

Jancye, Arkansas City, Kansas
Margaret Stewart and her brother Dale

I am very fortunate to have an amazing dad...my brother Dale. My father was out of my life by age 10, but Dale, nine years older than me, stepped right in. He taught me to play sports (which got me to/through college), to stay away from drugs/alcohol, be a loyal friend and follow my passions. He has always been my anchor in life. He was a 19-year-old kid going to my father-daughter Girl Scout banquets, coaching my softball team, helping pay for my club sports, and later vetting my first date! How many fathers even spend that much time with their children today?

He has been a firefighter/paramedic for 25 years, dedicating his life to helping and protecting those in need. And at the age of 36, I made a huge career change and followed in his footsteps. Now we have even more in common—the fire service. Both Dale and my sister, Heather, have never failed to support and guide me throughout my life. We all have a very close relationship and I would be lost without them.

Margaret, Fallbrook, California
Bobby and his father

Having my my dad as my father has been the greatest thing I've known in life! My dad raised me by himself and has single-handedly shown me what it means to be a man of integrity and what it means to put yourself last and your child first. My dad sacrificed so much and did so without hesitation while I was growing up to give me the things that he never had. ...

In the last six years, my dad has had esophagus cancer, kidney cancer (had to have a kidney removed), went through weeks of chemo and radiation and treatment. He was given only a 50/50 chance of surviving his esophagus surgery, was in a coma for 21 days after that and was told by one doctor that if he did survive that he would be dead in two years anyways! That doctor was wrong! He then developed prostate cancer and had a heart attack. And as of this very week, he may be facing a new battle with lung cancer. But the man is a survivor and strong and has no plans on giving up anytime soon!

I want the world to know what a great man he is and that I owe everything to him! I want him to know that no matter what happens, I will always be there for him and that I say a thank you every day for having him as my dad. He is the bravest, most loving father any man could be, and I hope if I have children [that I] follow in his path! He taught me so many things, including that a father's love and time is what children need and want more than anything. He gave both of those things and more, and for that I will be forever grateful!

Bobby, Normal, Illinois
Bob, Jason and Joe

While most people may be writing in about the amazing biological father they have, my amazing "father" is someone that I did not meet until I was 17. My junior year of high school I began volunteering with HIV-positive children at a summer camp for terminally ill kids. It was there that I met Bob, the camp director. ... At the time, I knew I was gay but was petrified to tell anyone—it was the late 90s, Will & Grace were just becoming mainstream and gay wasn't exactly "cool," especially for a 17-year-old boy in Houston.

When I came out to my parents their reaction was less than thrilled and they asked me to move out. Bob continued mentoring me and helped me through the roughest time in my life. I felt that even though I was so alone, I wasn't alone. As I weathered my senior year living in an apartment by myself, working two jobs and finishing high school, I always had the support of Bob and his partner, Joe. I moved the following year to Chicago to attend Loyola University and have recently finished my master's.

While Bob is not my father, he is my dad. As my relationship with my true parents has mended over the years, I have watched as they show their admiration to Bob for the time they couldn't be there for me as parents while they dealt with their own issues surrounding my being gay. In retrospect, I don't know if I would have been able to accomplish the things I have had it not been for Bob pushing me the entire way and reminding me that I was never alone.

Jason, Chicago
Sarah's father and daughters

It is simple. My father has been the most positive and uplifting person in my life. I firmly believe he is the best dad I could have asked for. He always instilled confidence, courage, independence and stability. He is generous, so loving, kind, and what we love the best, funny! He is so funny. Not only does he keep us laughing, but he gave us confidence to do whatever we wanted in this world. He always told me that no matter what, I could do whatever I wanted. Because I am a woman, that can never be an excuse to not accomplish what I may want in life. Anyways, he is great and I am lucky to have him in my life and my children are fortunate to get to know this man.

Sarah, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Barb and her father Robert circa 1968

I had the best father who ever lived. He was not a rich or powerful or famous man. I was the third girl, after he had desperately wanted a son. Everybody always thought he was my grandfather—it was the '60s and he was 40 when I was born.

My father taught me the value of unconditional love. Every morning, he greeted me with, "Good morning, Sunshine." His eyes lit up every time I came into his line of vision. My father taught me the value of education. He was valedictorian, but didn't get to go to college. College was always a given for my sisters and me.

My father told me that I was so valuable. He spent all kinds of time with me. My favorite times were on Saturday mornings when he had to go into his office at the railroad. I would sit outside his office, in front of the newsstand. I would get to read as many comic books as I could before he finished and he would pay for whichever one I was holding when he finished. When I went off to college, he wrote me a letter every week. I still have those letters. When my father died at age 69, I was devastated. I can still hear his voice. I am the woman I am because of my father. I know he would be proud.

Barb, Herkimer, New York