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A day for dads

Father’s Day was observed in an unusual and interesting way at First Baptist Church in Hartselle Sunday: Three members of the congregation were called on by the pastor to supplement his sermon by telling the audience what their dads mean or meant to them as siblings.

Interestingly, all three mentioned church attendance as a central practice in their lives. Other points included family devotion, spending quality time with family members and intestinal fortitude.

Like everyone, I have my own story to tell about my father.

My dad was born as the middle child in a rural Alabama farm family that experienced extreme difficulties in making ends meet during the 19l0s, 1920s and 1930s. As a teenager, he faced the loss of his father and was forced to assume adult responsibility for the operation of the family farm and the welfare of his widowed mother and three younger siblings.

The nation was struggling in the early years of the Great Depression. Job opportunities were practically nonexistent.

Rather than sticking out his dilemma at home, he decided to volunteer for a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy as a 17-year-old. His military service would provide free clothing and living expenses as well as room and board. In addition, it would provide a family allotment, with partial funding from his monthly salary matched by the federal government.

Money going home would provide a safety net for his family as long as he was enlisted.

In 1939 he was honorably discharged and returned home to marry my mother and raise a family. From the meager funds my dad received from the Navy, the majority was spent for my mother’s wedding dress, shoes and stockings and a new pair of working shoes for her father.

Life was difficult for my dad during the first four years of his marriage. He earned the family living as a sharecropper for four different landowners, moving from one farm to another to have access to a better parcel of land.

During the same time, the family grew by three children.

World War II changed the direction of my dad’s future. He took a job as a dairy farm employee in 1941 and ultimately advanced to route operator. The job exempted him from military service and enabled him to earn enough money to purchase his own farm in Clay County.

It was on this family farm where my dad’s influence and leadership led to the Christian faith, work ethic, good citizenship and career success of all seven siblings.