Today we celebrate the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, also Father’s Day, a day set aside in 1972 as a national holiday to honor fathers. According to the History channel website; “On July 19, 1910, the governor of the state of Washington proclaimed the nation’s first Father’s Day.” The campaign to set aside this day started off much more slowly than Mother’s Day. We are indebted to Sonora Smart Dodd who felt that fathers should have an equivalent celebration to mothers. She persevered in approaching churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to celebrate this day in the State of Washington. One hundred and eight years later we may take this national celebration for granted.
Everyone has some experience of their father, but along with our mothers they helped to shape and form us into the persons we are today. My dad was born in 1919 to Nicholas and Bertha Hendel of German descent in Florissant, Missouri, the middle child among eleven brothers and sisters. He grew up in a small town in a family who were faithful Catholics involved in the church and the civic community. He fell in love with my mother, Anita Meyer, after World War II and they married in 1949, welcoming five children, four boys and one girl, into the world. He was a career Air Force Man, and though he left the Air Force, that experience never left him.
What was he like as a dad? Through my mother’s initiatives early on he learned how to feed us, change us, and take care of us while she made dinner. He was supportive of our activities, school, assisting us with our Scouting activities, and serving in various capacities for the Scout troop. He was generally kind and understanding, though my brothers and I could try his patience when we gave our mother grief. He didn’t use corporal punishment often, but when pushed could mete out some brief but clear justice.
Though now age 98 his memory is becoming more confused as the dementia worsens, some days are better than others. He no longer tells his stock and trade stories recounting his experiences at Debden Airdrome in England, the air base outside of Kimpo where he served in South Korea in 1952. He always valued relationships, self-improvement, his faith, and often took us on weekend drives many places of interest here in northern California.
I think the values of family, staying in touch with people, working hard, finishing projects, celebrating his faith, serving as a lector and Eucharistic Minister with our mother, having a good time at social functions, and dancing are all part of the legacy he handed on to us. We appreciate that in these later years of his life, he freely tells us that he loves and in turn we do our best to love him, even now when he tries our patience.
Like Saint Joseph we honor those men who raised us, gave us guidance, tried to mentor us in ways that helped us become the people we are today.
Summer Blessings, Father Larry Hendel