While America celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan, I’d like to pay a small tribute to another great man who also was born a hundred years ago – my dad. Though for a while the two – my dad and Reagan – actually lived within a few miles of each other, my dad and he never met. My dad did, however, know others who had their stories about Reagan – and some of them are probably true.
My dad grew up and lived his entire life in one community. When he was a child, horses were still an important means of travel. By the time he had died, men had walked on the moon. My dad graduated from high school, worked at a lumber yard, and eventually became manager of that yard. He served as president of the school board, justice of the peace, and mayor of the city for a couple of decades. At times my dad would hold court in our kitchen, and perform marriages in our living room. My father’s advice was valued by the community.
I actually got to know my dad best later in life when I worked beside him and eventually took over his job when he retired. I am very thankful for those several years. For a while, many of my dad’s friends were my friends also – mostly older men in the community. I learned a lot about people from my dad and from working with his friends and customers in the community.
Dad would put some of his wisdom into little packets a sentence or two long – something you may not have even noticed when he said it, yet years later it would pop up in your memory. For one example, over the centuries economists have boiled down their ideas of money and value to the simple understanding that nothing – and particularly money – has intrinsic value; its value is determined by what we are willing to trade for it. As far as I know, my dad never read an economics book in his life, nevertheless he understood this concept and had a way of nailing it in one little quip which I often quote and attribute to him, and I think most people get some of the humor of it, but I doubt very many actually understand the wisdom in it. My dad always said, “I don’t really need any money. It’s always the other guy who needs the money.” My dad said a lot of things like that. I could write a book, “Quips from My Father” or “All I Ever Really Needed to Know about Life I Learned from My Dad’s Offhand and Sometimes Off-Color Remarks.” Here’s another one: Ronald Reagan had a saying that there is no limit to how far a man can go or what a man can accomplish, so long as he doesn’t care who gets the credit. My dad put it simply this way, “The man who deserves credit doesn’t seek it; the man who seeks credit doesn’t deserve it.” My dad received a whole lot less credit than he deserved.
Did my dad have any faults? Quite frankly, I don’t remember, and what’s more, I don’t care. He may not have been the greatest man I ever met, but he was the greatest man I ever knew. I love my dad and appreciate him more now than I ever did when he was alive, and I would never do anything to dishonor him. I wish he were here. In a way, he still is.