You Did Good, Dad

My dad was a great man from whom I learned a lot. I feel the impact of his work ethic in everything I do.

I’m proud of my family: incurably and unashamedly proud.
— Joseph L. Felix

It pays to reflect sometimes—to reflect on the positives in our lives and even the negatives. Think about how we got to where we are, what has formed our personalities and why we do the things we do.

In our niche of the metalworking industry, I have been fortunate to meet many people who have grown up in the business, learning the trade from their fathers and often working with companies that have been in their families for two, three, four or even five generations. These people owe their careers, their livelihoods, to fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers, and they show their respect and appreciation by maintaining a similar work ethic and supporting the business to continue the legacy that has been established for them.

Even in cases where a shop isn’t a family business or employees are not from the family, the precision machined parts companies tend to be small, and employees are often treated much like family anyway. This atmosphere tends to foster an environment of respect and dedication, not only to one’s own work, but to that of fellow employees, where experienced professionals get as much satisfaction from their own performance as they do from the success of the young apprentice who is effectively finding his way.

With the recent passing of my father, I’m going to take this time to do some reflecting of my own and share my thoughts on how I feel he influenced my career. I didn’t grow up in a family business, but Dad certainly taught me a lot about how to be a responsible worker. I will always appreciate the positive impact that has had on my life, and I hope that others benefit from what I have learned.

In his late teens, my dad spent three years in the seminary, where he considered the priesthood, and then had two years in the Army. By most standards, he was an intellectual, a deep thinker, and he knew he’d find other areas where he could better contribute. So, fortunately for me and my siblings, he continued life’s journey on yet another route. He attained a master’s degree in education, as well as a master’s and doctorate in psychology. Then he proceeded to work for 25 years as an educator with the Cincinnati public school system, first as an English teacher and counselor and later in curriculum development at the central office. For many people, this would be considered a full career, but for Dad it only scratched the surface.

While in the Army, he got married and started his family. By the time the eighth child (that’s me) arrived, ten years later, he had created a parallel career in the evenings and on Saturdays operating his own counseling and tutoring business. This non-profit organization eventually grew to five locations around the Greater Cincinnati area and allowed him to continue his passion of giving back to the community another 25 years beyond his retirement from the school system.

Now it’s starting to sound like a busy life, right? But just because he immersed himself in his work, it does not mean he did not find time for other interests, including family time. Sending all the kids through private schools did not leave a lot of money for luxuries, but we did have annual camping vacations (including the unbelievable three-week cross-country trip with all 10 of us loaded into a station wagon with a tow-behind camper). We’d play ball in the backyard, read together or play board games. The point is, he was there for us.

Knowing I could count on my dad when I needed him showed me the importance of dependability. It was reflected in everything he did, and it was ingrained in every fiber of what I learned. To this day, probably my biggest motivating factor in everything I do is the drive to not let anyone down, whether it’s my co-workers, customers or readers, kids and family, friends or teammates.

And, of course, I can’t leave out my dad’s love for writing, since that is a trait that seems to have been genetically passed down to me. Dad had four books published. He had an ongoing column in the local newspaper for several years. He enjoyed writing about parenting and the importance of faith in getting through life’s challenges. His writing was representative of his overall views on what really matters in life. Rest in peace, Dad. You made the world a better place, and I hope I can continue to make you proud by doing the same.