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Father’s Day – My Old Man

Photo: Rich Summers
Photo: Rich Summers

Father’s Day is this weekend. I thought you might like to meet “My Old Man”

Zac Brown’s song, “My Old Man” makes a lot of people think about their dad. I’m no exception. My old man was named Bob. He served in Korea. The photo you see above is my dad in Korea, with his trumpet (he was a musician and a teacher when he wasn’t serving our country). He’s reading a letter from my mother (that’s her photo on the stand behind him).

My old man, and my mom, taught my brother and me how to be independent, self-sufficient, and never expect life to be easy. There was no free ride for my brother and me. Dad and mom both taught school, so they had three months off every summer. You might think, so you guys went on vacation a lot, right?  Wrong.

My parents were never “rich”. Teacher’s didn’t get paid well when my parents were teaching (my how times have changed….said…no one…ever). So when summer vacation came from school, no vacations for us. My dad loved boats, and we ran a seasonal boat business in Soda Springs. We sold Evinrude Outboard Motors and a few different lines of boats (Larson, Starcraft, Mirrocraft and others).

Dad was a pretty remarkable outboard mechanic, and he taught a lot of those skills to me and my brother. Much to our chagrin, it was usually about 6am in the morning when he would wake us up…”Get up! Got boat work to do and deadlines to meet!”

So, Stuart (brother) and I would get out of bed and go down to the shop (it was attached to our house) and start helping dad, handing him wrenches, sweeping up, keeping the shop bench clear and organized. He started teaching us how to work on the motors as we got older. Soon, we began helping tune trolling motores up for the fishermen that would bring them in every spring. By the time I was 14, I was rigging up new boats and hanging V4 Evinrudes on the back of new boats for customers. Imagine the look on their faces when they would stop in to see their new boat, and there was a pimple faced teen drilling holes into the transom of their new boat!

On occasion, Dad would take some afternoons and leave the shop in a suit and tie. He would take his trumpet, get into the car, and drive away. He was going to play TAPS at graveside services for a Veteran that had passed. He taught me to play the trumpet, and eventually, I would go with him, We would play TAPS together. He was the lead, I was the echo. He taught my brother and me to respect the military. He taught us to respect America. He taught us to respect the Flag.

He played football in high school and he loved sports. He would watch me go from Little League to American Legion baseball. He would watch me play football for Soda Springs High School. Music was his real passion, however, and he taught us appreciation for all kinds of music. My brother and I grew up listening to everything from classical to jazz, rock and eventually country. He encouraged us to play sports, but he also encouraged us to participate in band, choir and the arts.

Dad’s health went bad is his late 40’s….and we almost lost him during a quadruple bypass surgery. He managed to make it, but he never fully recovered, and his quality of life changed. Stuart and I were both grown and with families of our own at this point. Dad gave up the boat business, retired from teaching, and concentrated on his music.

It was November 1, 1997. I was working in country radio in Phoenix. I got home and found a note (cell phones weren’t a big deal yet) that said “your dad had a heart attack”. I called home immediately…and heard the words come out of my mom…..”he’s gone Rich”.

I flew home and helped my mom make arrangements for the funeral. I told you earlier that he was a Veteran. I played TAPS at his graveside. It was difficult.

After mom passed, I kept the baby grand piano they bought when they were newly weds. It was the first piece of furniture they purchased as a married couple. The piano sits in my home today. There’s a photo of my dad at that piano, playing right next to the late, great jazz musician, Lionel Hampton.

I still miss him. I wish I could work with him in the shop again. I wish I could hear him play his music again. My old man…
Happy Father’s Day, dad.

Photo: Rich Summers
Photo: Rich Summers

The photo above is my dad with a young boy in Korea. The back of the photo says the boy was teaching my dad what to use for bait so dad could catch fish.

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