Since I wrote about mothers and Mother’s Day last month, I decided to give equal time to fathers and grandfathers with Father’s Day coming up on Sunday, June 18.
My dad, Owen Guy Stultz (who went by his middle name) was not drafted during World War II as he was the oldest son and was needed to run the family farm. His father, whom we called “Pop” was a veteran. Although my father’s two older sisters went to college and became teachers, my dad stayed on the farm his whole life as did his only brother Ruel. Dad was a smart guy and very mechanically gifted. He could fix almost anything, which came in very handy with farm equipment which broke often. We lived in an old house (we have photos of it when it was a log house) which often needed repairs. Dad was a life long learner; I recall him going to night classes at Broadway High School’s Agriculture department to earn a Lincoln welding certification. He also took classes and earned his certification in septic system inspection and installation.
I was lucky enough to know both of my grandfathers and several great grandfathers. My grandfather Pop (Loy Byron Stultz) used to cut our hair when we were young. Yes, he actually used a bowl to give us that bowl cut. He died when I was 5 years old.
I spent the most time with my grandfather, Albert Lee Dove, of Criders, Virginia. We called him and other grandfathers all “Grandpa”; he was Grandpa Dove. Even though we lived in West Virginia and could not stay overnight during the week with my maternal grandparents when school was in session as I did before I started school, my younger siblings and I spent a lot of time in the summer and on weekends staying with Albert and grandma Bessie in their house built in 1953. We went to church with them and attended several Bible Schools each summer. My niece and nephew Jennifer and Jeremy Haviland now own my grandparents’ house and invite us for family get-togethers when we can reminisce about playing in and outside of the house. My cousins (especially Carroll, Clayton, and Lois Moyers who were really my mother’s first cousins but around my age) often came to stay or play, and we had many outside adventures catching lightning bugs, exploring the creek, playing in the barn, and other country pursuits. They also liked me to read comic books to them, perhaps sparking my career as a librarian!
When I was young, we lived with my paternal great grandfather, Jesse Stultz. He taught me to read using alphabet blocks when I was quite young. I remember when he died at home; he was a big man and fell out of his chair. I really didn’t understand what was happening since I was just 3 when he died. But now I realize how much he impacted my life. (I entered school reading quite well.)
My great-grandfather George William Ellis Whetzel (my grandmother Bessie’s father) lived near my Dove grandparents, and I often visited there where I sometimes got to play with the same cousins who came to Albert and Bessie’s house as well as other of my mom’s first cousins who lived nearby (Lucile, Elaine, and Elma Ritchie; the older siblings had left home). If the Germany River wasn’t up, we could take a short cut across the river to get to Grandma and Grandpa Whetzel’s house. I remember him once fussing at us for messing up things at his barn. The day my son (his great-great grandson; five generations) was born, March 5, 1967, Grandpa Whetzel went into the hospital and he died later that month, so my son never got to meet him.
I also had a great-grandfather named George; George Washington Dove of Criders. I didn’t see him often and I don’t remember much about him although I do recall a lot about his house. The bucket of water with a metal dipper and metal cups to drink from were something unique to me. He died when I was seven years old. He lived up the hollow from my grandparents Albert (his son) and Bessie.
On Father’s Day, remember those who helped you along the way in addition to or perhaps instead of your father. One thing that made me very happy recently was when my late son’s stepson told me that Jonathan was the closest person to a father that he had, teaching him much more than his biological father had and loving him and his brothers unconditionally. I was not aware that my son filled this role that well even though I knew he and his wife Deborah had raised granddaughter Summer.
My nephew once posted “while I am not a handy man by any means, every tool that I know how to use, I learned from my cousin Jon Lantz.” Sometimes other relatives or folks not even related can teach us things that others learn from a father. Nephew Aaron now has a 3 ½ year old son, named Owen after my father, and I wonder if he will be mechanically inclined as he grows up like my father and son both were.
Many people who are not biological fathers share knowledge and skills with others as they would have with sons and daughters; show your gratitude if you are lucky enough to have someone like that in your life who is not your father.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads who are reading this and to all of those wonderful folks who have been a father figure to someone who needed one!