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Remembering My Dads

“Still waters run deep.”

That proverb describes Ralph Peterson, my Daddy. He was a quiet man. He said little in public, preferring to listen silently, taking in all that was said by others in a conversation.

But Daddy thought. And he knew what he believed. He held strong convictions about those beliefs. And he lived them; he did not merely profess to believe them. He acted on those beliefs, and that was evident in his life.

Those beliefs included honesty, hard work, self-reliance, and devotion to his wife. Those beliefs were the foundation of his life.  He was honest in his dealings with the people he served through his brick-laying skills. As a kid working with him during summers and on Saturdays and school holidays, on more than one occasion I saw him make a mistake and watched as he tore out the incorrect work and replaced it correctly–at his own expense. If he pledged to do something for a certain price, he did it–even if it actually cost him more than he had quoted. And, in the end, it paid off with more work and the respect of those for whom he did it.

He worked hard. I saw him labor from the break of dawn until darkness prevented further work. He got up early to dust the garden with Blue Dragon, then he put in a full day of bricklaying, but he came home and worked in the yard or garden until darkness overtook him. He built our house himself after his regular work day as he had time and money, sawing boards from the timber that he had felled on the property. He made many renovations to improve the house as the family grew.

And Daddy loved Mother. We kids regularly witnessed his kissing Mother goodbye when he left for work in the morning and hello the minute he returned home–and many, many times while he was home. Hugs and kisses between the two were a common occurrence, something that we took for granted. They held hands in public. They didn’t keep their affection for each other private. Although I don’t remember his demonstrating outward affection to us kids in the form of hugs and kisses and words of endearment, we knew without doubt that he loved us too. He made us obey. And woe be to the kid who ever disrespected Mother with a sassy comment!

Most importantly, Daddy taught his beliefs to us kids. Just as he was honest, hardworking, and self-reliant, he wanted us kids to grow up holding those same values. Underlying all of those beliefs, however, was his firm foundation in the Bible and its teachings. There could be no honesty, work ethic, independence, or true love apart from that foundation. Although Daddy is in heaven now, having passed before he could enjoy more than a couple of years of retirement, the truths he believed so firmly live on.

By marriage, I obtained a second father, of sorts, in my father-in-law. In many respects, Charles Dietterich has been what Daddy was not. Mr. Dietterich is gregarious and outgoing, always ready to strike up a conversation with even total strangers. Whereas Daddy was a good listener but seldom offered advice after I became an adult, Mr. Dietterich has been more than willing to suggest alternative ways of viewing problems or overcoming disappointments whenever I’ve sought his input.

With only an eighth-grade education, Mr. D joined the Navy toward the end of World War II and saw action during the kamikaze attacks off the coast of Okinawa and witnessed the signing of the surrender papers in Tokyo Bay. He returned to the States, worked hard, and became first a contractor and later an architect. He and his bride reared a family of four children and was heavily involved in church ministries, especially chalk art.

Mr. Dietterich and Daddy shared and lived the same biblical values of honesty, hard work, self-reliance, and devotion to ones spouse. By example, Mr. D taught me the necessity of being in the Word daily, of living what one learns from it, of giving God His due and then paying yourself first after that. He taught the importance of investing wisely and the importance of giving ones time and talents for others. And he listened, just as Daddy did so well. But Mr. D went a step beyond and offered insights and suggested possible solutions and food for thought.

Although Mr. D retired from his drawing board nearly 25 years ago, he has remained active, practicing that ingrained principle of hard work. For the past 13 years, he pastored a small church in Florida, having begun as interim pastor–“until they could find someone else,” which they only recently did. Now he’s retired again–to become the assistant pastor at the church! At the age of 89, he keeps living those beliefs.

One is fortunate, indeed, if he or she can celebrate a loving, godly, and exemplary father this weekend. I, however, have been doubly blessed in having had two such fathers–my biological father, Ralph Henry Peterson, and my father-in-law, Charles Edward Dietterich. They both have earned the honor I offer them on this Father’s Day, 2016.

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