2010-06-18 / Front Page

Father’s day celebrates 100 years, Sunday

By Julia Rogers Hook

With June comes the onslaught of summer heat as well as plans for vacations and days by pools, lakes, and the beach. And plans always include a summer celebration for Father’s Day.

Father’s Day falls on the third Sunday in June, and kids of all ages along with wives and mates search for the perfect gift for the fathers in their lives. Ties and golf clubs, barbeque equipment, and new Sunday shirts are all popular gifts, and some families will be grilling in the backyard or dining out.

The first observance of Father's Day is believed to have been held on June 13, 1910, making this the 100th anniversary of the celebration. The day came to be through the efforts of Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington. After listening to a church sermon at Spokane’s Central Methodist Episcopal Church in 1909 about the newly recognized Mother’s Day, Dodd felt strongly

that fatherhood needed

recognition as well. She wanted a celebration that honored fathers like her own father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran who was left to raise his family alone when his wife died giving birth to their sixth child.

Dodd enlisted help from the Spokane Ministerial Association in 1909 to arrange the celebration of fatherhood in Spokane. To celebrate the first Father’s Day, June 13, 1910, members went to church wearing roses. A red rose was to honor a living father, and a white rose was to honor a deceased one.

It took many years for Dodd’s plan to become official. Many people scoffed at the idea and said it was a first step to filling the calendar with mindless retail promotions.

President Woodrow Wilson tried to make it an official holiday, but Congress resisted, and it wasn’t until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation and made the third Sunday in June the official Father’s Day. In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed it into law.

As the big day approaches, we remember that some fathers are a world away from their loved ones serving their country with only the hope of a card or a phone call to celebrate the day. But one local man volunteered to follow his dad into battle.

Devin Fowler of Columbia is the son of Staff Sgt. Hugh Fowler who serves in the S.C. National Guard. He said his father’s service inspired him to enlist as well. When the senior Fowler got deployed overseas, his son volunteered for a spot in the same unit. The two served in Iraq and returned home this past February. While serving beside his father, he met his wife Brittney, and they now have a little girl. Fowler was able to come home for the baby’s birth but then had to go back to Iraq a short time later.

“It was very hard to leave them,” Fowler writes in his online profile. “My wife is young, too, and I knew there were a lot of challenges she would have to face on her own. I wanted to be there for my family.”

Fowler said the time serving beside his father drew them closer together, and his father was the one who introduced him to his wife.

“My career and my new family are both because of my dad,” Fowler writes. “I point my finger at him and tell him ‘this is all because of you.’ But I know it’s really a good thing.”

There are probably as many types of fathers as there are men with children, and the day has a different meaning to us all. But it’s a day, as is Mother’s Day, where we take time from our busy lives and go to our fathers and tell them how much we love them and how grateful we are for their love and support. We tell them with our actions, with cards, and with gifts. And some of us can only remember them because we’ve lost them.

It was July of 2003 when my own father succumbed to cancer, and I spent many nights sleeping in his hospital room holding his hand. He had been drugged to a coma state for the pain, and I sat in that dark room and held his limp hand, remembering all the things that hand had done for me and given me.

That hand had held my arms as I took my first steps and had pushed me endlessly in swings and taught me to swim. That hand had put the training wheels on my bike and then taken them off and held me up as I learned to ride without them. That hand had worked tirelessly to provide for my mother and me, to buy me whatever new thing that I ‘just couldn’t live without’ and later to send me to college.

To stroke that hand and watch the life drain out of the biggest and bravest man I’ve ever known was heartbreaking,

Father’s Day was always a nightmare for me until I got married. Then I inherited my husband’s father, who didn’t know me when I was little but he has, in a sense, watched me grow up within my marriage. And he too, along with my mother–in–law, has shown me love and caring and supported me in my endeavors. When he was recently hospitalized for heart problems, the worry and fear I felt was as real as it had been with my own dad. When she was ill, I couldn’t have cried more than if it had been my own mother. And the relief when they were both pronounced healthy and ready to go home was just as intense as it would have been if my father or mother had been able to go home.

I’m lucky. My own mother and father had to leave, but I was left with a wonderful husband and wonderful in–law’s, not to replace my parents, but definitely to stand in their place. Love isn’t in the blood, it’s in the heart.

I think this Father’s Day, I’ll wear a white and a red rose to church.

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