A Tribute to Dad:
Reliving Merion and a Dad’s Mentoring
Whenever I meet friends and family and the conversation turns to parents, I am quick to say that “my mom taught me the good things in life and my dad the bad things”. At first glance that may seem rather demeaning to dad. But it is intended as the ultimate complement. Here’s how!
What bad things did dad teach me? Well, dad showed me how to order a beer and smooze with new acquaintances. You see, in order to compete in the world, dad knew a man must have a wealth of experiences to succeed. Some of those experiences are going to cater to the less sophisticated things in life (mom’s job was to show me that other side).
Turns out my dad never graduated high school, but he was street savvy. He fought with the First Marine Corp Division at Guadalcanal. “We were the bastards of the war in the Pacific campaign”, dad reminded me as we watched WWII highlights on the History Channel. “Ike and Patton focused their attention on winning in Europe at the expense of our troops fighting in the tropics”, he proudly asserted.
His stories of lightning clanging off the tanks in the Pacific were among my favorite bedtime tales.
I also remember Dad telling me how a guy named Elmer was hit in the same foxhole he fought in. I don’t recall if that soldier died. Doesn’t matter, if he didn’t others did. Why, you ask? So some 60 years later I could live a good life free of Communism and enjoy a career in Meteorology at one of the best TV stations in America.
That saga in the Pacific stands out as does the story of Klondike Anthony, a fictional character who lived in Alaska where it was always cold and snowy. Dad knew I loved winter so he conjured up a make-believe weather hero for me to latch onto. Dads are clever that way!
Now you know where the tales of Klondike Tony come from!
Ah yes, meteorology! My interest in weather first sparked when I was 10 years old during a Christmas Eve snowstorm in Philly. From there, that curiosity “snowballed” and all the while dad was taking mental notes. Mom wanted me to be a doctor, but dad saw that sparkle in my eye when it came to weather. Dad’s premonition that meteorology would be a lucrative field someday proved to be dead on!
Since meteorology was math and science oriented and I was a straight A math student, dad knew that the weather would be a perfect fit for my God given talents. It was a natural match, dad surmised!
Oddly, when I chose meteorology, dad gave me one last “food for thought” nugget to gnaw on. Dad had become a successful real estate salesman with his street smarts, debonair demeanor and some old fashioned hard work (he worked 2 jobs while struggling to support his family in the years after WWII). “Son”, dad warned, “study meteorology with my blessing and financial support, but if you want to make money in this world, you have to go into sales”.
Sure enough, thirty years into my TV career and I do not make as much money as my dad made in his heyday. On the other hand, I doubt dad ever enjoyed his career as much as I do. His admonition was a final test I needed to pass.
Oh yeah, dad also taught me how to play golf. Starting at age 10, dad began to take me under his wings. He knew golf, a sport he didn’t take up until in his 40s (those days of two jobs put a crimp on any social activity), was a sport for a lifetime. Golf could be a jumping ground for meeting people in the corporate world, the movers and shakers who could open doors to new challenges and opportunities.
I still remember the pride dad beamed when I entered the Philadelphia Pub Links Better Ball Tournament in 1979. Round number one was played in a steady, annoying rain and dad walked all 6 hours/18 holes with me and my partner (Munchie DiRugeris). We were among the first groups off and remarkably, held the clubhouse lead for more than 2 hours after we signed our scorecard. Dad walked every sopping step of the way that day.
Before he died nine years ago, dad still looked forward to riding 18 holes when I came home to visit. Naturally, I convinced him to hit a few tee shots on the par 3’s! Only when dad hit 70 years did I finally beat him at 18 holes. That happened at one of Philly’s best public courses and my all time fav, Cobbs Creek.
In fact, one tradition that my dad and I shared was to watch the US Open every Father’s day weekend. We did that for the last time in 2004 when Jim Furyk won at Olympia Fields.
This weekend, venerable Merion CC in suburban Philly is hosting the Open. I will watch anxiously to see if Phil can break through with his first or if Tiger can add a fourth US Open crown to his mantle. Our coverage of the National Championship of American golf begins Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 12. It will be high drama starting at high noon on WSAZ!
Dad took me to my first ever Open in 1971 at Merion. I remember the huge crowds and people using periscopes to see as the galleries that followed the leaders were 5 and 10 deep. An who could forget those wicker basket pins?
The playoff would feature the Golden Bear, my favorite, and the “Merry Mex” Lee Trevino. Dad took a shine to Trevino probably because he was a blue collar golfer, much as my dad was in the hard days. “How do you know what to do at a golf tourney,” I asked dad? “Just follow the roar”, was his insightful advice!
So here’s to my dad, who inspired me to be a meteorologist and taught me to play golf. Dad would have been proud of me beating Keith Morehouse two years ago at Snowshoe but even prouder of me for working hard to make WSAZ-TV one of the best TV stations in America. After all, it was dad’s intuition that has guided me now well into my 50s.
Happy Fathers Day to all and to dad I say thanks and I love you.