“I Had a Father Who Talked to Me” was written by an anonymous author.
One of my sons carried the piece with him for years because it reminded
him of his father. It was read during Carl’s funeral service in 2002 and
used in this column in 2003. It seems so meaningful, still, that I
choose to use it again:
“I had a father who talked with me,
allowed me the right to disagree.
To question and always answer me, as well as he could
He talked of adventures and horrors of war, of life, its
meaning, what love was for.
How each one always needs to strive, to improve the world to
keep it alive.
Stress the duty we owe to another, to be aware each man is a
Words of laughter he also spoke, a silly song or happy joke.
Time runs along, some say I’m wise, that I look at life with
My heart is happy, my mind is free,
I had a father who talked to me.”
In the U.S., the first modern Father’s Day celebrations were held on
July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, or on June 19, 1908, in the State of
In West Virginia, it was first celebrated at a church service at
Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central
United Methodist Church. Grace Golden Clayton suggested the service to
the pastor, and was inspired to celebrate fathers after the deadly
Sonoma mine explosion in nearby Monongah in the prior December, which
killed 361 men, many of them fathers and immigrants to the U.S. from
In the summer of 1908, the story goes, sadness ran so deep, it just
had to be shared. As the birthday of her own late father approached,
41-year-old Grace Golden Clayton was thinking about her own loss, and
the loss of children around her.
More than 1,000 were without fathers, their lives blown apart by the
worst coal mining disaster in American history. Of the 361 men killed in
the Dec. 6 blast, some 250 were fathers.
Fathers should be remembered and honored with their own special day,
Clayton decided. So she made it happen.
Another driving force behind the establishment of Father’s Day was
Sonora Smart Dodd, born in Creston, Wash. Her father, Civil War veteran
William Jackson Smart, became a single parent when his wife died giving
birth to their sixth child. He raised his six children in Spokane.
Dodd was inspired by Anna Jarvis’ efforts to establish Mother’s Day.
Although she initially suggested June 5, the anniversary of her father’s
death, she did not provide the organizers with enough time to make
arrangements, and the celebration was set for the third Sunday of June
at the Spokane YMCA.
Unofficial support from such figures as William Jennings Bryan was
immediate. President Woodrow Wilson was personally honored by his family
in 1916. President Calvin Coolidge recommended it as a national holiday
in 1924. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson made Father’s Day a holiday
to be celebrated on the third Sunday of June. The holiday was not
officially recognized until 1972, during the presidency of Richard
I am optimistic about fathers. Of course, my father was not only a
caregiver, but a good friend. My husband was also the father described
in the opening poem. My sons, and men that I work with, are devoted to
providing guidance, love and friendship to their children.
The circle goes even wider. All year long, I have the privilege of
seeing former male students interact with their children. It is
heartwarming to see the respect between generations. This was not an
easy thing to achieve . . . it took a lifetime to build this attitude.
It goes even wider yet. These fathers also make good use of the
opportunity to influence and befriend the companions of their children
through church, school, Scouts, 4-H and sports. They realize that not
every child has a good father image in the home.
We praise God for all men who are a fatherly influence on the
children of our world. We can look forward to this generation of caring
men setting a good example for future fathers.