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By Mel White 

Honoring my dad's memory

On the Bright Side

 


In honor of Father’s Day I’d like to honor my father, who passed away in 2000, by telling you a little bit about him and how he lived his life.

My dad, Thomas C. White, MD, was born and raised in Southern Iowa. The oldest of seven kids, he was a dirt poor farm boy during the Great Depression, proud of his roots but destined to forge his own path in life. His path would allow him to pursue his many interests and make use of his many talents, taking him on several new adventures and allowing him a myriad of experiences well beyond the scope or expectations of his origins.

I came along when Dad was a pilot for the Navy, where he got to combine his loves of flying and photography. After 10 years in the service (and the birth of my sister in Portsmouth, Virginia), he quit the Navy and went to college in Iowa City, Iowa. After he graduated, we moved to Grand Island, Nebraska, where we owned the Pine Crest Motel and Dad taught high school science in Alta.

Later we moved to Omaha so Dad could go to medical school, and after that we moved back near his and my mother’s home town – to Chariton, Iowa – where he opened his first private practice. When he could, he bought a small airplane so he could keep flying, and he was still taking professional quality photos. Sometime around that time he also got to develop his hobby of collecting and restoring antique cars, and he got quite proficient in working with wood and making his own tools. When he wasn’t doing something else, he began building his own airplane.

Dad’s medical career eventually took him from Iowa to Michigan to Texas to several different places in California, including a 10-year stint as prison doctor here in Tehachapi. But even after he retired he was always busy with his projects, which also included a pretty elaborate ham radio set up, and an organ that he played every morning (he not only played music but he wrote it as well). Oh yes, he was also a published writer.

My father was a man with many interests, many talents, and many skills. But you know, it’s not enough to just have the interest or the know-how; the follow through is just as important. I am so proud as I remember my dad not only for all he accomplished in his life but for the very fact that he had the courage to envision and create his own life, and especially the energy and commitment - and the inner resources - to do the things he wanted to do, to follow his many and varied dreams. The Iowa farm boy took charge of his own life, his own fate... and he made good.

Each of us is different, I know. We all have different likes and dislikes, we all have different dreams and interests; we all have different skills and talents. Each of us needs to figure out what we want to do with our own lives, and each of us has the power to make our lives what we want them to be. Everyone doesn’t have to be like my dad with many interests and skills (although that’s not an altogether unpleasant idea), but for me, my father was an especially good example of someone who followed his heart and did what he wanted to do no matter what.

I know my dad got more of his dreams answered than not, and he got them because he made his own life turn out that way, from the humblest of beginnings to becoming a respected man of many talents and accomplishments. He took charge of his own life at an early age and never let go, using his resources and pursuing his interests - whatever, wherever and however he could - and that is something I’m really proud of and will always remember about him.

And that is one of the best lessons I could ever learn from him.

Happy Father’s Day to all the great dads out there.

© Copyright 2017. Mel White, a local writer/photographer, has been writing “On the Bright Side” columns for various newspapers since 1996. She is also co-owner/founder of the unusual and eclectic Treasure Trove in downtown Tehachapi; she can be reached at morningland@msn.com

 
 

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