Inspiration can come from anywhere and last just an instant or be a renewable resource that you call upon again and again. The renewable kind usually grows in importance and power the more you use it. It has intrinsic substance and depth—a beacon that guides you when the decisions become difficult, when black and white become shades of gray.
My father was a renewable source of inspiration for me and for many others around him. His inspiration was not of the ra-ra pep talk variety, although he could do that too. He simply lived his life with unshakable character. I don’t think I ever heard him use the word character in that way, but he surely embodied it. He walked the walk long before it became a euphemism for doing what you say you’re going to do. He was as tough as the nails he used in his long career as a carpenter (65 years as a union member), and he was as demanding of himself as he was of his children and the people who worked for him. He never asked you to do something he couldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t do.
My parents had a lifelong love affair. They were married 64 years. Dad’s focus was always on us—he never wavered in his devotion to family and a job well done. He took great pride in his physical endurance and strength and raced bicycles into his early 80s. His pride was always the pride of performance, never the boastful kind.
His love was not showy but rather manifested itself in an understanding of a simple truth: family above all else. At my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration his speech consisted of one line: “I always tried to do the best for my family and friends.” Is there a more powerful credo?
My father only went as far as junior high before he entered carpentry school, but his life was based on bedrock truths that are easy to lose sight of and even harder to live by. He passed away on September 7, 2005, just shy of his 88th birthday. If the memorable line from “Gladiator”—“What we do echoes in eternity”— holds true, and I believe that it does, he has no problems.
My sense of his lifelong inspiration has actually been amplified by his passing. As my son Justin said, “We were fortunate to have him for such a long time as both a grandfather and father.”