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updated: 6/19/2012 5:51 AM

83-year-old dad still saw Father's Day as his father's day

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  • With his nature photographs as a background, 83-year-old Phil Dunn of St. Charles reads his poem about the man he honored on Father's Day -- his dad, Harlo Dunn, who died in 1990.

       With his nature photographs as a background, 83-year-old Phil Dunn of St. Charles reads his poem about the man he honored on Father's Day -- his dad, Harlo Dunn, who died in 1990.
    Burt Constable | Staff Photographer

  • Sometimes the fathers honored on Father's Day find themselves thinking about their own fathers. Phil Dunn, 83, of St. Charles, hangs this photo of his father, Harlo Dunn, in his office.

       Sometimes the fathers honored on Father's Day find themselves thinking about their own fathers. Phil Dunn, 83, of St. Charles, hangs this photo of his father, Harlo Dunn, in his office.
    Burt Constable | Staff Photographer

 
 

Sunday marked the 17th consecutive year that I've received presents and cards, accepted good wishes and reveled in Father's Day as one of the honored dads. It is the only national holiday specifically designed to honor guys such as me.

But I still don't feel as if it's my holiday. I suspect lots of the men coming off big Father's Day celebrations know what I am saying.

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For the first 46 years of my life, Father's Day was about my dad, Wilson Constable. His death at age 87, a couple of months after Father's Day in 2003, hasn't change my mindset about the holiday. There is no passing of the torch, no inheritance of a holiday that used to be his. I woke up Sunday thinking about my dad. Even though my wife and three sons treated me wonderfully on Sunday and gave me presents and thoughtful cards, Father's Day is still my dad's day.

I don't know when, or if, that will ever change.

Sitting in a wheelchair in his St. Charles home, 83-year-old father Phil Dunn understands perfectly. He phoned me to talk about the man he honors on Father's Day -- his dad.

"Well, of course," says Dunn, who has lived longer than his father, who died in 1990 at age 82. A father of two, grandfather of two and great-grandfather of two, Dunn understands that just because a father has been gone for 22 years doesn't mean he still isn't the focal point of Father's Day.

"When I was very young, I wanted to be a straight-shooter like my dad," says Dunn, who admits to veering off that path at times during his life. But he seems to have inherited more than a last name from his dad.

"I introduce myself these days as the luckiest man alive," says Dunn, who wears a neck brace to protect a weak bone at the top of his spine and has other health issues.

I know the feeling.

Dunn is the father of Steve, who died of lung cancer in 2006 at age 52, and Tammi Sava, 54, who spent Father's Day helping her dad hang some of his beautiful photographs of flowers, birds, plants and animals. Hanging on one wall is a photograph of his father. Dunn speaks about his father with the same admiration as I speak about mine.

Harlo Dunn was a leader in the Boy Scouts of America until the family moved to Geneva in 1942, Dunn says. Dunn's dad led the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce for years, knew everybody in town and was involved in all the local service clubs, Dunn remembers.

My dad, whom everybody called Willy, was a farmer in Goodland, Ind., commander of the local American Legion Post, president of the Lions Club, a member of several athletic associations and involved with all kinds of activities at our church, school and community.

As Dunn and I chat (maybe brag a bit) about our dads, we find out we have more in common.

"They revered him," Dunn says of his father's last job and home in Missouri. "They even named a street after him."

There is a street in Goodland, close to the cemetery where my dad is buried, called Constable Drive.

I've written several columns about my dad during the years. Dunn, who is best known for his nature photography and his former ownership of the Shutter Shack in Geneva, wrote a poem about his dad. It closes this column by summing up both our fatherly feelings well.

My Father's Face

Father's Day is every day to me.

I say it not aloud, nor show it in my face.

But, should you meet me 'tis my fond hope, in some small way,

that you might that way meet him; for he's not commonplace,

As I do the little things each day,

I weigh my thoughts and my actions as if he'd know.

Hoping he'll be proud of me, even though he can't see.

And wanting everyone to hear; through me, his voice so low.

I see him then. Though he's far away,

the image is enough to make me change my pace,

I try in vain to walk his way, so straight and narrow,

that you might then look at me; and see my father's face.

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