My own father, Charles Richard Lilly, orphaned very young and adopted by the Lillys, became creative, clever, funny, strong, and moral. He was a policeman, then California Highway Patrolman. He studied law, played golf and bowled, played piano and guitar and sang. He taught Sunday school. He was an interactive father before that was popular. He treated all people with respect and affection. He was big and snuggly and strong and I was safe and happy in his arms. He didn't live long enough for me to learn grown-up lessons from him, but he created my image of what a good man is.
My stepfather, Richard Mills Pierce, married young and had three children. He and his first wife adopted a fourth. His family had been neighbors with my mom's family in Healdsburg, CA, and it was a Godsend that he re-entered her life shortly after his divorce and Dad's death. They fell easily into roles that were centered on family. They went through a lot of ups and downs together, and we didn't make it easy on them, ever. But they successfully raised eight kids, all of us had access to higher education, and most of us are college graduates. He installed carpet for more than 40 years, working on his knees to provide for all of us. He worked evenings too, so he could eventually start his own business. He was a boy scout leader for more than 20 years. He took us places we'd never been -- camping, skiing, diving for abalone, backpacking, fishing, even flying airplanes. He never made us feel different or separate from his blood-related children. We were a family, as strong as any family ever was, because he and Mom were committed to family first and foremost. I still don't know how they managed it all so well, and I am eternally grateful for their sacrifices, love, devotion, teaching, and support.
My father-in-law, William Donald Lyons, was one of the first parents-of-friends I really got to know. He lied about his age to start working for the railroad when he was seventeen, served in the Korean war, worked demanding physical jobs on the trains his whole career, and was a model husband and father. He built houses. He knew and could repair anything on cars. He could do everything from blast granite for a foundation to sweep floors and clean out kitty litter pans. Nothing was beneath him, and nothing was beyond him. He took every situation in stride, solved problems with calm logic, and completed projects with skill and impeccable standards. When I was in high school, I said that if Matt turned out to be half the man his dad was, I would be happily married to him forever. I still love Don dearly and miss him deeply.
Knute's dad, Niel Klendenon Snortum, died before I had a chance to call him my father-in-law, but he was instrumental in making Knute the wonderful man he is today. He also served in the military, earned his PhD in English, and was head of the English department at San Francisco State University. He was a renaissance man before that was a term. He dug and built the dark-bottomed swimming pool that was the center of so many youth group and high school parties. He wrote the textbook, "Contemporary Rhetoric." He had a fascinating, mysterious workshop in the basement that held all manner of tools and parts and bits of things that might come in handy, and he used it to great success, repairing, innovating, improving, with minimal technology or investment. He fashioned a switch spliced into the TV sound wire, with which he could mute the television during commercials -- he called it the blab-off -- long before the advent of remote controls. He collected folk music, folk stories, and folk toys. When he led a song circle, everybody participated, there were fun little instrument for even the least musical, and the joy of those circles is legendary.
These are the dads in my life. They've contributed to my character, my view of the world, and especially my appreciation of honorable men. Happy Fathers' Day to all the dedicated dads out there.