Friday April 9, 2010: Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today,  April 9, 201o, would have been my dad’s 86th birthday.  He died just a few months ago, on December 27th.   I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately, and today I want to use this occasion to honor  him by telling you what a special guy he was.

J. Craig Biddle. My Dad.

J. Craig Biddle was born on April 9, 1924, in Elmira, NY.  He went through the Elmira school system, and enrolled at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts.  But not long after he became a college student, the eruption of World War II interrupted, and he served with the US Navy for the duration.  Dad served with the Sea Bees, or Construction Battalion.  At the age of 18, then, he was in the Pacific, building airstrips for our planes.  On islands that he had never, theretofore, heard of.

We all know how that turned out, although, it would be wise for us to remember that at the time, they didn’t.  There was no forgone conclusion to World War II.  So for an 18-year-old, building airstrips in the South Pacific, there was probably little time to think about one’s future.

Well, Dad got through it, and went back to Springfield College.  On graduation, he returned to upstate New York, and wound up in Waverly, NY.  There, he worked for the Elmira Star Gazette, back in the days when newspapers really meant something.  He met Jennie Francis, who was an English teacher at Waverly High School, and then some other stuff  happened.  They were married on July 11, 1953 in Otisco, NY.  My maternal grandfather, the Reverend A.E. Francis officiated at the Presbyterian ceremony.

A year later, I was born in Waverly, NY.  My sister Kendra was born in 1956 in Springfield, MA, to which Dad had returned, not as a student but as a Public Relations Associate.

Fast forward to 1968.  We moved from Connecticut to Orlando, Florida, where Dad had just accepted a job as the Business Editor of the Orlando Sentinel.

Then, let’s fast forward again.  My sister and I grew up.  She went her way as a highly successful insurance executive in High Point, NC, and I went my way into… well, let’s just say I went my way too.

Always, Dad was there.  Whenever and wherever we were, Dad was there.

There are many things for which I am profoundly grateful to him, but this one probably illustrates the kind of guy Dad was more than anything else.

See, Dad was an athlete.  He was a terrific softball player and basketball player.  He became a professional basketball referee… and, since he was a journalist anyway, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to find that he became a sportswriter (at least part time) as well.

But me?  Nope, I was born without the sports gene.  I know Dad would’ve loved to have a son with whom he could have toured the country, taking in ballgames, discussing stats, and mixing it up on the fields of friendly strife.  But, no.  His daughter, though, was and is a pretty damned good athlete.

What I’m grateful for is this:  As much as he would have loved to have a son who played sports… who could’ve made the football team… who went on to win the Heisman Trophy… that never happened.  But he was just as proud of me when I lettered in Chorus and when I won Band awards.

Dad and I never agreed on politics.  In my youth, I was a far-left hippie type, and Dad was a Nixon Republican.  And let’s just say that over the intervening years, we… uh… swapped places.  When family visits occurred, that meant a great deal of tension, until we decided to exchange position papers on why we believed the things we did.  And that was one of the best decisions we ever made.  We discovered that we were so very far apart on just about everything that we could never discuss issues again. So we didn’t.  And we got along just fine.

Dad was a good man.  He worked hard and his family always came first.  He loved to laugh, and to make others laugh.  He truly loved kids, and they always loved him in return.  He was highly regarded in his church and his community.  At his funeral, everybody said the same thing, in essence:  Steve, your father was one of the kindest,  most fair-minded people I’ve ever known.  He always went out of his way to make people feel comfortable, and treated everyone with respect.

For the past few years, Dad had been declining, and I am very glad I got to spend his last minutes with him.  And now, because I really think he’s looking over my shoulder, attempting to correct my grammar, I should say something I never said enough when he was alive:  Dad, I love you.  I am proud to have been your son.  I miss you.  And Happy Birthday.

Today’s Curiosities

  • Another installment in our occasional series of films designed to help you be a better person, Mind Your Manners!

and have a wonderful weekend.   –Steve


4 thoughts on “Friday April 9, 2010: Happy Birthday, Dad!

  1. Very nice tribute to your Dad. Funny how our Dads traveled a similar path. My Dad was a helicopter pilot and CO in the Navy. He graduated from Bucknell (as did Mom). He worked in insurance for a time, and eventually went to work at UCF as Dir. of Admissions. He’s been retired for many years now, and lives about 20 minutes from me. He will turn 82 in November. Oh, and he is a lifetime Republican. (I’m not sure what a Nixon Republican is–enlighten me!)

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