Stillwater News Press

Local Columnists

June 15, 2014

AND, STILL THE WATERS RUN: Hats off to all fathers everywhere

STILLWATER, Okla. — Many people have congratulated me saying I “must be very proud” of my son who recently graduated from West Point in the United States Military Academy Class of 2014. And, yes, I am.  Very proud – and relieved.

But, I think I’m more proud of the community that got him there – the Stillwater folks who walked alongside him as he received his diploma and shook President Barack Obama’s hand. Many people like Mary Ann Grimsley, Carolyn Meyer, Alice Williams, Marilyn King, Teresa Nokes, Gloria Saar – and so many others saw something in my son. Yet, sometimes, he seemed to have way too many women in his life. My son was not alone. The United States Census Bureau’s most recent data revealed 27 percent of children – or 19.8 million lived with only one parent – in most instances their mother.

Men in Stillwater played a significant role in my son’s life as his own father lived out-of-state. Golden Eagles volunteers like Nick Westbrook shaped an unruly group of young boys into a disciplined crew through leadership in the youth football program. Adam Kemmerly worked to develop physical skills with my son to prepare him for the rigors of academy life. Jodie Wilson taught my son and countless others how to wrestle. Coach Wilson brought many boys through his camps which kept them busy and supervised during summer months.

One particularly frazzling day, I dropped my son off at a scout meeting and the leader, Dr. Rob Burnap, assured me everything would be fine if I left my son for the program. Dr. Burnap told me “you know, Elizabeth, I was raised by a single mom.”  As I left my son in his hands, I drove off for a very much needed break that evening, feeling all was right with the world – and everything just might turn out “OK.”  Scoutmasters have never ceased to amaze me since – with Wayne Coffee, Steve Miller, Jeff Southwick and unknown others volunteering endless hours to serve as mentors to so many teenagers. There must be a special place in heaven for all scoutmasters everywhere.

In high school, Ed Davis, the director of music for the First United Methodist Church, welcomed my son into his choir and allowed him to contribute through operating the sound system which gave him a sense of belonging. Music was a big part of his life and nowhere was that more apparent than at school where retired Stillwater teacher Steve Maison embraced my son like no other – teaching him above all else to be a gentleman.

On Father’s Day, we honor the men in our lives who have helped shape us for the good. Hats off to all Stillwater fathers! Surrogate fatherhood often just happens. It comes about through life circumstances and not “on purpose” in an effort to fill a father’s role for a child. These father figures, although not a biological, adoptive or step-dad, were all role models who filled the gaps of time – unsung heroes who gave my son the confidence to believe in his potential to live out his dreams – in service to our Nation as a military officer.

Elizabeth Keys writes for the Stillwater News Press. “And, Still the Waters Run” tells stories about people and events in the area. Share your stories by emailing activities, photos or news tips to ekeys@stwnews-press.com.

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