Editor’s note: This is the tenth essay in a 12-part Father’s Day series entitled, Honoring Fathers Who Serve. In May, we asked readers to submit essays about the men who have served our country.
Frank W. Conte with his daughter Yvonne Conte.
At the New York State Fair in Syracuse there is a Veterans War Memorial Walk. My father has a brick in that walk. I couldn’t wait to find the memorial and search for my father’s name among the many sailors in the U.S. Navy section. After what seemed like an eternity, I saw ‘W. Conte’ barely peeking out from under a man’s shoe. Standing on top of the ‘Frank’ was a very large man. Patiently, I waited for him to move. He just stood there with his back to me not knowing he was standing on my father’s brick. I don’t know why, but tears began to well up in my eyes right there on a Sunday afternoon in the midst of thousands of strangers at the NYS Fair.
I tapped the man’s shoulder and in a frail voice I said, “Excuse me sir, you’re standing on my father.” Immediately he moved away and I dropped down to touch the brick. I gently moved my fingers over his name: Frank W. Conte United States Navy WW II Electrician. That was all I needed. I walked across the busy sidewalk to an area under three flagpoles. Alone on a bench under a beautiful tree I watched the flags wave proudly in the wind as if to salute the soldiers and I thought about my father.
There was a veterans band playing loud happy music and someone was singing. People were everywhere, but somehow I felt like it was just me and my daddy on that bench. I looked across the way to where the memorial was. Knowing how proud he was to serve his country, it was such a comfort to know my father’s name would be there forever. Thousands of people will come here every year and walk past his name.
Then I thought how could it be that he has been gone for over five years and I feel like he is still with me? So often I think of him. When I am working, I remembering all that he taught me about business and success. When I am with my children, I’m thinking how wonderful a parent he was and how easily he taught me to love. I think of how comfortable he was in the kitchen and I can hear him telling me, “The secret to good clam sauce is the anchovies!”
What will my children think of when they think of me? What kind of example am I? What have I taught them? We have each been given a certain amount of time. We can do with it whatever we want. But when we are gone, whatever we have done with that time will live on in the minds of the people whose lives we have touched. My father taught me many life lessons but the one that has made the most difference in my life is what he taught me after he passed away. I want to leave my children with good memories. I want to give them something to be proud of. Long after I am gone I want them to be able to sit on a park bench and realize that life counts for something, that what we do with the time we are given matters. I want my children to know that the most important part of a person’s life is how they touched the lives of others.