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"The most important thing i ever taught..."

HD: Letters from Dad

Happy Father's Day. Gentlemen, we asked you to tell us your stories about the best advice or lesson you ever gave. Thanks for your tales, which appear here and on Page 3.

My son Michael's interest in fishing began when he was 2 or 3 years old. I started him out with a push-button reel and a 3-foot pole.

What really turned him into a fishing nut was during an evening fish he was pulling his hookless lure through the dock light and a "big mama schnook" grabbed hold of it for a few seconds.

The patience, self-reliance and peace that fishing teaches us will, I hope, enrich him throughout his life.

Mike is now a big 6{ years old and uses a bait-type reel and a 5-foot rod, and he no longer needs Dad to unscrew any hooks from his lures. He has become quite a purist fisherman of sorts, insisting to bait his own hook with live shrimp.

His buddies Cody, Sean and Ben will sit for hours on the end of the dock fishing for the "big mama schnook" that got away three years ago.

John "Jack" Penny Jr., St. Petersburg Beach

Thirty-five years ago is when I feel my son learned a very important lesson. He was playing football, and I was the president of the Little League Football Association. To raise funds for equipment we sold candy for $1 a box. Not long after the sale started, I received a telephone call. "Do you know your son and his buddy are selling candy at $1.25 a box?" After I confronted my son, he admitted this was true. His punishment was to return to each house where he had collected the extra 25 cents and return the money along with an apology. To this day my son often mentions this incident and says he has never forgotten this most important lesson.

William A. Rosseau, Pinellas Park

My dad had three quotes that he taught me to live by. I have done my level best to steer my life by these lights all my life. They brought me through four years of war and 72 years of age with a sound mind and a whole body. They are as follows: 1. When you speak the truth you never have to remember what you said. 2. Men may doubt what you say; they have to believe what you do. 3. Anyone can talk; they just repeat what they already know, but the man who listens can always learn something new.

Robert E. Sim, St. Petersburg

My story is about my son when he was 17 or 18 years old. I was running a job in Ohio on the Ohio River, and had him working for me. I went down after lunch one day and I caught him asleep in a tunnel down by the river. I went up and asked his foreman where my son was, and he said he was down cleaning the tunnel out, and I said he'd better go check on him. The foreman checked, came back up, said he was asleep down there. I said, "I knew that. What are you going to do about it?" Then the foreman said, "I don't know, he's your son _ I'd hate to fire him." I said, "I'll fire you if you don't fire him. I don't allow anybody to sleep on my job." That was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. But he's never slept on anybody else's job, so I feel like I taught the child a good lesson.

E.D. Holcomb, St. Petersburg

I'm a father, God has blessed me with seven children, and believe me, it's a tremendous job trying to raise them in the way that is right.

I teach my children respect for others, and especially older people. This should be one of the first things a father should teach his child. I've seen by teaching them respect, that their friends and other people treat them with respect, too. In return they respect me and, believe me, it's a wonderful feeling to know that your children look up to you as if you are a god. This is what I call respect. What's more important is without respect in these days and times, it could cost you your life. So, by teaching them respect, I feel this is a very important lesson about living in these very harsh days and times.

Anthony L. Cates, St. Petersburg

I wanted to tell you a little story about me and my son Andre. It was Christmas 1990 and I was working for a glass company, and we were collecting bikes and toys for needy children through the glass company, and there were a couple of bikes that needed some work. We were going to fix them and get them painted and put new tires on to give to kids who wouldn't have a Christmas. So we got together and worked on a couple of bikes and got them fixed like brand new. My son had gotten some of his toys to give, too. I picked him up at the day care center and he went with me to take it to the people who were going to get it. He was so excited. I think it taught him a very valuable lesson.

Floyd Martinez, Largo

The best advice I gave my daughter, Amanda Nicole Childs, is that you never depend on anyone else but yourself. That way you can never be let down by anyone, and you'll always be self-reliant.

Clarence Childs,

St. Petersburg

One day after a day's work I came home and was immediately greeted by my 12-year-old with "Dad, I broke a store plate glass window today!" I said, "Let's go and see." I took his hand and arrived at the store and, sure enough, a large plate glass store window was cracked top to bottom.

We walked in and I met the proprietor and told him my son here told me he had broken your window today and I offered to pay him for it. His reply was, "Sir, you couldn't give me a damn nickel. An honest boy like him is unusual." He shook my boy's hand and congratulated him for his forthrightness and honesty. I, too, was proud of him then and am still proud of him today. He has been a schoolteacher for his entire adult life and will retire soon. He has exerted a good influence over his pupils. I have witnessed evidence of that. This incident occurred 58 years ago.

Dominick T. Albanese,

Pinellas Park

My father never told me he was proud of me although once he bragged to a neighbor that I had a picture published in Life magazine.

I vowed I would correct that with my son. He joined the Army and, unknown to us, volunteered for the airborne. After getting his wings, he shocked his mother and I with a short leave and the new information that he was a paratrooper.

As I drove him home from the airport, I said "Bobby, I am proud as hell of you." He was killed in Egypt in the Sinai Peninsula as a member of the U.N. peacekeeping forces less than a year later. I like to think he knew.

Robert Bartlett,

Treasure Island

The most important thing I ever taught my son is that it is not the quantity of life, but the quality of life that's important. Set the materialistic things aside. I believe it's what distinguishes men from boys. I also believe that everything is possible only if you believe in God. And never cast judgment on other men. What the caterpillar called the end of the world, the master called the butterfly.

Gregory Pope Anderson,

St. Petersburg

When my daughter Renee was in high school, she said she was going bowling, and went elsewhere. Our rule was, "Tell us where you are going, and call if you go somewhere else." We decided to watch her bowl, as we hadn't seen this. She was not there. Classmates said she had a date. She came home at midnight and told us about the game. We talked. We told her how worried we were. What about our trust in you? They are grandparents today, same "boy" _ and preach the same sermon.

Marvin G. Thomas,

St. Petersburg

One day in 1976, my 4-year-old son and I came to a store. Being busy looking at things, I did not know that the store manager had handed my son a toy.

Back at home, I saw the toy and asked my son about it. He said it was given to him by the man at the store. I told him that I believed him but we had to return to the store anyway. "Yes, I gave it to him, he is so cute," the store manager told me. "You see! You taught me to always be honest," my son said.

My son, Thuan Nguyen, is now at Boston University, junior level. I am very proud of him and of his bright future.

Thieu Nguyen,

St. Petersburg Beach

A father is the guiding light of his family. A father has the strength of a lion; a father has the gentleness of a lamb. A father instills moral character and guiding in his family. A father holds the family together in good times and bad times. A father's greatest gift to his children is his love of their mother.

Maurice Broden,

South Pasadena

The most significant fathering experience I had was the day I was arrested for trying to make the world a better, safer place for my daughter and all the children of the world. On Father's Day 1988 I attempted to make a citizen's arrest of a U.S. Navy captain who was head of the Trident II D-5 nuclear missile testing unit at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. I charged him with "Crimes Against Peace," "Crimes Against Humanity," "Inchoate War Crimes" and participation in an ongoing criminal conspiracy. I was placed under citizen's arrest myself, I later went to trial and eventually was sentenced to one year in the county jail.

As a Vietnam veteran I have spent a lifetime wondering about the stupidity of males who generation after generation continue to believe that fighting _ in their homes, in their neighborhoods, on the streets, in competitive sports and business arenas, and in combat _ will make the world a better, safer place to live.

If men would just stop killing one another, none of us fathers would have to worry anymore about our children growing up on this planet.

Jim Welch, St. Petersburg

We taught responsibility at a young age. Jay and I worked together on many chores _ grass cutting, trimming shrubs, gathering leaves, painting our home, working on our automobiles. And he helped his mother inside our home, learning to cook.

At 8 years old, he was hired by several neighbors to cut grass and do odd jobs, me as helper when needed. He also got a paper boy job, which taught him how to earn, save and be thrifty to earn part of his college expenses. At vacation time during the summer, Jay panned gold out west, learning leadership and Christian fellowship with the geologists he worked with. He is now passing these same skills on to his son.

Oscar G. Steckman,

St. Petersburg

The young lady in my story is not my daughter yet, but will be someday. In the time that her mother and I have been engaged, we have spent some of the most precious and special times of our lives together.

We love each other dearly; she even calls me "Dad."

The lesson we both learned is that mom and/or dad are not always the people who gave birth to you.

Jack Sadowski & Allison Hahn,

St. Petersburg

My dad died in the spring of 1949. In the funeral procession to the cemetery there were more than 75 cars and two Amish horse-and-buggies. My dad never belonged to any lodges or clubs and never held any political office. What caused the outpouring of respect, admiration and compassion for this man?

My dad always awoke every day with this thought: "What can I do today to make a difference?" Dad was always helping someone. He even took his carpenter tools to family reunions just in case something needed to be done.

My dad was the personification of all things that are good in life: honesty, trust, love, sharing, caring, integrity, compassion and humility.

When my dad was in the hospital, shortly before he passed on, he called me into his room to give me some advice on life. He told me to always give your employer a full day's work for a day's pay. Always do the best you can do whether you're digging a ditch or you become president. Try to have some fun while you work and always remember, you will never be immune from catching hell from someone, no matter what you do.

I will not die a wealthy man, but I will have something that gold and silver can't buy, if my children have the love and respect for me that I have for my father.

Max W. Cornelius,

St. Petersburg

The most important thing I think I have ever taught my children is always be open and share their feelings. That came back when my daughter, who was 6 at the time, told me, "Daddy, do you know why we cry? That's to wash the sad out." And I thought that was the most philosophical and profound statement a child could ever give. I have the most wonderful children in the world.

Richard Lehner,

St. Petersburg

When my son James went to his first job, at a construction company, the advice I gave him was, "Don't wait around for somebody to tell you what to do. Keep busy. Make yourself useful and available in any way you can." He was there only two weeks when he received a raise. He passes this advice along to his co-workers now that he is a supervisor.

John Castrow, St. Petersburg

The most important lesson taught and still being taught to my children and others is respect. Respect your family. Respect your friends. Respect your neighbors. Respect your teachers. Respect your classmates. Respect your coaches. Respect your teammates. Respect all people for what they are inside, not for what they have. Respect everyone's feelings. Respect everyone's beliefs. Respect everyone's property. Respect the flowers, the trees and the grass. Respect all wildlife and animals. But most important of all, respect yourself. Respect is pride, love and understanding. When you show respect to all that is around you, you are showing respect to yourself.

Rick J. Cuoco, St. Petersburg