My dad is Lenard Callaway.  He was born on April 5, 1921.  He is the ultimate middle child with six older brothers and six younger sisters.  Lenard Callaway never wrote a book or preached a sermon in church, but his life is a great testament of his strong faith and calm resolve.  He never won a golf tournament or a dance contest, but he loved to give it his best effort on a regular basis. He never won a fishing tournament (probably because he never fished for money or recognition), but he fished every chance he got whether it was with his two sons or his best friend Herman.  If he had a passion, I guess it would be his love of fishing.  Of all the hundreds of pictures taken of him, most of them were of Dad in a boat or on the bank of some river or pond.  He rarely kept his catch, but on those occasions when he did keep a few, he had a fishfry for his family or his church group.  He was especially known for his tasty hushpuppies.

Dad served in the U.S. Navy, the US Army and the Oklahoma National Guard.  His older brothers also served in the armed forces and his brother Emmett died in WWII.  The Callaway brothers loved baseball, horses, and working with their hands.  My dad developed  exceptional skills as a carpenter and ran his own shop for over 40 years.

He married my mother Margie Ailene Gollahan at age 20 and they had my sister Tricia first, then five years latter I was born.  My brother Mike came a couple of years later.  Things were awesome for a while, but mother became ill and had severe headaches.  She died suddenly with a brain hemorrhage when I was seven.  Of course there was a lot of grieving and sorrow that surrounded both families.  When well meaning friends and relatives asked Lenard what he planned to do with the children he calmly said "what do you think I will do"?......they are my children and they will stay with me".  For the next seven years dad worked his carpentry business during the day and was super dad at night.  Between he and my older sister,Tricia, they managed to keep things held together.  We had several aunts and female cousins that helped fill the gap that mother had filled. Somehow we always had plenty to eat and clean clothes.  We never missed school or church and had plenty of time with dad to fish or play baseball.  Being self-employed back then was tough and hospital bills and doctor's fees were steep.  People suggested to dad that he should file bankruptcy to get out from under such heavy debt, but dad reasoned with his creditors and asked for time.  He told each of them that if they could be patient with him, he would repay every penny.  I am proud to say he did exactly as he promised.  

Dad was still a young man when Mother died, but he was too determined to raise his chidren and pay off his debts to have much interest in another companion although there were many willing candidates.  Despite his many offers and his handsome looks Dad's resolve was much stronger than most men would have endured.  The year Tricia graduated from high school and was preparing to leave for college dad began to search for a new wife.  He met Nan and later that year they married.  It was a great strain on the family dyamics.  Mike and I were used to being tow headed boys with very little structure.  We stayed out all day in the summer playing softball on a dirt field, fishing in a local pond or stream and riding our bikes.  Tricia had been ok with that.  At least it got us out of her hair while she performed housekeeping and meal preparation.  She also helped dad pay the bills.  When Nan appared in our lives the rules changed drastically.  She had never had children and was used to a spotless home.  Her fastidious ways made us very uncomfortable, but to dad's credit he managed to bridge the gap and was a fantastic dad.

Dad was married to Nan for 40 years, much longer than his marriage to our mom.  Nan died from complications related to a stroke. Tricia was living in Tuscon and brother Mike was in Georgia with his family.  Dad lived in Midwest City, OK which was a three hour drive from Dallas, TX where I lived with my wife and two children.  I cionvinced Dad to move to the Dallas area so my wife and I could look after his needs.  His biggest concern was whether there were any good fishing holes and of course he wondered where he would attend chuch.

Dad's retirement years had been filled with fishing and golf on a consistent basis, but another passion of his was to help build churches in Southeastern Oklahoma.  At age 75 he was on the roof of a church he had helped build much to my dismay.  I had strongly suggested that he leave those dangerous tasks to the younger men on the crew.  I may never have known he didn't follow my suggestion if someone had not taken a picture of him atop the roof.  When I saw the picture, I turned into the protective parent and admonished my dad (son) for such a dangerous feat.  He just smiled and said, "God was with me". Indeed He was and still is.

After Nan died, Dad lived in an independent  senior living facility.  It wasn't long before several ladies started swarming around dad wooing him with their charming personalties.  As he got older being alone was too uncomfortable for Dad.  He was from a very different past and was so used to having a woman lay out his clothes and underwear and bring him a towel when he stepped out of the shower that it seemed ridiculous to try to live alone.  By the time he was 87 he had lost two wives to death and was with his third and last spouse.  Sadly his last wife suffered from demntia and that made life for him unbearable at times.  He never wavered in his love or devotion though and stayed by her side until she died seven years into the marriage.  The timing was appropriate for him because his health declined rapidly, and he was placed in an assisted living facility.  Fortunately we found a place near our home and he seems to be well cared for by all of the staff at his new home.  

Dad has always had a great sense of humor and he delights his caregivers with funny stories from the past.  Several of them have said to my wife and to me that Dad is their favorite "guest".  He watches a lot of TV since he is basically bedridden now.  His favorite shows are from the past.  He watches "Gunsmoke", "The Waltons", "The Andy Griffith Show", and of course several sports network shows.  He still cries when the National Anthem is played, or when he sees his grandkids and great grandkids.  We just recently welcomed his great great granddaughter London Claire into the world.  

Dad still has three living sisters.  They still send cards and call him on a regular basis.  He is so easy to love and gives love so freely to those around him.  He still cracks a funny quip and keeps everyone smiling.  He epitomizes the "Best in Class".  My Dad, Lenard Callaway, at age 95 and counting is still the best dad anyone could ever ask or hope for.

Submitted by Tony Lenard Callaway, oldest son and middle child of Lenard Callaway 

0 Kudos
AARP Terms of Service