Inspiring Father's Day Stories

Real Dads

In order to widen my perspectives and earn a living I started ghostwriting privately published autobiographies for a fee. The tales below are true, although identities are disguised.


Two years before Castro took over Cuba, Faustino was twelve and returning on a flight to Havana from Miami where his dad took him on a shopping trip. Over the straights of Florida one of the airliner’s four engines caught fire. After efforts to extinguish the flames remotely failed a steward announced the pilot decided to ditch the plane.

Recently Faustino told me, “I’ll never forget the panic in his face. Some passengers began to scream as he told us to buckle our seatbelts, put on life vests, remove our shoes, and brace for the impact.”

Despite the steward’s attempt to stop him Faustino’s dad disobeyed. He unbuckled his seatbelt and knelt in front of the boy where his body could act as a modern-day airbag. He told the child, “Once the plane stops, get out. Don’t wait for me.”

Fortunately when the airplane nearly reached sea level the flames went out. The plane was diverted to a Cuban military airbase instead of Havana’s municipal airport. But at least the touchdown was with wheels on dry land.

The scariest episode of Faustino’s life taught him that he was his dad’s number one priority. Consequently, the boy resolved that he would never intentionally do anything to disgrace the family name. Thereafter Faustino took all of his dad’s advice seriously because he knew – beyond a shadow of doubt – that his father always had Faustino’s best interests at heart.

The boy’s family escaped Castro’s Cuba for Florida in the early 1960s. Like most refugees they had no money. Within weeks of arriving Faustino’s dad held down three jobs. But nothing ranked higher in the dad’s priority than the boy’s education.

Earlier this year Faustino told me, “Even though I was only sixteen dad announced that I was to start electrical engineering college courses. I never questioned the decision. When I brought the University of Florida diploma home after four years, dad hung it on the wall of his home office where it remained until he died 35 years later.”

As an adult Faustino left Florida and became prosperous in Silicon Valley where he worked with some of the era’s legendary figures. Recently I asked how he could be comfortable taking risk on volatile start-up businesses.

Faustino said, “Although dad never explicitly told me that I could recover from failures, I felt instinctively that I could because of his example. Upon arriving in Florida dad possessed almost nothing, yet he made a good life for our family. Additionally, the unconditional family love left me feeling that even if I did fail, there was a parachute.”

During most of his career Faustino lived 3,000 miles distant from his dad. Nonetheless, they talked on the phone almost every day. Typically his dad asked, “Are you okay? Do you need any money?”


Mary was two years old during the Great Depression when her mother gave the girl to the baby’s aunt and uncle. The otherwise childless couple managed a hotel in a small Mississippi town not far from New Orleans.
Although it seldom snowed that far south one winter when Mary was seven an icy blast brought freezing rain. It was a rare chance for the town’s kids to slide around on the streets and sidewalks in their shoes. They called it ice-skating. Since auto and pedestrian traffic gradually ruined most of the ice as the day progressed, Mary and her friends looked for a spot uncorrupted by adults.
Mary volunteered the hotel’s roof and led her friends up the fire escape. Soon a porter discovered the frolicking children. He ran into her uncle’s office breathlessly describing the situation. Her uncle hurried up the fire escape, ordered Mary’s friends home, and took the girl to his office.
Reminiscing 75 years later Mary said, “I don’t ever recall dad being so angry. I was never so ashamed.”
I asked, “Did your uncle spank you?”
After jerking her face upward a bit and dropping her jaw, Mary began gently shaking her head: “My dad never laid a hand on me. The shame I felt was bad enough. I could not endure his disapproval. That’s all it took to make me behave.”
As an adult Mary moved to Florida and raised a family with her only husband. Presently the eighty-something widow teaches a college art class. She always refers to her uncle as her dad.


For nearly a century strawberries have been a big crop in the west central part of Florida’s peninsula. Until the 1970s fresh berries were customarily shipped by railroad to major markets such as New York and Chicago. Since the berries were perishable it was best to ship them quickly after picking. At harvest time shippers bought the fruit at auctions located near rail-side packing plants.

Owing to its perishability, buyers had to monitor a number of variables affecting the fruit’s value at destination. Among the biggest problems was freeze damage resulting from infrequent winter blasts into central Florida. Freeze damaged berries began to rot as they rode the rails northward.

During the 1920s and 30s Roger Foster’s dad sold fresh fruits in New York, originally from a pushcart. After the business grew big enough to operate a company-owned packing plant the family moved to Florida, while business partners managed the New York operation. Thereafter, Roger worked with his dad and brother at the Florida plant.

Sometime during the late 1940s a freeze stretched down into central Florida on a Thursday night. On Friday morning Roger’s dad told him to buy all the strawberries he could get at auction for 12-cents a pint. Although Roger was puzzled about why his dad wanted to buy damaged fruit, he began the morning auction by purchasing berries at the specified price. Soon, however, Roger questioned his dad’s judgment and phoned the office.

“Dad, I don’t need to be paying 12-cents a pint. There are almost no other buyers. I can get all the berries we want at 8-cents a pint.”

“That’s okay. Just pay 12-cents like I said.”

Shaking his head, Roger returned to the auction and complied. But after another hour or so he phoned a second time.

“Dad, 12-cents a pint is too much. I can probably get all we want at 6-cents a pint.”
“Don’t worry son. Stay at 12-cents, like I said.”

By the end of the auction Roger had purchased an entire railcar-load of berries, which was shipped to New York that afternoon. The next auction was the following Monday. Due to Friday’s unusual bidding, on Monday morning Roger asked his dad for instructions on the new day’s auction.

“Just go through the motions of participating. Don’t buy anything. Merely pretend to be competing.”

With knitted eyebrows Roger asked, “Why dad? Why did you have me pay 12-cents a pint on Friday but only want me to pretend to be buyer on today?”

“Our Friday shipment sold well in New York because there were few other supplies available. When today’s shipment arrives in the city, New Yorkers will have already tasted the freeze-damaged goods we shipped on Friday. They won’t buy anymore berries for a while.”

Roger and his dad passed away years ago, but Roger’s son, Gary, presently runs the $100 million business.


Ed Sanders grew up in the 1930s and 40s on his dad’s north Florida turpentine farm. Since nearly all the workers were African-American, Ed’s first friend was a black boy the same age. Although named Joshua, Ed called him Cousin. If there had been a nearby river the boys would have been 20th century salt-and-pepper versions of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

Since wild animals were abundant in Florida woods, Ed’s dad wore a holstered pistol. Sometimes the boys used their dog to distract snakes as they sneaked-up behind the reptiles to behead them with sticks. They carried the decapitated bodies home like a couple of cats proudly dragging along assorted victims.

Ed was five years old when one of the turpentine workers got in a fight with a white man at a nearby town. Ed’s dad took his employee to a hospital. That night the KKK arrived in Ed’s front yard and torched a small cross. Ed’s dad stepped onto the porch with an unloaded shotgun and a box of shells. He listened to the Klan complaints long enough to identify the leaders.

Suddenly he loaded the shotgun, snapped it shut, and announced, “We’re done talking.” Pointing to the ringleader he said, “I’ve got two shells in this gun. The first is for you.” Facing to the leader’s sidekick he added, “and the second one is for you.” Nodding to his holstered pistol he concluded, “If any more of you want trouble I’ve got my six-shooter.” After a moment that seemed like an hour to Ed the group dispersed.

Later that year Ed and Joshua were waiting with Ed’s dad at a bus stop to attend their first day of school in the first grade. When the bus door opened Ed’s dad motioned for him to go aboard. The boy turned to Joshua and said, “Come on Cousin, let’s go.”

Ed’s dad interrupted, “Cousin’s not going.”

After a pause, Ed started to back down the steps saying, “Well, if Cousin’s not going, I’m not going.”

But his dad stopped Ed in his tracks by saying, “Yes you are. Cousin is taking another bus.”

In adulthood Ed became a thriving businessman who was invited to the White House several times and Joshua had a successful military career. Presently the two old friends talk monthly by telephone.

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