My father in law is a hero. I don’t mean in the run into a burning building kinda way (although he probably would). I mean in the Greatest Generation way. For the bulk of my husband’s life, his father has quietly gone to work, doing what was asked of him in order to take care of his family. In the beginning, it wasn’t a job he particularly liked but he did it because that is what he needed to do. In later years he began enjoying not only his primary job, but the other one he created for himself. The first was a job first working for and later running an organization whose soul mission is improving the lives of the people who live in Appalachia. The other job? Helping educate and hopefully begin rehabilitating people who have trouble with alcohol.
My father in law has daughters who are committed to social justice and have committed to working their entire lives at making the world a better place. Some people think the women get this compassion and drive from their mother or their schools or their faith. Those people are probably right, but I would bet that no small portion also comes from their father. He is a man who has dedicated his life (consciously or not) to making the world a better place and he has never, in the years I’ve known him anyway, asked for anything in return.
My father in law is not a member of The Greatest Generation. He served in Vietnam, not WWII. He is not a member of Brokaw’s Hero’s, but he possesses many of the same qualities that we celebrate in them. Make no mistake, he and I fight over everything political. He pretends he is a tough guy who suffers no fools. And sometimes, the words that come out of his mouth make me wonder if he’s not gone a wee bit crazy. But overall, Henry is a man I respect, admire and expose my children to as often as possible with the hope that his character will rub off on them as it has on his own kids.
Here is the funny thing, this post wasn’t actually inspired by my F.I.L but rather by something he does every year.
The Big Vince is a golf tournament that has taken place in June of every year since 1999. Around here, we drop everything so my husband can attend. I can’t guarantee The Husband will ever take off work except for one day every June when I am positive nothing will get in the way. He will be there, every year, for his dad.
The Big Vince is a labor of love in honour of a man by the same name. My F.I.L is intimately involved with the golf tournament because he can not labour enough in love for the man himself.
“Big” Vince Terlep was a good friend of my father in law. To watch Henry talk about Vince is to watch a person taken to another place. He gets a look in his eye when describing his friend that can only mean one thing-pure, untarnished admiration and love. Henry feels about Vince the way I feel about Henry. Vince was a man that made people want to be more, to do more, to feel more. He inspired people just by getting out of bed every day and living his life with joy.
Vince’s life was cut short on Valentine’s Day 1999 as he was out walking the local high school track in an effort at greater health. He wanted to be healthy so he could live a long life dedicated to his wife and family. Vince’s was a tragic loss for all who knew him and many who didn’t. I fall in the second category. I had met Vince a few times and knew his son through my husband. Although our encounters were few, I have nothing but great things to say about both father and son. Mr. Terlep was called Big because he was the senior Vincent in his home and also not a small man in stature. But really the Big could be because of his heart and his spirit and mostly his sense of fun. He was a man who made it his life’s work to better the world not necessarily through grand gestures and certainly not in ways that begged for attention, but instead he worked through ordinary everyday acts of heroism that were not only admirable, but sorely missing from many of our lives. Most importantly, or so I’m told, Vince’s simple zest for life is what made him able to work his magic and involve others in it without them even noticing their sacrifice. To be in Vince’s presence was always so enjoyable, you rarely noticed you were giving of yourself.
Vince’s impact on the world is not only evident in the hoards of people that show up for the golf tournament every year, but also in the fact that the people who run the tourney have a difficult time narrowing down which of “Vince’s” charities to donate the proceeds to after each day is round is through.
Vince Terlep reminded Henry King to be a better man. Henry and Vince are both reminders to me that you can change the world every morning when you wake up. You don’t need to be a millionaire. You don’t need to own a jet or have copious amount of free time. What you need is a big heart and the courage, faith, humour, spirit and fortitude to use it-for others, every single day. And it doesn’t hurt anyone if you have to have a damn good time doing it.
Thank you Henry for teaching your children and mine that lesson.
Thank you Vince for teaching all whom you have touched.
For all you golfers this year please remember, in all the fun and prizes and laughter and good times, remember Vince Terlep and try to be better for the world.
** If you are interested in a fun June day of golf in the name of charity, just leave a comment and I can help you get set up. I know people.:)
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Cathy, I can not tell you how amazing it was to read the words you wrote about my father. As his son, I have always felt like he was a true hero, just as every son feels about their father. I always tell people that I have never met someone as amazing as my father, and it is things like this that make me continue to believe that, and to live what he taught me. One thing that I learned from my father is to surround yourself with good people. I know that he and Mr. King were close not just because Mr. King was a neighbor, but because Mr. King is a genuinely great person. I am completely overwhelmed by the the honor that he pays to my father year after year. It is completely overwhelming. I know he does this because he loved my father, as did many others. But I feel he also does it because he is harbors the same qualities that my father did. That enormous heart, the ability to instill the zest for life in others, the gracious and selfless sense of charity, and the desire to change the world with simple deeds. Through both of these men, I have learned the value of community, charity, and living life to the fullest…not only for yourself but for others. Again, I can not thank you enough for the words you have written. I have never met you, but I consider you a friend.
I just read this post this morning and I need to say that our parents, Ottilie and Henry King, showed their children by actions what it means to volunteer and to help those in need. It is nice to see my brothers and sisters give of themselves and also now the next generation. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Well said Cathy!:-)
The Hank King branch of the King family never ceases to amaze me. Every single one of them is kind, caring, gracious, civic minded, and a family to be admired for their generous spirts and big hearts! Love them.