First and Forever Heroes: A Father’s Day Tribute

In tribute to my late father, I’d hoped to post a grainy old photo that shows him helping me stand in the surf of Crandon Park Beach on Key Biscayne.  He was in his prime in the picture, a tall man with red, wavy hair.  I was ten months old with red-gold hair, a few shades lighter than his.

Unfortunately, my scanner died this weekend and I was unable to share the photo.

What I can share are words penned across the back of the picture.  I believe my aunt wrote them, as the photo was part of a collection of old family pictures she gave me.  Her inscription captures my lifelong relationship with my dad:

“She need never be afraid with those hands to hold her up!” 

My dad did that so well, holding me up from the day I was born until lung cancer took him nearly two decades ago.  He loved me boundlessly, worked hard to give me a better, easier life than he’d had, and he spoiled me beyond measure.  When I was born, he gained fame in Miami by buying out the collection of infant and small child clothing (and toys) in Belk department store.

His grand shopping spree at Belk was only the start of a lifetime of indulging me.  He was all about ‘wanting his little girl happy.’  Of course, I benefited.  But it was his love and ‘those big, strong hands always holding me up’ that meant the most.  He loved me with the whole of his heart and then some.  I loved him just as much.  I always will.  He was and is my first and forever hero.

He was a hero in all ways.  A WW II Veteran, he ran to join the Navy, eager to fight for his country.  He spent the war in the South Pacific and felt an affinity to the Navy and the sea all his life.  He kept in touch with his sea-mates, attending ship reunions.  I joined him at some, and was always so happy to see how well-loved he was.  Everyone loved him, in fact.  He was that kind of man.  He never spoke a harsh word about anyone and was kind and friendly to everyone who crossed his path.  When he died, I think all of Miami mourned him.

He didn’t live to see my first sale, but he knew there’d be one.  He believed in my writing even when I didn’t.  He’d have been so proud.

I dedicated Wedding For A Knight to him and I’m sharing that tribute here:

“In loving memory of my father, my first and forever hero.  Tall, red-haired, and dashingly handsome, his life-long good looks reflected his Scottish ancestry, but it was his big heart and generous spirit that set him apart and made him so beloved by all who knew him.  Soft-spoken, unassuming, and dear, his friends called him a gentle giant, praising him as a man who had a good word for everyone, including God’s littlest creatures.  Yes, he loved dogs.  And if I should live a thousand lifetimes, I will never stop missing him.”


Wedding For A Knight was my first book to hit USA Today.  I like to think my dad had a hand in that success.  He always did look out for ‘his little girl.’  And, yes, he called me that even when I was grown.

He was the father I’d wish for every ‘little girl.’  And my heart will burst when the day comes and I can run into his arms again.  As I believe, I know that will happen.  Until then, I’m sure he’s around, loving me from beyond, watching out for me as ever.

Even death can’t shake the grip of ‘those strong hands.’  I credit him with the strength that carries me through life.  He never ever let me be afraid, and I refuse to fear even now.  When times get rough, I keep on keeping on.  The fortitude he taught me helped when I had to grant his last wish, scattering his ashes at sea.  This was done off the shores of Key Biscayne, within view of Crandon Park Beach.  For that reason, too, the ‘strong hands’ photo has special significance to me.  (I’ll share it when my scanner is fixed or replaced)  It cost me a lot to return my father to the sea he loved so much.  But I wouldn’t have been his daughter if I didn’t stand tall and ‘man up.’

I owe him… everything.

Have a Happy Father’s Day, Tarts.  If your dad is still around, give him a hug from me today.   And please share  memories of your own first and forever hero.


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37 responses to “First and Forever Heroes: A Father’s Day Tribute

  1. Carol L.

    God, I can hardly see for the tears in my eyes . What a wonderful post. So filled with love, respect and awe. I love reading stories like this. It’s a beautiful thing when people recall being loved so completely. Thanks Sue Ellen for sharing this post.
    Carol L

    • OH, Carol, I teared up writing the post. It’s been so long, but I still miss him so sorely. I always will. I was incredibly blessed to have him as my dad. My greatest consolation in having lost him is knowing that he knew how very much I loved him. That gives me peace.

  2. Sue-Ellen, thank you for sharing such beautiful and poignant memories. Your words have created a vivid picture in my mind of your tall, handsome, red-haired father! He sounds like a wonderful man who left an indelible legacy. Thinking about the bond you still share with him makes me think of my grandfather, who was my “like a dad”. I have written much about my grandfather, and he was the light of my life. He had a big old tan vinyl recliner that sat in our living room, and it was “his” chair. It was a special treat if you got to sit beside him in his chair–it was the safest place in the world! My cousins and I all had our turns squeezing in beside him to watch TV. When you got so big that you could no longer fit in the chair with him, it was almost like you lost your best friend. I kept the chair. It’s in my garage. I’ll never part with it–I just can’t. My grandfather has been gone for over thirty years, but I can still touch the chair and be touched by my memories.

    • Virginia, if you remember the actor, Van Johnson, my dad could’ve played his double. They could’ve been twins. He was a tall, strong and vital man all his life until the cancer.

      I love your tales of your grandfather. He must’ve been such a very special man. You, too, were so blessed to have him in your life. I’m so glad you kept his recliner. I would’ve, too. It’s wonderful that you have that tangible connection to him, something to bring all the memories flooding back to you.

  3. Sue-Ellen,

    What a beautiful, beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing you lovely memories of your father. I look forward to seeing the photo of the two of you at Crandon Park Beach.



    • Thanks, Patricia. Actually, you remind me very much of my dad. How you are always so kind, so positive, and, well, so GOOD. He was like that, too. He was kind to everyone, had a good word for all, was always friendly to people. I can’t recall him ever saying one bad thing about anyone.

      I’ll post the photo when I have my scanner sorted.

      *******SPECIAL TART ALERT (incl. GIVEWAY BOOKS )*************************

      Tarts! Our Tart-and-Friend Patricia is at Romance Bandits today. She’s celebrating her recent Regina Hart release, FAST BREAK. She’s giving away two great books: FAST BREAK and HEATED RIVALRY (written as Patricia Sargeant).

      Visit her at Romance Bandits:

      • Sue-Ellen,

        I’m so flattered and overwhelmed by your words. Thank you so much! I’m very flattered.

        Thank you also for posting a lnik to my blog on the Romance Bandits. It was truly lovely to see so many friends popping over to say hello.

        Everyone, tThank you! Thank you! Your kindness is truly appreciated.

        Hugest Hugs!!!


  4. Sue-Ellen -
    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful tribute to your father. He bought out your clothing in Belks? Oh my! I’m sure he’s smiling and his chest is all puffed out with pride at your post today…

    • Thank you, Linda. Yes, he did that. Bought out the entire infant and small child department of Belk’s. It was quite a sensation at the time. Everyone heard about it, I think. He was one proud and excited new father. I hope he is smiling today.

  5. Lenna Hendershott

    Wow Sue-Ellen ~ what a gift to be SO well loved. You can tell, it shines through your books and how much you sprinkle your “love-dust” over us at Tartan Ink. THANKS FOR SHARING :-)

    I love this blog…

    • Thanks, Linda. Yes, it is a gift to be so well loved. I loved him just as much and one of my greatest comforts is knowing he knew that. I wish everyone could have such a wonderful father. And, yes, I do enjoy making the fathers (and older men characters) in my books extra-special. They’re surely an unconscious tribute to him.

  6. Okay, Tarts… I’m away to tend The Deadline. I’ll look in again later today. Enjoy the tea room and feel free to share your own tributes to our first and forever heroes.

    In their honor, old Dev has conjured some delicious chocolate cake. Rich, moist, and decadent. No calories, so do indulge.

    See you later!

  7. Kathy Garuti

    Sue-Ellen, as the other above have said, It was a beuatiful peice and a wonderful tribute to your father. Thank you so much for sharing him with us.

  8. Karen

    Thank you for sharing with us your lovely and loving tribute to your father. I’m sure he is looking down on you today with his chest swelled with pride – and perhaps a faint blush to his cheeks for such compliments? Thank you.

  9. Kathy Luehrs

    You had a great dad and such wonderful memories – unfortunately I was a child of divorce and my hero was my grandfather – he taught my sister and I everything we needed to know and somethings we weren’t supposed to know – he was wonderful – 1/2 irish and 1/2 scottish – he stood not quite 5 feet tall – but in my eyes we was a giant – my favorite story he told was how he met my grandmother – she was working at Woolworths behind the candy counter and he came in every day to buy orange slices until he worked up enough courage to ask her out – after that they never parted – I miss him terribly however I have my wonderful memories to keep forever.

    • Hi Kathy – I love your memories of your grandfather. That’s so sweet and romantic… him going back every day, buying orange slices, until he worked up the courage to court your grandmother. I LOVE that. Yes, he was a hero. And still is in your heart, like my dad is for me.

  10. Mary M

    Good Morning Everyone…as I do so with tears in MY eyes, too! I just got finished with a tribute to my Dad on facebook (yes, one of the few times I’ve posted, LOL) and I’m using my Dad’s Navy picture as my profile picture today in his honor. He passed away suddenly seven years ago. He was a true Southern gentleman and always full of stories and laughter. No matter how he felt about you…good or bad, there was always a place at the table for you. Perhaps, that is why I’m always so forgiving.
    Happy Father’s Day Dad!

    Thanks for sharing your Dad with us today Sue-Ellen and you, too—Tarts! :)

    • Mary, your dad sounds a lot like mine. Both good Southern gentlemen. I’m not on facebook or I’d go read your tribute. I’m sure it’s moving. I’m also sure our dads know we’re thinking of them today. (not that we don’t every day… but more so today)

  11. Christiana

    Sue-Ellen, Your dad sounds like good people, as my papaw used to say. I love the image your words gave me.

    Dad still stands tall, though his black hair is more gray than black these days, and his beard has grown scraggly instead of the clean-shaven man in his army uniform that I remember from my childhood. I used to look up in awe, he was so tall, so strong, seemingly invincible.

    The first memory I have of my dad, is waiting on the porch at my grandparents house for him to come home from Korea. I wanted that more than anything in the world, I was two or so. A daddy’s little girl to the core, no one else was really the person I wanted when I was two.

    Looking back at that memory, it’s bittersweet. Then I wanted anything and everything to be away from my grandparents, to be back in daddy’s arms. Today, being Father’s day, and only a few days after my Papaw’s birthday, it suddenly hit me that I had a lot of time I could have spent with him, but didn’t when I had the chance.

    Of course, that leads me to my second memory, Mom and Dad were delivering Flowers during the Christmas rush, and my brother and I were left with Grandma and Papaw. Papaw had made his usual evening treat, Sweet hot coffee, and Oreo Cookies. It was my introduction to Coffee, and a lifelong love of dunkin’ Oreo’s in my Coffee.

    So many memories, so little time. My mother may have gave me my love of Romance novels, but it was my Daddy and my Aunt who have made me the reader that I am. So many of my memories surround me curled up with Dad, reading. or sitting in my Aunt’s living room reading across the room from her where she’d be reading, then switching books, when we were done. In fact just yesterday I gave dad a new book to read and he handed me some westerns. It’s sweet.

    So here’s to Dad’s everywhere, and the memories they create with their children. Those Hero’s who stand tall in our eyes, often unsung, who teach us so much, and yet, are unfazed when we forget all too often to say thank you. I am off to cook my Dad his pot roast, but I’ll peek in later.

    • Christiana, that’s a good term and, yes, it suits my dad. He was what you’d call “good people.” I don’t think there are many like that around anymore, sadly. I think the WW II / Korean War men were the last of an old breed that, sadly, has died out / is passing out of existence.

    • Enjoy your pot roast. That’s the ideal Sunday dinner to celebrate with your dad tonight. You’re so blessed to have him. He really does sound like a wonderful father. (your Papaw sounds special, too)

      • Christiana

        Papaw was special, It’s hard to believe he’s been gone these past 11 years. I can still hear him tellin’ me not to dunk the cookies all the way in or they’ll turn to mush in the bottom of my coffee, every time I have coffee and Oreo’s.

        Dad’s having a blast today, he’s reading a new western. I’m trying to convince him to give Karen and You a try, Sue-Ellen. I mean after all he reads other romances, and I think he’d enjoy them. We’ll see if I can convert him. :)

  12. Helen

    What a beautiful post
    I lost my wonderful Dad 13 years ago and he was tall a great sportsman and a fun loving and caring man who loved his 4 daughters and then the beautiful 10 grandchildren he had. I am sure he would have had so much fun with his great grandchildren and I can often picture him playing with them I am sure he is always here with us and we are always thinking of him

    Have Fun

    • Hi Helen! I’m so sorry you’ve lost your dad, too. He certainly left a beautiful legacy in all his children, grandchildren, and g-grandchildren. I agree – he’s surely always with you and knows he’s not forgotten.

  13. Sue-Ellen, what a lovely and inspiring tribute to your father. He was as lucky to have you as you were to have him.

  14. Kimberly M.

    My dad is a wonderful man and I love him dearly, but because our family farm took up so much of his time, I didn’t get to really know my dad until I was older. My grandpa was actually my first hero. I was the only granddaughter born to our family. At the time, there were two boys one 6, the other 2 (my cousins). To say I was spoiled would be putting it mildly.
    My grandpa was a farmer. He worked the same land he was born and raised on for most of his life. His son had no desire to farm so he turned the family farm over to my dad when I was quite young. Anyway, my grandpa has these huge, calloused hands, but he would never hesitate to hug me or straighten my lacy dresses. I remember learning to hold my silverware and Grandpa would say, “No, hold it this way. That’s the way a lady holds it. You are not a farmhand, you are a lady.” He hated that I wore baseball hats. When I was about 8 years old, he went to town and bought me a black velvet dress with pink flowers embroidered across the bodice. I felt like a princess in that dress. He would take me to town to get a hamburger and never said a word when I put my doll and bag full of doll clothes in the truck. As I got older, he hesitated to give me hugs because he thought I was too old to want one. Instead, he would take my hand in his and grip it tight when I’d get ready to leave his house. He was there for my wedding day and he cried. He was a strong man who had lived through the depression and he didn’t believe in spending money on anything that was necessary to live on. When my grandma (his ex-wife of 20 years) lay in the hospital breathing her last breath, I couldn’t sit in the same room with her without falling apart. Grandpa came and sat with us in the waiting room, holding my hand tightly in his. My grandpa took his own life at the age of 75. No one knows why and I’ve stopped asking. I know he’s watching every step (or misstep) I take with love. A friend of the family told me at the funeral, “Do you know the last time I visited with your grandpa he pulled out pictures of the grandkids? All he ever talked about was how proud he was of you. He loved you all dearly, but you, Kim, you made him proud.”

    • Oh, Kim, your grandfather was a true gentleman. What a very dear and special man. Definitely of the old school, seasoned with the good, salt of earth values so lacking in so many today. I’m sure he loved you dearly and truly was ever so proud of you. That flows so strongly from every word you write. How very sad that he ended his own life. That’s heartbreaking. You’ll understand his reasons when you see him again, when the time comes. I’m sure he watches over and loves you every single day.

  15. bullrem

    Sue-Ellen, like the others I cried on reading your note about your father and that you said you cried too on writing. My tears were two fold, 1) how wonderful that you had that type of father and also how wonderful that he knew you knew the love you both had for each other. 2) Is for all of us that did not have fathers like that. That is all I will say here as not to spoil the very good notes and thoughts going through this thread. Just be ever so grateful (as I can read all of you are) for the gift God gave you all of Good, treasured Dads. Helen in Ark.

    • Hi Helen – Yestersay turned a bit crazy, so I missed answering this then. Thanks for your heartfelt words. Wouldn’t the world be a grand place if all dads were like mine? I know I was very blessed.

  16. Barbara

    Sue-Ellen, I could see the love you had and have for your dad in your tribute to him. Your words were warm and comforting straight from your heart. It’s very hard to be without them but then we need to remember they are in a far better place. My dad has been gone for 17 years but it doesn’t seem that long. He was a ‘hard’ man in that he didn’t show his love for us very often but he proved it every day in going to work when he was so ill with diabetes, high blood pressure and eventually passed away with congestive heart failure. He took the best care of his family that he could and we had all we needed. My heart feels for you when you granted his last wish – I don’t know if I could have done that but would like to think maybe I could. His love for you and your’s for him helped you to do as he asked. Even as the years have passed, I know he is with you every day. That hopefully helps to ease the heart ache some – I pray so.


    • Thanks for your heartfelt words, Barbara. They meant a lot. Especially as you, too, have lost a beloved father. Your dad also sounded like a really good man. I think we were both very fortunate. And I agree that they are with us still. Absolutely.

  17. Trudy Miner

    My father also served in the South Pacific during WWII aboard a destroyer. He was in the major battles of the war and his ship was almost sunk one time. As it turns out, my college roommate’s father served aboard a sister ship of my father’s, only he was an officer and my father was Chief Petty Officer in charge of the engine room. Dad went to pharmacy school after the war on the GI bill; he lived in Philadelphia during the week and came home weekends. He had two daughters when he started school, three by the time he graduated. He made up for it though and added another daughter before he was done. A successful businessman, Dad owned and operated two independent pharmacies for many years in my hometown until the chains drove him out of business. I still have his owner’s sign in my home. When he died, the cemetery didn’t want to put a plaque recognizing his military service on his grave because he had moved away 15 years earlier. I pitched a royal fit about his military service and his service to the community until they got it done (I live 1000 miles away). Dad passed two weeks before his 90th birthday and was in pretty good health at the time.

    • Trudy, your dad was a true hero on all fronts. I love hearing such success stories. And you are a hero, too. Good for you going to battle with the town to have his military service properly recognized. Good heavens!! I’d have been so outraged. I’d have fought, too. Tooth and nail. Oh, yes!! I’m so glad you held your ground and won him the honor he deserved so greatly. YAY!!!

  18. Pingback: When Pennies Are Worth Gold | Tartan Ink

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