Fatherhood: Wonderful, gratifying, exciting

Father's Day

Dads across senior living communities share their stories and advice

James V. Davis, a resident at Westminster Assisted Living of Cullman in Cullman Ala., says he has lived “a lifetime of experiences” in his 102 years on this earth, and being a father is one of the best of all those experiences.

James V. Davis holds his young child, standing next to his wife.

“When my daughter was born, I was scared, but I knew I had to do right by her,” Davis said of his only child. “I knew she would look up to me as a father, as a man, and I needed to show her how a man is supposed to treat a lady. Being a father has been wonderful and the most gratifying journey to date. I would not change one thing about becoming a father to my daughter.”

Davis’ advice to new fathers is to be patient with their children and give them their full attention.

James V. Davis is pictured with his daughter

“This time is short and they will be grown before you know it,” Davis said. “Just spending time with them will shape them into being great adults later in life. Love your kids unconditionally – you are the only the father they have, so make it count.”

Fathers across senior living communities are celebrating their special day non-traditionally, as visitor restrictions remain in place due to the threat of Covid-19. Staff and families are getting creative in order to honor, recognize and celebrate the special men of their communities, holding drive-by parades, window visits and social-distance friendly breakfasts for their resident fathers.

Their stories and fatherly advice are being shared as another way to celebrate and honor the dads of senior living.

Avila Matthews

The Landings of Cabarrus

Avila Matthews, 62, sales director for The Landings of Cabarrus in Cabarrus, N.C., is a proud father to seven children. He said he holds tight to his father’s advice of working hard and providing for your family, and has worked to raise his children the same way.

“Being a father allows me to use the lessons I have learned while growing up to mold my children as they grew into adulthood,” Matthew said. “One thing that my father instilled in me and I instill in my children is the importance of God in your life and making your relationship with the most high a priority.  God orders my footsteps and my advice to other fathers is to allow God to do the same for them.”

The Landings of Cabarrus resident Edward “Whit” McMillan, 85, echoed Matthews’ advice.

“Becoming a father was a time of great joy for me and I embraced the opportunity to share with my children the values my father instilled in my siblings and I,” McMillan said. “My father taught us to always be obedient in life.  We were taught to work hard, put God first and always obey the law.  My father was a firm but fair man who believed children should honor thy mother and father and that is how I raised my children.”

Edward “Whit” McMillan holds a photo of his children

Rose Glen Manor

Robert Doughton Tedder, a resident at Rose Glen Manor in North Wilkesboro, N.C., is a father of two, a son and a daughter.

“Man, there is nothing like it!” Tedder said of being a father. “It is the best thing in the world.”

Tedder’s advice to new father is make them a priority and to teach them about God.

“A new father should always know that his kids are the most important thing, and they should know just how much that he loves them,” Tedder said.

The Gardens of Nashville

Josh Jeffreys, physical therapist for The Gardens of Nashville in Nashville, N.C., is a father to three growing boys – ages 3 years, 5 years and 9 months.

“There is never a dull moment at my house,” Jeffreys said. “I believe in being patient, although it is trying at times. They are still just little boys. You should be slow to anger and quick to love.”

Jeffreys advises fathers – both new and seasoned – to remember to be their child’s first teacher.

“My motto is to be the man you want your children to be,” Jeffreys said. “They are young and impressionable and will model exactly what they see. They are a reflection of you, their parents.”

Westminster Assisted Living of Decatur

Nelson Holladay, and Army veteran, is a father to two girls, Carla and Keela. His daughters have many cherished memories with their father, but one sticks out among the rest.

Nelson Holladay

Their mom worked on Saturdays so their father, Holladay, would find things to keep the girls entertained. One particular Saturday, he decided to take the girls fishing for rainbow trout. Holladay was an avid fisherman and loved to be on the water reeling them in.

Holladay baited the hooks for the girls, had them drop their lines in the water, and began to fish for himself.

“Well, as it would happen, every time we put the pole in, we would get a bite and Daddy would have to help us get the fish off and rebait it again,” the daughters recalled. “This went on for hours. Bait the hook, reel in the fish, take the fish off the pole, place the fish in the cooler, and then rebait again. I don’t think Daddy ever put his pole in the water. He was too busy taking care of us and the fish we were catching.”

The girls thought it was fun, but they said that was their first and last fishing trip with their father.

“As long as his girls were happy and having fun he did not mind he never got to fish that day,” the daughters said. “He had something even more special, precious memories with his two girls that would last a lifetime.”

Hampton Manor

Ty Strickland, a cook at Hampton Manor in Gaston, N.C., is known for sharing joy – and piano tunes – with the residents and other staff at his community. He is a father of four – two boys and two girls – and a grandfather to six, with one more on the way.

Strickland was 19 when his first child was born.

“Love your children even in hard times, because tomorrow isn’t promised,” Strickland said. “Listen to your children when they tell you something. Even if it’s not important to you, it’s important to your child.”

Ty Strickland plays the piano at Hampton Manor

The Berkeley

Floyd Thomas, a resident at The Berkeley in Morganton, N.C., said his father taught him “to work hard if you want anything out of life,” and he passed that lesson along to his children.

Deward Sparks

“Becoming a father was a blessing, it was the greatest treasure,” Thomas said.

Mitchell House

Deward Sparks, a resident of Mitchell House in Spruce Pine, N.C., and a native of Mitchell County, raised five daughters with the love of his life, who he has been married to for 71 years. They also have 11 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Sparks said his own father taught him many lessons about being a dad, especially to work hard for his family.

“Raise your children up in church and teach them to love one another,” Sparks said.

George Simmons

The Elms of Lynchburg

When George Simmons, a resident at The Elms of Lynchburg in Richmond, Va., was asked how becoming a father changed his life, his eyes lit up.

“It was so exciting!” Simmons exclaimed. “I knew that moment that I had someone else to take care of other than myself. I had someone to look up to me.”

Simmons knows firsthand how important each day with your children can be, as he lost one of his children not long after he was born.

“Love your child as much as possible, because you never know how long you will be able to have them there with you,” he said. “I lost my middle child when he was born. It was so heartbreaking. Love them with all of your heart every moment you can.”

The Meadows of Rockwell

Executive Director at The Meadows of Rockwell, Cindy Drye, cherishes the memory of her father every day, but especially as she celebrates Father’s Day for the dads in her assisted living community.

Her father, Bobby Van Furr, was a father of five children, 32 foster children, and a grandfather to 13 grandchildren.

“He was like a mountain in a little girl’s eyes,” Drye said. “He could be so mean, yet so understanding when something was wrong.  Always offering to help, he would give you the shirt off his back, even if he had nothing.”

Meadowview Terrace of Wadesboro

Timmy Weaver

Michael Dale Lee, 77, is a resident at Meadowview Terrace of Wadesboro in Wadesboro, N.C.. He is a father of two, one son and one daughter.

Lee’s advice to new fathers is to work hard for their family.

“Work hard, live life, and enjoy being a father,” Lee said.

Caswell House

Timmy Weaver, a resident at Caswell House in Yanceyville, N.C., knows that being a father means more than just having your own child.

Weaver was adopted at a very young age, and his adoptive father shaped him throughout life, especially when he became a father himself.

“My father treated me like any son should be treated, and raised me knowing the right things to do,” Weaver said. “He was a great man and wonderful influence. I raised my son with the morals and values he taught me,”

Marvin Kleiner

The Landings of Mills River

Marvin Kleiner, a resident at The Landings of Mills River in Mills River, N.C., is a father of three – two girls and one son.

“It used to be fun watching the two girls take care of the little boy,” Kleiner recalled. “That little boy today is 52.”

Kleiner was just 20 years old when he first became a father, and he said when his eldest daughter was born it was both scary and exciting.

“Nothing is easy, you know,” Kleiner said.

Tyrrell House

John Payne says his father, Reuben Elliot Payne, Jr. 88, a resident at Tyrrell House in Columbia, N.C., has always been an artist and a teacher. He recalls a time when Reuben taught boys at a summer camp the art of woodcarving, something he was both passionate about and talented at.

“He showed them his patience and taught them well,” John said.

Reuben raised three kids, with his wife Jane.

“It is with much love I say, ‘Happy Father’s Day’ to my father, Reuben,” John said.

John Payne sends this tribute to his father, Reuben

About Sterling

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