Fathers reflect on the lessons taught by their fathers

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Michael Brillhart


By Cindy Beamon
Albemarle Life Editor

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day is a good time to reflect on the role our fathers play in our lives and the valuable lessons they teach us along the way. With that in mind, we have asked several men with a variety of work experiences to share what they learned from their fathers. Here's what they said:

Dennis Gordon

Energy officer for City of Elizabeth City

"My father was an extremely hard worker and that is something he conveyed to his seven sons," said Dennis Gordon.

Gordon said his own military career was a good start in putting his father's example into practice.

Hard work has become a Gordon family tradition and with it a "determination (that) you can achieve anything you want of life if you are willing to work hard," Gordon said.

Billy Caudle

Director of the School of Performing Arts

Arts of the Albemarle

"My father always said that we only get one life, and you might as well have a good time living it," said Billy Caudle.

Caudle said he applies his father's advice this way: "I try to have a good time and surround myself with fun folks."

John Morrison

Attorney with Twiford Law Firm

John Morrison's father Lt. Garland Stuart Morrison, a World War II Naval aviator, died at age 23 when Morrison was only four days old. His father, a farm hand before the war, was one of the "90-Day Wonders," trained as a Naval flight officer at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Although his death was 70 years ago, Morrison said he still finds the memory painful. He can recite words from the telegrams his mother received after his father was proclaimed missing in action over the Pacific Ocean Theater and later when he was declared dead in a missive signed by President Harry S. Truman.

Morrison said he knows he is not alone in his grief.

"I know there are hundreds of thousands like him who died in that horrible war," he said.

Morrison said that while he never met him, his father taught him a valuable lesson about the price men and women in the military and their families pay in service to their country.

"The lesson I learned is that we are indebted to those who sacrificed for their country...and everyday we have an obligation to them to live the life they would have lived had they not made that sacrifice," said Morrison.

Dexter Harris

Director of Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Parks and Recreation

"I learned it's never too late to grow your relationship with your father, as well as from his standpoint, building a relationship with his son," said Dexter Harris.

Harris said he did not live with his father growing up, and they were not togther much when he was younger.

"As he's gotten older and I have gotten older, we've grown closer," Harris said.

Harris said his experience has taught him to value his own relationship with his 16-year-old daughter Kiara.

"My daughter from the day that she was born has been my right hand and my left hand. My daughter has been important to me from Day One," Harris said.

Chris Wilson

Camden Board of Education member

Retired employee with Verizons Communications

Partner at Mtchell Funeral Care and Cremations, Elizabeth City

Chris Wilson said his 91-year-old father Joseph "Pine" Wilson taught him a valuable lesson after the death of his mom at an early age. Wilson said he was only three, one of nine children, when the family and his father lost their mom, baby sister and materal grandmother. His father never remarried, but with the help of his parents, who lived close by, and determination, he raised his family as a single parent.

"That's why I love him because he stuck with us. He's a real good role model," said Wilson.

The job was not easy. Wages were low in the 1960s when life took that tragic turn. With God's help and support from his grandparents, his father was determined to raise his family, Wilson said.

Michael Brillhart

County Manager for Camden County

Michael Brillhart said his dad taught him to build a good reputation by doing his best.

"One thing My dad taught me very early was to make sure to do my best...(because) people will see and be looking at what you do," said Brillhart, who grew up in an active, hard-working farm family dating back generations.

Brillhart said he's learned that doing his best often requires him to listen to advice from different people who may have more expertise in an area than he does.

"Part of doing your best is listening to other people's opinions. It really does help," he said.

Ken Harrell

Fire Chief, Crawford Volunteer Fire Department

Currituck County

Harrell, a life-long resident of Currituck, shipyard worker in Norfolk, Va., and firefighter for 40 years, said his late father set the example for the strong work ethic he has today.

By the time Harrell was born, his father had lost one arm in a farming accident in Currituck, but he did not let his disability stop him from working hard to rework his life.

Harrell, 52, said his father learned to drive a truck, using a prosthetic arm, to provide for his family and make the best out his life.

"Dad proved that you only have a disability if you choose to have a disability," said Harrell. "He could do everything he set his mind to," said Harrell.