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Remembering my Dad on Father's Day and Every Day

Updated on November 11, 2014

Memories of my Father: An Army Man and So Much More

The memories come in snippets of images, some summoned, some not, and they occur every day and not just on Father's Day. But Father's Day, with all the media attention and rows of cards lining grocery shelves, intensifies the memories and creates a holiday collage.

My father was many things. He was a young boy born in Kankakee, Illinois in October of 1917. He grew up and became a "college man." He became an officer in the Army. He was a romantic man. He met my Mom in Philadelphia during World War II. He called every number in the city that belonged to my mother's last name when she gave him her phone number and wrote one number wrong. He sent her orchids every day the first month he courted her and they filled the refrigerator. He married her a few months later in North Carolina with my mother's mother and the postman as witnesses.

He was an Army officer and served in World War II and the Korean conflict. He was a mechanical engineer and an inventor. He worked for NASA from Apollo through the early stages of the space shuttle program. He was a firecracker; he worked in pyrotechnics at NASA. He was a set designer and play director. He was a business manager for 25 years for the local community theater. He was a family man and married for 63 years. He was a son, an uncle, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather. He was an animal lover, always. My dad was many things, but most of all, he was my dad.

William H. Simmons

William H. Simmons
William H. Simmons

15 Things I remember about my Dad

  1. I remember my Dad coming home from Korea. He was in uniform and walking up the driveway, coming toward us. I was standing on a chair with my nose pushed against the living room window of my grandmother's house. I was 3 years old.
  2. I remember my Dad sitting at the table at the local beer garden in Frankfort, Germany and handing me the cute cork with the goat standing on its hind legs from his bottle of beer. I strung them together to make little necklaces and bracelets. We both loved the weinerschnitzle. I was 4 years old.
  3. I remember my Dad walking our German Shepherd, Asta, when we lived with my grandmother after we came back from Germany. Asta had served with him in Korea. He would take her out every day and would spend hours training her. I was 6 years old.
  4. I remember my Dad helping me make a mock up of the Apollo space module for my science school project. I was 9 years old.
  5. I remember my dad working for NASA during the early days and the signed photograph of the original 7 astronauts he gave me for my birthday. I think I was 13 years old.
  6. I remember my dad being so proud of himself when he created my electric light costume for me to wear in my role in Guys and Dolls. He'd rigged up the light switch to fit inside a pillbox hat and then had the lights attached to my costume with the handheld on and off button to rest in my palm. I was 16.
  7. I remember my Dad loving the funny gadget and "executive" Christmas gifts we would give him and how he'd smile and tinker with them before he shared them with the rest of us. I remember the first "executive" gift, I was in my late teens. .
  8. I remember my dad laughing at Christmas the year he had a beard and my daughter didn't recognize him and didn't want to sit by him. I was in my 20s.
  9. I remember my dad sneaking outside to smoke cigarettes because he'd promised he'd quit. I was in my late 20s.
  10. I remember my dad making his famous Artillery Punch for his party guests when he and mom hosted the cast parties. It was a gallon of this and a gallon of that. It was some kind of stout. He loved making that punch and then telling the ingredients to any poor soul who asked. I was in my 30s.
  11. I remember my dad asking me and a friend to dinner after we'd taken my mom to the hospital because she'd had a heart attack. He'd wanted company and wanted to talk. We sat down and he realized he'd left his hearing aid at home. I was in my late 30s.
  12. I remember my dad being so proud of the fact that I was the first one in his family to earn a Masters degree. He had gone to college but never did any postgraduate work. I was in my late 40s.
  13. I remember my dad when he was on 24-hour oxygen and how he'd pad to the kitchen refrigerator and complain about the "long tail" that followed him everywhere and then laugh. I was in my 50s.
  14. I remember my dad giving me a Smithsonian catalog and asking me to order this Black Egyptian cat statue for my mom. He was worried that he'd waited too late. He was so happy when it arrived the day before Christmas. (It was the last gift that he ever chose for my Mom. He died a few months later.)
  15. I remember my Dad for all these memories and so much more. He continues to live in my heart and mind today.

NASA: The Complete Illustrated History
NASA: The Complete Illustrated History
My dad worked for NASA and his history is woven into the fabric of our space mission from Apollo through the beginning of the Space Station. Great history of the program.

Daddy and Karen

Daddy and Karen
Daddy and Karen

Father's Day - Keeping the Memory Alive

William H Simmons was my Dad

My dad is gone now but I still have an abundance of memories that continue to keep him alive. During the last phase of his life, our roles seemed to reverse as I, as he jokingly said, became his "eyes and ears" and his "mouthpiece."

I remember the day we went to get his last driver's licence renewal. He was 88. It wasn't that he'd been driving much but he was determined to get it renewed. We went to the renewal office. We were both relieved that there weren't any lines. We walked right up and began the process. I held my breath as the lady went through all the required questions. Would she give it to him? What if she didn't? What would he do? A few minutes later we were back in the car and on the way home, my holding onto the paperwork for his new license.

He never drove his car again. He never said anything. He just always asked me to drive.

William H. Simmons

William H. Simmons
William H. Simmons
Fun gift for Dads
Fun gift for Dads

Fun Gift for Dad

For the Dad who has everything - Father's Day gifts

Natico Decision Maker and Paper Weight (60-2622)

My dad always enjoyed a good laugh and Christmas we would go out of our way to find hokey, fun executive gifts to give him. Of course we'd then have the cameras ready to capture his first reaction. He'd have a blast with this. He'd be asking questions and taking it around the room. It's definitely a memory stimulator. If he was still with us, this is one I might give him.

Newton's Cradle, Newton's Balls, Balancing Balls Classic Gag Gift for Father's Day
Newton's Cradle, Newton's Balls, Balancing Balls Classic Gag Gift for Father's Day

My Dad Loved Newton's Cradle - The Classic Desktop Gift

Fun gifts for Dad always topped our gift-giving lists

Newton's Cradle - Newton's Cradle, 7.0" [Toy]

I remember giving my dad Newton's Cradle. I was about 18 years old. Sometimes called "Balance balls," Newton's Pendulum or even "Newton's Balls," it's been around for years. Basically, it's a set of swinging balls that you set in motion and that will keep your mind occupied. Being the inventor and engineer, that he was, my dad enjoyed the fact that this has a pendulum. You just lift one of the balls and let it go. When the ball returns to its former position and strikes the ball next to it, the ball at the other end swings out. It didn't hurt that it also showed the Laws of Conservation of Momentum and Energy.

It was 1967 when this gift showed up on the gift-giving scene. It looked so "formal," all chrome and black. And it used science principles. An English actor named Simon Prebble invented Newton's Cradle. Since the device operates on Newton's principles, he named it in the scientist's honor. My dad, being an inventor himself, thoroughly enjoyed this gift. I found it recently in his room on his desk. He still had it out after all these years.

Gag gifts for Father's Day
Gag gifts for Father's Day

Gag Gift for Father's Day

Examples of Father's Day gag gifts, more fun gifts for Dad

Executive gag gifts like this "decision-maker," would be another riff on the type I would get my dad. Do they have a serious function? Not really. Unless you consider that the time your mind plays with a gadget or gift like this allows space for your decision to form in your mind. Sometimes these gifts allows our subconscious to participate and help in the decision-making process. Did my dad think that? Probably not. For him they were was just fun, but for us they provided moments filled with family laughter that we remember to this day. Are gag gifts worth it? I think so.

All photographs in this article are provided by Vikk Simmons and copyrighted with all rights reserved. Please contact me if you wish to use them.


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