A hero died on Sunday. He was to be ninety one next month. I spoke to him on the phone for the last time on Saturday. He couldn’t talk much or for very long because every time he said a few words he would have a fit of coughing. I told him about my day and what I was doing and when I hung up the phone I said what I always say to him and then we said good bye. I did not know that it would be for the last time.
He was certainly a hero. He wasn’t a military hero. During WWII he couldn’t get into the service because of a bad arm. He had been a breached birth and when he was pulled into this world it was by his arm and as a result his arm was damaged. It was always what he called his bad arm. He wasn’t a famous sports hero or a famous actor. He never struck it rich or invented a better mousetrap. He didn’t win the Indianapolis 500 or go into space. I guess that to most folks he was just Fred.
Fred had a scar on his right cheek. He got it from the handlebars of his bicycle when he was a kid. Like most scars it became less noticeable the older he got. You had to look really hard to see it but you didn’t have to look very hard to see the character of the man behind that scar. You would, however, have to look long and hard for someone that didn’t like Fred.
Fred was a little shy on the education side of things. He never went any further than elementary school. Even so he had learned how to figure. While he was still a boy by today’s standards his father charged him board to live at home. I remember him telling me about when he got a raise at the job he worked his father raised his board so that the raise was gone. It wasn’t long after that Fred took a room at a boarding house in town.
Fred worked a lot of places including doing some cooking out at Sea Side when it use to take care of people with TB. While he worked there he met a gal named Sophie and they fell in love and were married. They had a daughter that they named Jean. When she was a little girl she was struck by a sled and suffered a ruptured spleen. She might have died except for the efforts of a surgeon named Tage Nielsen.
Fred couldn’t pay Doctor Nielsen his fee because he didn’t have the money so the good doctor told him to pay what he could when he could. So that is what Fred did. Then one day when Fred brought him a small payment Doctor Nielsen took the bill with a balance still owed on it and wrote across it, paid in full, and handed it back to Fred. Doctor Nielsen was a hero too.
I first met Fred on August seventh in 1948. From then until now he was and has been my hero. To everyone else he was just Fred, to me he was dad, and wouldn’t you know he and my mother named me Tage Nielsen Wright. It is a name that I am very proud to bear.
Everyone has a father, but not everyone has a dad, and not every dad is a hero. Mine was and is just that, a hero. He taught me more about life than any book I have ever read or any teacher I have ever known. He was a good, honest man that said what he meant and meant what he said.
He taught me how to ride a bike and how to water ski. He taught me to be tough when I needed to be and how to put that toughness aside when need be. He taught me how to shoot a gun and how take care of a family. He taught me to be honest and most of all he taught me what it meant to be a dad. He did all this and more.
Before he retired from Pfizer (I worked there as well) and moved to Florida I spent every day at lunch sitting with him in the paint shop having soup and talking. When he retired I missed those talks and when he moved to Florida I missed having him near by.
For many year now I have called him every day and I would never hang up with out telling my hero that I loved him. I will ask God each night when my wonderful wife and I say our prayers together to tell Fred that we love him and miss him. There is a peace that I have in this loss that I feel because I know that now my hero is standing with my heroine Sophie watching over their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.
I would like to take just a minute to thank someone else that I am certain in my father’s eyes and mine as well has reached hero status. His name is Charles Frederic Wright and he was a surprise gift to Fred and Sophie two and a half years after I showed up. He has along with his wife Megan labored taking care of our dad when neither myself or our sister could.
If you take anything away from this story, take this, anyone can father a child. It takes a man to be a dad and a special man to be a hero. If you are falling short in this take my advice and figure out how to be a hero. Or when you are gone the only one that will miss you will be the tax man.
In the memory of Frederic S. Wright, a man, a dad and a hero
Tage N. Wright
Please note that I am donating 50% of the royalties from my novel to "Soldier On". They provide housing for homeless veterans. Please help me help those who have given so much to provide the freedom we all enjoy.
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