This year the Open Circle, a weekly Sunday forum at LCS, invited audience members to submit portraits of their fathers for presentation on Father’s Day. About a dozen submissions were received. Excerpts from three of winners are published here.
By Zofia Barisas
My father was born in 1903 in Panemunis, Lithuania, the second in a family of ten. Lithuania at that time was under Russian occupation. The family was poor and lived in a house with beaten earth floors. His father was a chef at the manor of wealthy Polish landowners. He earned a good wage but drank it away at the tavern. He beat his children and his wife.
In 1919 Lithuania became independent, under the protection of the German army. My father got work shoeing horses for the cavalry. He already spoke Russian and now learnt German.
At 25 he made his way to London where he boarded a ship sailing for Montreal. He had twenty five dollars in his pocket and spoke neither English nor French.
He arrived in Montreal in 1928 and worked in construction. In 1929, the Great Depression started and even he, willing and able to do any job, could find no work.
He rode the rails along with many others, crisscrossing Canada, finding bits of temporary work and saving every penny.
He loved to laugh and dance and talk. And he loved women.
By Libby Colterjohn
My father, John Roger Orr, was born in Calcutta, India to Scottish parents. When he was sixteen, he contracted polio and lost the use of both his legs. His parents retired from India and prepared to nurse their invalid son for the rest of their lives. However, Roger enrolled in the Edinburgh University Law School in about 1910, as the first person in a wheel chair to do so. He not only practiced law, but fought relentlessly for facilities and assistance in public buildings and on public transport for the handicapped. With his constant nagging, Edinburgh University was the first to recognize that people with disabilities should be encouraged to attend.
At the age of forty, he married my mother and was happy to find that he was able to sire several children. Although he was never able to walk, he was a wonderful father in every way and has always been my hero. He was the best father a girl could have had!
By David Dennis
My father, Clarence Dennis, graduated from Harvard College summa cum laude, received his medical degree from John’s Hopkins, and earned a master’s degree in physiology and a Ph.D. in surgery from the University of Minnesota. In 1951, his team performed the world’s first open-heart operation, using a heart-lung bypass machine that he had built. He might have won a Nobel Prize in Medicine had the six-year old patient survived – her death was due to unforeseen complications unrelated to the machine.
Dad believed that his role as father ended after he put his children through college. However, the brilliant but impenetrable Clarence Dennis went through a huge change in his later years when he lost his vision from macular degeneration, and at 90 developed dementia.
Dad was a terrific role model in only the areas of work and engaging in humanitarian endeavors. I became a researcher myself, though not in the medical field. Both my brothers are surgeons, and my sister is a registered nurse. We all reacted, however, against his family values, and put our families and children ahead of work. After years of relative isolation, we have become a close family unit later in life. Dad ended up acting as a good family role model after all – in a reverse sort of way.