An Ode To My Father

An Ode To My Father

Russell Schertz (1911 – 2004)

My father was not a baker. Boiling water would have been a challenge. Cooking a hot dog was the pinnacle of his culinary skills. But he was a pie aficionado, knew a good pie when he ate one and was not hesitant in critiquing pie results. He mainly focused on the crust and distained a crust that was “tough” meaning a crust with the consistency of cardboard.

He was certainly a man of his generation as cooking was not an expected skill for men of his age. He and his brothers had a mother who was noted for her pies and interestingly, his brother, who was about 10 years younger, wound up being a very good pie baker. So the skill continued through the family.

I think that my father was relatively amused at the idea that pie baking was a big deal for me. However, he was always appreciative of of my efforts and was especially fond of the coconunt cream pie recipe that is listed on the Upper Krust.

My father did not go to college, his formal education ending with high school. He came from a farm family much the same as my mother, but higher education did not seem to be a priority. Much like many men of his generation who grew up on farms, the expectation for him was that he would simply continue his life as a farmer. But farming was not really in his blood and while he did eventually own a farm, it was never his passion.

My father was a natural “people” person. Even though his formal education had been limited, he could converse and interact with anyone, from a farm laborer to a college president. He had the ability to make people feel comfortable to share their thoughts, concerns or opinions freely without judgement. In doing so, he developed a wide and diverse network of friends who truly respected him and enjoyed his company.

Earlier in my life I did not recognize and appreciate this special skill of engaging people. But as I have aged I have come to recognize the significance of this skill, especially in our current polarized social environment. Much like trying to incorporate my mother’s pie baking skills into my life, I attempt to honor my father by trying to act on his example of engaging with people.

But above all, he loved pie.

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