Happy Birthday to my Dad

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This is me with my dad, the handsomest man I know (sorry, Larry, you are a close second). Today is Dad’s 86th birthday! We all grew up knowing that mom married the hottest guy in Kewaunee, a source of pride to us. Dad was born in Suring, a small town in northern Wisconsin, and moved to Kewaunee at age 12.  Since mom was also from Kewaunee, we claim Kewaunee as our family’s ground zero. AND even though he’s lived in California for 60+ years, the Wisconsin part matters. These are things you should know about him.


  • My dad is hilarious. Tells stories with punch lines. Has comedic timing. He is charming. When you meet him, you will be charmed. He makes a party fun, and this family has a lot of parties. Our niece Danielle is in love with my dad.
  • He taught me to be unafraid to take a tool to something that was broken. When I moved to college, he gave me a red tool box with fresh screwdrivers, hammers and such. I could change a tire, rewire a thermostat (OK, he was on the phone for that one), tear things apart and I know the correct way to use spray paint.
  • He loves margaritas, shrimp cocktails and vodka martinis with extra olives and onions. But he isn’t a food snob; his tastes are pretty simple. You can either blame that on Wisconsin or the army (he was a first Lieutenant during WWII), two subjects that come with funny stories once you get him going.
  • Dad’s Valentine’s Day candy is a treasure. No brother-in-law in this family dare compete. As far back as I can remember, he gave mom a large red heart box of chocolates and we five daughters would have our own “little girl sized” hearts. Once we left home, he mailed them to us. Never late. We receive a hand-wrapped package with his writing on the label, and a classic uproarious note inside, usually to the tune of how it would be wrong, wrong, wrong for us to crack open that candy and consume before February 14, possibly that it isn’t “ripe” yet, just great funny stuff.  The year my sister, Sue lived in Australia, her candy arrived and she said she blubbered with tears over it.
  • One Christmas he surprised us with a new car – a VW bug. Family of seven.  DAD?  IMPETUOUS?? He owned that car for 14 years.
  • He taught me how to drive a damn complicated stick shift and how to kick-start that car. We had an Opel Cadet “kid’s car” with a wonky gear shift, and we’d go to a houseless street so I wouldn’t harm anything. Shift, shift, GRIND, shift. On cold foggy days when the car wouldn’t start, since it was so light, I’d roll it down the hill, pull the choke properly, pop the clutch and hopefully get it going before the dead end. Once in a while, he’d walk down and we’d push it back up the hill to kick-start it again.
  • Dad and a business partner owned a micro brewery, Southern California Brewing Company, located at the Alpine Village in Torrance.  After twelve fun years, they sold it on E-Bay.  Why not?  Every thing else is sold on E-Bay. 
  • My dad was responsible for moving the remains of his deceased father, after burial, twice. His mother, Chloe, was not happy with the first plot after a few years, it was in the ground and she liked the new mausoleum. So, my dad worked out some deal to have him exhumed and put in the mausoleum. Some years later (Chloe outlived Grandpa Charlie for decades), a better mausoleum was built. By now, Charlie’s remains weren’t in a condition that any person with sense would ever touch; the actual “mass” of the whole thing was… toxic??  Yet, you could not argue with Chloe. So… dead of Wisconsin winter (no pun intended), my dad arranged to have the heat turned off in the mausoleum. Freeze Charlie. He was then re-parked in the beautiful, pretty spot. Now you can see how he taught me to be unafraid to take a tool to something broken, hard to compete with that one.
  • He designed our house for weddings. Five daughters. Church ceremonies, home receptions. He built all sorts of things to maximize the opportunity, including covers to transform the pool table for catering, extending the wet bar, fire pit in the deck. Fire pits are big fashion now but I gotta tell you, he INVENTED the fire pit, built via sweat equity with future sons-in-laws Scott and Pete in the mid-70s. Larry somehow avoided the day labor jobs, but the other guys now know how to build pretty much ANYTHING, in great part to working with my dad.
  • There are a million more of these, but for now…


We all love you!

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Worth The Whisk May 6, 2010 at 11:55 am

Don – Dads are treasures, aren’t they? I’ve known you for many years, and I can say, your dad did a good job.

2 Don Odiorne May 6, 2010 at 11:52 am

I loved this. Having recently lost my Dad it brought back similar fun stories. Like how I got my driving license. He had promised to come home from work, got delayed, so I drove down to the courthouse alone. Told the instructor my Dad was sick, in the restroom, so we took the test. I drove home and Dad was waiting. Rather than admonish me he said “well, that’s probably what I would have done too, let’s see how you do and we immediately went for a 100 mile round trip. The next week, on vacation, he made me drive down the ocean highway near Big Sur. Guess I passed his tests too.

3 denise vivaldo May 6, 2010 at 11:48 am

I loved it and the pictures! I did not know there were five girls! Yikes!
Wonderful dear, Patti!

4 Penelope Tsaldari May 5, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Thank you for allowing us to share your joy!
Warmest regards and best wishes to your dad!

5 melinda May 3, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Uncle Bill is a sweetie. When he greets me at family gatherings, he is always so happy to see me and makes me feel special! Happy Birthday, Uncle Bill.

6 Worth The Whisk May 3, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Kelly, that’s definitely me. A rare photo, just one of us with a parent!

7 Kelly May 3, 2010 at 3:06 pm

How sweet! That post is such a great tribute. There is no caption on the first picture, but I assume that is you?

8 Karen Harris May 3, 2010 at 2:10 pm

What a lovely post in honor of your father. He sounds like a great man.

9 Lynette May 3, 2010 at 9:42 am

Happy Birthday Uncle Ray! I left you a short message on Gretchen’s FB page. But I check this out and think it’s a fantastic tribute to you on your special day! I have always wished we lived closer…I would love to hear your stories.

I remember when I was a little girl, you came to visit us. You brought Char and me a couple of those dart gun target games. You were working for a toy company back then if I remember correctly…or had something to do with one. You apologized for the “boy toy”, saying they didn’t have much for girls in their line of toys. Char & I played with your gifts for a very long time, probably until one of us got our eye shot out. It was fun having our big, handsome uncle from California (woohoooo!) come and see us. P.S. I think you look like Jimmy Stewart…have said that since I saw my first Stewart movie way back when! LOL

Happy Birthday,
Love, Lynette

10 Gretchen, Daughter #3 May 3, 2010 at 8:55 am

I used my college toolbox yesterday.

11 Jane, the 4th daughter May 3, 2010 at 12:37 am

You rock, Dad!!! Great article; sums him up well. I once missed the opening act to the Kenny Loggins concert because Dad decided my oil needed changing RIGHT NOW. No fit-pitching could stop him.

12 Wendy May 2, 2010 at 6:07 pm

This brought tears to my eyes!!!

We love you so much, UNCLE BILL. Happy, happy birthday!!!!

13 Worth The Whisk May 2, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Marlene, and I know you miss your dad a lot. Hard to believe it has been ten years!

14 Marlene Brown Oliphant May 2, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Patti, thanks for sharing. My dad died ten years ago on Friday, so I appreciate being reminded of what our parents mean in our lives.

15 sra May 2, 2010 at 5:13 am

Hi, came over through the foodie blog roll – enjoyed reading this post. Many happy returns of the day to your Dad!

16 Simply Life May 2, 2010 at 3:56 am

how sweet! happy bday to your dad!
You’ll have to let me know how the spanish rice turns out – I’m glad you like the recipe!

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