Paul Fenn

We Are Only As Good As That Which We Leave Behind

Last Father’s Day I wrote a blog titled Father’s Day, It’s More Important than You Think that was inspired by a young neighbor of mine (Cameron) who lost his father at age 51 after a long battle with cancer. I was luckier than Cameron, my father lived to be 93 and essentially died of natural causes this past January. I haven’t talked with Cameron since this time last year but I imagine that he is thinking about his father this Father’s Day as I am thinking about mine.

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My dad, William Wallace Fenn ll on the front porch of the Cliff House overlooking Canandaigua Lake circa 1942

My dad was born in 1920 in Boston, MA. His father, my grandfather was a professor of physiology at the University of Rochester. When my dad was in high school, his parents bought a summer place on Canandaigua Lake in up-state New York where he learned to sail. Like his father and grandfather, he attended Harvard College where he played lacrosse and eventually became the captain of the team. He graduated with a degree in Biology in 1942 and like all young men of that time went off to fight in World War ll. He joined the Army Air Corps and was sent to the Philippines where he became a radar countermeasures officer. Radar was in its infancy in those days and my dad flew in the nose of a B-29 looking for enemy outposts. It was a dangerous job and at least once they took a bullet or two through the engine of their plane. He told me that they were lucky because the engine kept running and they landed safely. After the war he went back to school at Rensselaer Politechnic Institute and earned a second degree in electrical engineering. He married my mother in 1947 and soon after had two daughters, my sister’s Bonnie and Betsy. I came along in 1959.

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My dad and my Aunt Ruth sailing on Canandaigua Lake aboard the Lorna Doone about 1938. Dad loved to sail and always tried to get all that he could out of the boat and the conditions. I love this picture with his leg draped over the side in an effort to keep the boat sailing flat.

Growing up my dad was always there for me. Like all good dads he taught me right from wrong. He taught me how to sail and how to tie a bowline at a young age. He taught me how to handle a jack-knife and how to split and stack wood. He taught me how to change a flat tire, use a power mower and run an outboard engine. Somewhere along the way by way of example, he taught me how to be a good husband and a father to my three children.

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Mom, dad and me about 1963 I’m guessing

This is my first Father’s Day without a father to give a gift to or make a phone call to. But thankfully, my memories of my dad are clear and happy ones. More and more I am struck by the idea that we are only as good as that which we leave behind. Not so much by our accomplishments but rather by the examples we set, the lessons we pass on and the tone by which we lead our lives. Perhaps this is why we are here.

Happy Father’s Day!

On we go…

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