In August of 1938 my father, William Wallace Fenn (better know as simply, Wally), began his freshman year at Harvard. He ran cross country that fall and was pretty good. He was always a fast runner. I am not sure if he played a winter sport but in the spring of 39, he was introduced to the game of lacrosse, a game that required speed and agility but wasn’t so dependent on the size of the player to be good. Dad wasn’t a very big guy, in fact he was a little on the small side. He would end up playing lacrosse all of his four years at Harvard and by the time he left in 1942, he would be captain of the team.
Like all young men of that era, my dad laid down his lacrosse stick at the end of his last season and shortly after graduation, headed off to fight in World War ll. Thankfully, he survived the war and went off to have a peaceful and productive life. He passed away in January of 2014 at the age of 93.
As a kid, I remember my dad’s lacrosse sticks propped up in the corner of the basement. They were always there my entire life. Occasionally, he would bring them out in the back yard and run around with them tossing the ball in the air, mostly playing with himself. I remember him asking me one day if they played lacrosse at my school. I remember saying “no they don’t” in a rather abrupt, teenager-kind of way. He said “too bad, lacrosse is a great game.”
After my dad passed away, we hired someone to come in and help clean out my parents house and have an estate sale. My dad’s lacrosse sticks ended up on eBay where they were purchased by a self-proclaimed lacrosse nut, a real historian, and owner of several lacrosse stores across the U.S. In the video that follows is the story of how Jason Ellison purchased the sticks and more importantly, the story they told.
Every stick has a story. And, so does the person who holds it. Enjoy!
This coming Sunday, June 21st, is Father’s Day. Coincidentally, for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s also the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year when the sun reaches its northernmost point of the equator marking the first day of summer. In addition to all this, Sunday is also Summer Sailstice, a world wide celebration of all things sailing.
Summer Sailstice was started by John Arndt back in 2001 as a way to share sailing by getting the whole world sailing on the weekend nearest the solstice. “I’ve sailed my whole life and worked in the sailing business for 30 years.” says John. “And like every sailor I know, I always wanted to share sailing with everyone. Sailing comes in an endless variety of styles – racing, cruising, dinghies, tall ships. The enormous variety makes it very challenging for the world to understand and for sailors to unite around a common event. Yet all these sailors are passionate about sailing and all want to share it with others. The Summer Sailstice sailing celebration gives every sailor a date to participate, to hoist sails, to show off their aspect of sailing and to share it with friends and the rest of the world. It’s growing and we’re looking forward to the day when the whole world sails for Summer Sailstice. And, when it gets big enough, it will become a global 3-day weekend for sailors!”
For me, the fact that Father’s Day just happens to fall on the same day as the Summer Solstice and Summer Sailstice this year is most appropriate. My dad, who passed away last year at the age of 93 was a huge sailor and a great dad. As a teenager, he learned to sail on Canandaigua Lake in up-state New York where my grandparents had a summer place. Somewhere along the line, my grandfather purchased a beautiful wooden sloop he named the Lorna Doone which my dad lovingly sailed up and down the lake during the long days of summer. Later, when I was a young boy, my dad purchased a wooden racing dinghy called a Jollyboat designed by Uffa Fox. The Jollyboat was an incredibly fast and spirited racing dinghy that often needed 3 or 4 people on the rail to keep the thing from capsizing when the wind piped up. He named the boat Betsey Anne, after my older sister Betsey who was born mentally retarded and never got much of a shot a life.
When I was about 14, my dad bought for the two of us to race on together, one of the first 420’s to find its way into the U.S. from France. We named this boat Quick Step because if you weren’t quick on your feet you could easily find yourself in the drink. This was followed some years later by a Rhodes 22 then finally a Bayfield 36.
Like my friend John Arndt, sailing has always been part of my life; largely because my father introduced me to it at a young age and taught me to love and appreciate the sea.
Last year about this time, in honor of my dad and Father’s Day, I wrote a blog titled, We are Only as Good as that which we Leave Behindwhere I make the point that what’s really important in life is not so much our accomplishments but rather the examples we set, the lessons we pass on and the tone by which we lead our lives. Sailing was a big part of my dad’s life. Turns out, not so surprisingly, it was a big part of John Arndt’s dad’s life too. Summer Sailstice helps to promote the legacy and the love of sailing of those that came before. So here’s to great fathers who loved to sail and do love to sail and perhaps with a little help from the long days of summer, will love to sail. Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere and happy sailing.
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.
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.
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.
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.