Theo Hill with his sons Chris, left, and Eric and Grandson Vincent, 17.
Dads in general tend to take a beating these days. With endless accounts of absent, abusive, and otherwise inattentive fathers, it seems there is nary a man worthy of celebrating this Father’s Day.
But those reports don’t begin to tell the whole story. The Blade interviewed a number of Toledo men who credit their dads – both living and deceased — with helping them to become the men they are today.
Consider Eric and Christopher Hill, who have much good to say about the positive values and work ethic they learned from their father, Theo Hill, Jr., who along with their mother, Ella, reared six daughters and two sons.
“A lot of what he taught me was by doing,” said Eric Hill, 49, assistant manager at Lowe’s on Airport Highway, of his dad. “During the blizzard of ’78, he stayed at the job and worked the whole time.”
His father retired from the old Interlake Iron company. There wasn’t hint of amazement in Eric’s voice when he said his dad, 84, still works; now he’s a transporter for an auto auction company.
“I learned to trust and believe in God, because, as a young man, we always went to church, whether anybody else did or not,” said Eric, whose parents have been married for 63 years.
Eric said he’s passing the values he learned from his father on to his two daughters and a son.
“I learned to take care of your family, love your wife and treat her nice, pay yourself first, pay your bills on time, make sound decisions and take care of yourself and family and your health, and do everything in moderation,” he said.
He and his wife, Anja, have been married for 27 years. He said his father also taught him that, “Anyone can be on time, so be early and make an impact. Do what you say you’re going to do, and don’t show off, show up.”
The youngest sibling and a business banker, Chris Hill, 38, has three daughters with his wife, Amanda. What he garnered from his dad were lessons of independence, responsibility, and accountability. And rather than view life’s difficulties as obstacles, the elder Mr. Hill instructed his children to apply the principle of making lemonade out of a lemon.
“There are a lot of hurdles in life,” Chris Hill said. But he says his father taught him “to take them and make opportunities out of them.”
When a father is absent, some sons decide they want to be good fathers who are involved in their children’s lives. Miguel Saucedo, 66, who retired from Jeep, was one of them. He said that not having his father around was not the best situation, but he made the best of it.
“It was my goal to be a better father. I knew how much I needed him, and I didn’t want my children to go through the same thing I went through,” he said.
Mr. Saucedo searched for his father when he was an adult and finally found him. It was a worthwhile move.
“He welcomed me into his family and we connected real good,” Mr. Saucedo said.
Mr. Saucedo and his wife of 44 years, Maria, have a son and two daughters. He believes he achieved his goal to be a good dad, and his son, Frank Saucedo, agrees.
“He had such a hard life,” said Frank Saucedo, 27, a sales team manager. “Obviously, he taught me all I know, including the work ethic. He never went to college, but he still managed to support his family.”
The younger Mr. Saucedo is impressed that his dad eventually obtained his general education diploma, when he was in his 50s, the family believes. The Saucedos’ daughters are a registered nurse and a doctor of nursing practice.
“Even now he’s still learning. He taught me to put others before myself, and people hold him in high regard. He taught me the truth about life, he still reads, and he wants us to be self-sufficient and to persevere. He’s still a happy-go-lucky guy,” said Frank Saucedo, who married on Saturday. “I want my kids to be able to get his influence directly from him.”
Tesfaye Fenikile, who is originally from Ethiopia, holds a picture of his older brother Alemayehu Fenikile who took over as a father figure when their father passed away.
When biological fathers are absent, families often seek a male relative to become a father figure. Tesfaye Fenikile’s father died when he was only a year old, and his oldest brother assumed fatherly duties.
“He encouraged me to get an education because he believed in education,” said Mr. Fenikile, 79, whose friends call him “Tes,” of his late brother, Alemayeitu Fenikile.
The native of Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, came to Toledo in 1972 and studied social services at the University of Toledo. He joined the building services department at Toledo Public Schools in 1979 and retired in 2000. He then worked as a guard at the Toledo Museum of Art for several years.
“Also, he encouraged me not to drink and smoke, to have good moral values, and to be honest and to work hard,” said Mr. Fenikile.
He said he and his wife, Lucia, both of West Toledo, passed on the importance of honesty, education, hard work, and the understanding that they can achieve their ambitions to their daughter, a pediatrician, and their son, an electrical engineer.
Education and self-reliance are recurring themes that these fathers passed on from their own fathers. Antonio D. Silva, of East Toledo, said his dad “was a big man for education.”
“If you get an education, you can do anything in the world,” Mr. Silva, 74 – an Ameritec retiree who continues to work in maintenance at Good Shepherd Parish in East Toledo – recalled his dad saying. Going to UT after high school financially burdened his father, so Mr. Silva joined the Army; two of his three brothers also joined the military. He also has a sister.
When Antonio D. Silva was a teenager, his father moved the family to Ohio from Texas, where he owned a service station and movie theater. After settling in Toledo, he worked for a concrete firm as a mechanic.
“He was a big man. He said to work for whatever you get,” said the younger Mr. Silva. He and his wife, Mary Rose, passed these principles on to their children, three sons, a chemical engineer, a computer science engineer, and the owner of a surveying company.
“Between my wife and I, we put that in their heads, to go to school and finish,” Mr. Silva said. He stressed that these guidelines must be conveyed to children repeatedly, a benefit that many children without fathers do not have today.
“You have to keep telling them what they have to do. I think today somehow we lost control of the kids because they don’t have a father figure or there’s nobody to guide them in the right direction,” Mr. Silva said.
Contact Rose Russell at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6178.