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Father’s Day 2015 – A Tribute to the Three Best Dads I Know

June 21, 2015

Hi all –

I wanted to take the time today to pay tribute to dads, because in this day and time in our nation’s history we need to recognize the dads who are doing it right, taking responsibility, and raising their children to be Godly members of society. Obviously there are a lot more than three wonderful dads out there, but I wanted to highlight these three because they’re all very special and have something in common: they succeed at being amazing dads even though they were robbed of the chance to enjoy as much time as they wanted with their own dads.

So below is a Father’s Day Tribute to three of my favorite examples of what it means to be “dad” – my own father, my friend, and my boss. Trusting all of you dads have an amazing day, surrounded by your family and those who love you. Know that you are so, so important in our society and we are grateful for your sacrifice and example.

Happy Father’s Day!


Dad and me in Tampa, FL in 2012

My Hero (My Dad) – Kevin Vander-Plas

Grandpa Vander Plas

Grandpa Vander Plas

My dad is amazing. He allows me to drag him to every political event known to man and has been my #1 cheerleader since I decided to pursue politics and law as a career. I couldn’t ask for a better dad. As y’all might know, he’s also a pastor and takes seriously what the Word has to say about leading the Church by first being the head of our household. He has always been sure to raise Stephanie and me in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Edit: dad preached on these very Scriptures today – what do you know?!)

So my dad is a true father in the Biblical sense and just the “cool dad” sense. I mean, do you know anyone else who would drop everything to dance with their daughter in the middle of Long John Silver’s, just because “our song” came on? Well, that’s a true test of fatherhood for you. 😉

My dad’s dad though, Elmer Roy Vander Plas, was also pretty awesome. He served in WWII and later raised a family on several farms in Iowa. Wounded during the war, Grandpa suffered from poor health most of his adult life. But when my dad graduated high school and moved to Colorado to go to Bible School, Grandpa was fine. Just six weeks later though, on the night of my parents’ first date, Grandpa passed away. My dad was told by the Bible School President (my other amazing grandpa, Rev. G. Dean Reid – yes, dad was dating the president’s daughter!) the next morning and flew home to take care of arrangements. Unbeknownst to him, Grandpa had written and mailed him a letter the day before he died, telling him how proud he was that dad was going to be a preacher and how he had found Jesus and would see him in Heaven.

Even though my mom, sister and I never got a chance to meet Grandpa Van – I know there’s no greater joy than knowing that we’ll see him again some day. Even though he was robbed of the chance to introduce his dad to his wife or any of his four kids, my dad persevered and has been the best dad anyone could hope for. My brothers, Forrest and Luke, will get the chance to introduce us to Grandpa though, as they got to meet him first. Pretty special. 🙂

Daddy – thank you for showing me how to follow hard after Jesus and how to push through difficulties to get to the other side.

My Friend – David Dewhurst

Lt. Col. David H. Dewhurst, Jr. before leading a bombing mission over Utah Beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944

Lt. Col. David H. Dewhurst, Jr. before leading a bombing mission over Utah Beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944

Carolyn Dewhurst with the cornerstone laid at Utah Beach to honor David's dad

Carolyn Dewhurst with the cornerstone laid at Utah Beach to honor David’s dad

I don’t remember exactly when I met Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for the first time, but it’s been pretty close to 10-11 years now. I am grateful to call him a friend and to know that I can depend on him if the going ever gets rough (as it tends to do!). As David and my friendship has progressed over the last few years, I have enjoyed getting to know his family and especially his daughter Carolyn. David’s care for his little girl is amazing and humbling to see and I love to watch the two of them together.

David’s dad was a highly decorated Air Force pilot during WWII, but was killed by a drunk driver when David was only 3. David has only vague memories of his dad – and one of the only stories he knew about him was that he was a pilot during the war. I remember hearing from David that he was going to go visit Normandy for the D-Day Anniversary in 2007. That’s when he made a startling discovery – a French museum on Utah Beach dedicated to the heroes of that day – including a whole section about his dad, Lt. Col. David H. Dewhurst, Jr.

Col. Dewhurst didn’t just “fly in the war” – he led the attack on Utah Beach the morning of June 6, 1944 and is credited with heroic behavior and skills as an aviator. He was one of the most highly decorated bombers in the Air Force. Through this discovery, David was able to connect with some of his dad’s squadron members and finally start piecing together a picture of his dad – a true American hero.

While David’s story was interesting to many, I was able to see the impact it had on his relationships. Finally “meeting” his dad after so long opened up a softer, gentler side to David that only his friends and family had been privileged to see. The way he’s raising his and Tricia’s daughter is a beautiful thing to watch, and I love seeing him exemplify what a “dad” is supposed to be in a young person’s life – even though he was robbed of the chance to experience it himself. He has suffered with the loss of his dad for years, but has always been determined that his little girl will always know her dad is around and loves her.

My friend, thank you for never giving up on your dad and for showing me that family is worth any sacrifice.

My Boss (Former & Future!) – Don Willett

Justice Willett with his lovely wife and the three "Wee Willetts"

Justice Willett with his lovely wife and the three “Wee Willetts”

One of the first things I ever noticed about Justice Willett was his love of his family. As many of you probably know, Justice Willett has a very entertaining and must-follow Twitter account (@JusticeWillett). In fact, he was recently named the “Tweeter Laureate of Texas”! I met my future boss through Twitter and as our friendship developed, my admiration for his skills as a father increased with every post about his family and his kids – the “Wee Willetts.”

Justice Willett’s father passed away when he was only 6 years old – but he does everything in his power to ensure that his family is at the center of everything he does. Being a lawyer (and a Supreme Court Justice) is a ton of work and can often lead those in our profession to depression and broken homes. But in the midst of stress, Justice Willett consistently shows that excellence in the legal profession does not have to be at the expense of family. At a time when politicians are clamoring for attention on every talk show and producing sound bites about how good they’ll be at whatever job they’re running for, Don Willett is putting his family first – and excelling at his role of “daddy” to Jacob, Shane-David, and Genevieve. His kids are growing up with a dad and loving every minute of it. (This past Christmas, Justice Willett wrote an article describing his thoughts on Fatherhood. Give it a read – he’s much more of a wordsmith than I.)

When I had the opportunity to intern with Justice Willett last summer, I was ecstatic. I learned so much and was pleased to find that the online persona was exactly in line with how my boss actually lived his life. I’m beyond honored to have been hired to be his law clerk after law school graduation next year, and I’m looking forward to learning from him how to excel as a lawyer and a member of the Vander-Plas family.

Thank you for your example in living life for our families, boss.

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