My dad was an amazing guy, but you already know that. You know that he would bend over backwards to help somebody out and never expected anything in return. You know that he was a businessman the likes of which you won’t often run across. You know that he was honest to a fault, strong beyond belief, and extremely creative. But you don’t need me to tell you that. You know. That’s why you are here.
Let me tell you a couple of things you don’t know about my dad.
My dad was nuts. For the first 10 years of my life, he had me convinced that he kept an alligator under the back seat of our van. And there was probably a bear there with him if I didn’t stop kicking his seat. I also firmly believed that there was a spanking room in every restaurant, where they took kids who couldn’t behave themselves. This is a man who put M-60s in cow pies for fun and shot cherry bombs out of the ends of metal tubes. Nuts.
But he was also brilliant. He always had advice to share that he had learned the hard way, and he always had a long game. He tried to spare all of us girls the pain of learning the hard way, but we seldom listened.
Dad’s advice was usually pretty straightforward. Not in a “Don’t sit on your spurs” kind of way, but in a “Don’t do stupid stuff” kind of way. I cannot tell you how many times we sat out on our back porch together and he would tell me, Jo Anne that is stupid. It didn’t usually matter what he was talking about. He was usually right. Hanging out in the airport all day instead of going to school was stupid. Driving all over in the middle of the night – also stupid. Taking 21 hours one semester in school - pretty stupid for a grown woman with kids and a career.
I still have his last text to me saved in my phone. I had spent weeks fighting and scrambling for a job I didn’t want when I had one in my hand that leads to the future I think is planned for me. And his message simply says, “Jo Anne, I’m only going to say this once because it is stupid. You already made your choice. Do the right thing.”
And that is how he played the long game. By thinking, and planning, and always doing the right thing.
My dad never set out to do anything without the end in mind. He didn’t buy Green Acres thinking it would stay a wooded hunk of land forever. He bought it because when he walked those acres, he saw his childhood dreams come true – a beautiful piece of land with everything cleared out but the most beautiful trees, his grandkids learning to shoot guns, a tin cabin turned into a place you could almost live in. It took him years, but it was all part of the long game, and he got exactly what he wanted.
Nothing in his life was any different. He did not take a job thinking he would work in the mailroom forever. He took a job knowing he would some day run the place. Every deal he made was part of that plan. Each tiny thing built on the next, until he could take the next big leap.
Likewise, he did not choose my mom as his wife as some temporary deal. He chose the love of his life and built the thing he was most proud of – his family. That was perhaps the longest play of his life, and the biggest gamble. Marry this beautiful woman and see how things turn out. And he raised three beautiful girls who know how to love, how to trust, how to always stand up for what is right not because we learned it anywhere else, but because he showed us how. And he won. He rolled the dice, gambled, and won. And as bonuses, he got two amazing sons-in-law and two amazing granddaughters.
Make no mistake, he loved hunting, he loved fishing, he loved being outdoors and getting to be like a kid as much as he could, but he loved coming home more. He was always happiest surrounded by his girls – all of us: Mom, Lori, Becky, me, Lexi, and Elly.
And more than just being with us, dad lived each of our victories. He didn’t miss a graduation, a prom, a new job, a birthday, and he took genuine delight in them. He always had words of wisdom for us, whether we were listening or not, and he had a plan for each of us. In some ways, I feel like he felt he could finally let go because each of his girls was headed in a direction he approved of and was confident we could succeed in. But he had to let go because this long game outlasted him.
But, long game be damned, my dad could be amazingly spontaneous. As a kid, there were trips to Peppermint Park and Astroworld, amazing family vacations to Rockport, forays to Fossil Creek, and smaller things like handing over a five dollar bill and telling me just to keep it safe.
I never really knew what to expect from my dad, but I always knew he had a plan for me. Now it is my turn to make and fulfill my own plan, and that is going to be hard. But my dad helped raise me right, I think. He raised me to think things through, to give with all I have, and to love with every ounce of my being.
I love you Dad. I hope I make you proud.
These videos were compiled for my dad's funeral services. Each one pays tribute to a different aspect of my dad's life - his relationship with his daughters, his love story with my mom, and one that is just him.
And lest you think for a second that Hank ever took himself too seriously, I am including a video he helped me with years ago in a video production class about a Red-nek Hot Tub. His beauty and sense of humor shine through in every aspect of the film.