Our Fathers’ Legacies
One good story deserves another
Heather Boughey began our Father’s Day feature with her legendary tale of what her late father, our beloved columnist Bill Burton, left behind. Magnetically, her story attracted a half dozen others. Read on for the legacies bequeathed another icon, Bernie Fowler; a politician, Mike Miller; a riverkeeper, Fred Tutman; a mourning adult daughter, Donna Ware; a fledgling fourth generation journalist, Bay Weekly intern Jesse Furgurson; and a foster child of beloved relatives, Marjorie Johnson.
10 Tons of Treasure
My father, Bill Burton, accumulated much in his 82 years. A child of the Depression, he saved everything and threw away very little. After he died in the summer of 2009, we were faced with the daunting task of sorting through rooms full of his belongings.
There were hundreds of boxes of old newspaper clippings, thousands of photographs, notes for articles, letters, books, countless amounts of fishing lures and tackle and almost everything else imaginable. We had to go through all of it.
Dad wasn’t the most organized person, so we never knew what we’d find in a box. The box might be clearly labeled MD Rockfishing, but old family photographs might be mixed in. We needed to look at each piece of paper in each box lest we throw away something of value.
This process turned into a year-plus journey through my father’s life. In one box we found letters he had written to his beloved Aunt Mimi while he was in the Navy during World War II. These letters showed a simple New England farmboy experiencing far-away exotic locations while filled with uncertainties of war and longing for home.
Mixed in with articles in another box, I found a Father of the Year award I had carefully lettered back in 1979 and presented on Father’s Day. He saved it, along with many of the cards he’d been given over the years. There were many poems that he wrote to my mother. It was touching that he kept all of these mementos. I was learning what Dad considered important in life.
The boxes also gave us insight into how Dad came up with ideas for the thousands of articles he wrote. There were newspaper clippings and press releases, with his notes scribbled in the margins. He saved all of the letters and photographs hunters, anglers and outdoorsmen sent him.
Reading these letters reinforced the idea of all the lives he touched. Many of the letters began, Mr. Burton, I wanted to send you this photo of my child who caught this fish … We found hundreds of photos Dad kept of unidentified people proudly holding their fish or game.
Each box took us deeper into Dad’s life. Reading his comments in books gave us a glimpse of what the book meant to him. Paragraphs would be underlined with his thoughts added. We had to look through each book, as he often wrote an inscription in the front. I recently was called by a friend Dad had given a stack of books to. One of the books had been inscribed to me, back in 1983, with a note that I would enjoy it.
Dad had closets full of clothes. He didn’t throw any away, no matter how out of fashion they became. I couldn’t imagine my father wearing the red, white and blue striped bell-bottoms we found in the back of one closet, but my mother assured me he did. I remembered being mortified when Dad attended my high school graduation in bright yellow corduroy pants with geese embroidered on them. However, when I found those pants 21 years later, I smiled.
Knowing he was dying, Dad had time to give many gifts to those he cared about. His fishing rods, pipes, books and other belongings were hand-selected to go to those who he knew would cherish them as he had. He also, unknowingly, helped hundreds of people with the gift of clothes. We donated more than 35 lawn bags of sweaters, shirts, pants, suits and coats to veterans and homeless organizations.
My father chose his World War II dog tags for me. I often wear them on a simple chain under my shirt to keep him close. Growing up, he and I went to events on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, so the simple gift of dog tags meant more to me than any other material item.
I wonder if my father knew he was also leaving me an immense gift: the imprint of his life on mine. He left me the gift of a love of the outdoors and an appreciation of nature. He left me a legacy by nurturing my daughter (known to Bay Weekly readers as Grumpy) into an outdoors enthusiast. He left me another gift, of going through his life, one box at a time, learning more about him and what he thought and treasured, with each box.
What started out as a daunting task has turned into a history lesson on a life well lived.
–by Heather Boughey
Life’s Basic Lessons
From age two until I married, I was raised by my aunt, my father’s sister, and her husband Ralph Leitch, who had a farm where Herrington Harbour North and the Deale Historical Society now sit. In those days, if a family fell apart, relatives stepped in. I called my aunt Mother and my uncle by his first name, since I still had a father. Ralph taught me my numbers and letters. He taught me addition, subtraction and multiplication. He taught me to row a boat and to ice skate by pushing a stool to keep your balance; I have since seen that they do this at the ice rink in Quiet Waters Park. He taught me to tell the truth. He taught me all the lessons I needed for life.
–told by Marjorie Johnson
Work Hard for What You Want
Howard Andrew Fowler
Dad always taught us that if you want something in life you have to work for it. There’s no free lunch. You have to persevere and work hard to make it happen. And I worked hard for years.
He was a farmer and waterman in Calvert County. We were an extremely poor family; I’m a son of the Great Depression. If it hadn’t been for that beautiful lady, the Patuxent River, some of us might not have been able to make it. But that river always had something good for us: fish, crabs, oysters or clams.
I’ve worked for her well-being for 40 years; that’s why I got in politics. And I will as long as I have life and breath.
–told by Bernie Fowler
Share the Wealth
Thomas V. Miller Sr.
My father taught me that everyone needs help.
When I learned he was going to vote for Jimmy Carter, I said, Dad, He’s going to tax the rich. My father said, We’ve got ours. Now we’ve got to help others get theirs. It was a rare father-son moment as he was always a busy man.
–told by Mike Miller
Clyde H. Ware
My dear father, Clyde H. Ware, instilled in me my great love of history and championed my chosen career in historic preservation and museum management. My dad was an amazing person: He had an inquisitive mind, always wanting to learn new concepts and ideas and expand his knowledge. He loved to share this knowledge. He was an avid reader and took me and my three siblings to the public library as soon as we could walk.
Dad was an expert birdwatcher. Every family trip involved historic sites and bird watching. He loved nature and marveled at trees, plants, and the sounds and beauty of this wonderful world.
My father was an artist. He drew with charcoal and pencil at an early age and then worked with oils and, finally, watercolor. His passion for life came through in his paintings. He loved the way that light transformed landscapes.
He was a self-made man. His own father died when he was 16 while they were playing ice hockey. My dad went on to serve in World War II and became the marketing director of the Norfolk and Western Railway. He and my mother — a great team — were very active in their church and believed in service to others. He lived that philosophy, giving of himself until his final days. He passed away on January 16, 2012, at the age of 90.
–by Donna Ware
Do Whatever You Can to Make Our World Better
My father really cared deeply about injustice of any kind, and from him I inherited my own desire to fight against social injustice, which of course includes environmental unfairness and suffering. Now at age 80, with many strokes behind him, my Dad is unlike his old self.
He was a psychologist and an entrepreneur who spent a lot of time teaching inner-city kids to read, as he cared deeply about literacy and unleashing human potential. On the international level, he fought against abuses in the mental health profession. South Africa’s apartheid government was notorious for using chemicals, lobotomies and psychoactive drugs against political prisoners; and my father testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when that regime fell. His work drew attention to this great evil, helping to right wrongs.
Ever the humanitarian, my father taught me that we must not waste our time here on earth; that we have the obligation to do whatever we can to make the world better. He passed on to me the knowledge of the incredible power of one to make a difference.
–told by Fred Tutman
Three Generations of Ink Ernest B. Furgurson I, II and III
In the basement of my house sit pieces of a linotype machine my great-grandfather, Ernest B. Furgurson, used at the Danville (Virginia) Register and Bee for the better part of 55 years. His son, E.B. Jr., was writing for the Baltimore Sun when the first brick of the Berlin Wall was laid and was still writing for the Sun when the wall fell. And his son, E.B. III, my father, is an award-winning reporter for The Capital. Now I find myself spending my summer in the same world as an intern at Bay Weekly. My father’s hand may have been the one to crack this door for me to walk through, but there are three generations of ink on my fingers.
–by Jesse Furgurson