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Jonathan Hoffman: Lessons from our dads

Jonathan Hoffman: Lessons from our dads

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Today we celebrate Fathers Day, a day when we honor fatherhood and recall the influence of our own fathers.

I was very fortunate to have been brought up in a family with a great man at the helm. I attribute all the good aspects of my nature to the influence of both my parents.

I made a list of all the ways my father taught good character, either by instruction or, more commonly, by example. I will share one anecdote.

The house in which I grew up had a fireplace. When the weather began to turn cold, my father would go to a place called The Open Hearth to buy firewood. For a few dollars, the workers would fill the trunk of your car with wood.

Once, when I was a small child, my father was emptying the trunk to make a wood run. I saw him go upstairs and come back with a pile of his clothing in his arms that he took out to the car and put in the trunk. Then he left for The Open Hearth.

I asked my mother why he put clothing in the trunk after emptying it out for the wood. She told me that the men who worked at the The Open Hearth made very little money and often could not afford clothing. When the men brought the firewood to the car, my father would open the trunk and pretend that he left the clothing in there by mistake. He then asked the men if they knew anyone who could use the clothing, which he was planning on giving away. Of course, he was giving the clothing to the men, but by asking for their help in giving it away he made them peers instead of lowly recipients of his charity, preserving their dignity.

Think of the lessons contained therein: 1) Helping the less fortunate is important; 2) It should be done humbly, without fanfare; 3) Everyone, regardless of station, has dignity that should be honored and preserved.

I asked Tucson’s mayor and members of the City Council, what their fathers have said that was significant to their character development.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said, “My father repeatedly emphasized to recognize the best in everyone, to be straightforward and candid, and to be a problem solver, not a complainer. I try to do my best each day to honor him.”

Councilman Richard Fimbres, quoting his father, said, “Education is something that once you had it, no one can take it away from you.”

Councilman Paul Cunningham said, “My dad’s greatest lesson was to act with integrity and work with great tenacity.”

As a child, City Councilman Paul Durham called a family friend a coward for becoming a CO (conscientious objector) in front of his father, who declared, “No, Paul, that is one of the bravest, loneliest things he could possibly do. He is following his conscience and his convictions.”

As sons become men, it is natural for conflicts to develop between father and son. Councilman Steve Kozachik offered an important message in this regard. “My dad and I had a rocky relationship, even up until the end. He’s gone now and neither of us ever took the initiative to step forward and be the one to make the first move toward reconciliation. If you’re in that place, consider reaching out an olive branch today. Once he’s gone, the opportunity is lost forever.”

Fathers are not perfect, but they are, along with our mothers, the most important influences on the type of persons we have become. Today we should take a moment to think of them and offer a prayer of thanks for their greatness, and forgiveness for their shortcomings.

Jonathan Hoffman has lived and worked in Tucson for 40 years. Write to him at

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