Tuesday, August 7, 2012

To Daddy on his birthday

Today would have been my father Fred Robert Slade, Jr.’s 84th birthday.  The facts of his life are nothing special.

  • Born August 7, 1928 to Fred Robert and Julia Mary Walsh Slade in Portsmouth, Virginia
  • Graduated from St. Joseph Academy in 1945  

  • Served in the Coast Guard for a little over a year 1946-47 

  • Attended St. Bernard Academy in Alabama on a GI-Bill  

  • Graduated from University of Virginia 1950 
  • Attended law school but quit after two years when he decided he didn’t want to have to lie to people
  • Married Mary Eleanor Davis
  • Helped keep his father’s taxi business going by working as a driver
  • Worked as an insurance salesman, department manager for Sears & Roebuck, realtor, concrete contractor, real estate developer
  • Died of lung cancer January 31, 2009

Here are some things you won’t learn by looking at the “facts”:

  • Daddy’s favorite songs were “Danny Boy,” “Rhapsody in Blue,” and “Ave Maria.”
  • He read all the time.  There wasn’t a subject he couldn’t talk about.
  • He took us on week long vacations to all the battlefields in Virginia and Pennsylvania. We knew more about the Civil War than anyone else in class. We always stayed in a nice hotel that had a pool.  He would have chocolate milk delivered to our room.  

Daddy playing with my sister at the pool in Charlottesville, VA
He taught us about beach safety, especially how to get out of a rip tide and deep water. He even beached himself once making sure that the water was safe before we went in. One time Daddy ran toward the ocean and dived in. When the waves receded, there he was face and belly down in a wet-sand skid with arms stretched out in perfect diving form.  Ouch – that had to hurt. But he gave us nearly 50 years of laughs over that.

Daddy could jump rope like Mohammad Ali.  There was very little space between his feet and the floor, just enough for the rope to slip through. 

He was funny.  When I was telling Momma and Daddy about the young man I was bringing home to meet them, Daddy asked what he liked to do.  I said he liked to hunt.  Without skipping a beat, Daddy said, “Great.  We’ll all hide and he can look for us.”

Daddy talking with Coach Bell,
no doubt imparting some advice on strategy
Daddy made sure he was at all the grandchildren's school functions and sports activities. Even while undergoing radiation treatments for prostate cancer, Daddy drove 3.5 hours to Manassas, Virginia several times during the week to see our daughter’s fast pitch softball team win the state championship.

Daddy and "First Child"

He even attended a wedding he wasn’t invited to just to see the most beautiful bridesmaid. 

Yep, that's Daddy.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. This is a wonderful tribute. I would have been honored to know your dad.

  2. GIRL, this is wonderful! I had forgotten about the jump rope! Too funny! We were all amazed, that I remember!

    I guess he went to two weddings uninvited so he could see g-daughter, #2.

    He was so darn smart, but he wasn't rich! LOL

  3. The facts of his life might not have been 'special' but it certainly sounds as if your dad was one extraordinary man. A lovely tribute.

  4. Wendy, this is an amazing tribute to your dad! He sounds like he was such a wonderful gentleman and fun father.

    1. He was indeed fun. He enjoyed other people's sense of humor. It was always a laugh-fest around Daddy.

  5. Sounds like a wonderful fellow. How blessed you were to call him Dad.

  6. Enjoyed reading this special post about your wonderful dad. It sounds like he was always there for his family, whether he was teaching, listening, being humorous or supporting his loved ones. In the comments Mary mentioned "he was so smart, but not rich." He may not have been wealthy in material things, but he was rich in the things that really matter - the love of his family, staying true to himself (ie not pursuing a law degree) and the satisfaction that comes from a life well lived. Wendy, I know you must miss him so - this is a wonderful tribute.

  7. When I look at the many anonymous faces in my photo collection, I often wonder who these people were. Unfortunately they come from a time when their children could not record a beautiful tribute like this. Thank you for introducing us to a special person.