To celebrate father’s day, three profiles of local dads: the challenges, the triumphs and lessons learned
Education, faith and laughter are key for Duells
GOSHEN - Nate Duell has four reasons to celebrate Father’s Day every year.
They are his adopted daughter, Mackenzie Bilbrey, 18, along with Duncan, 9, Ainsley, 8 and 7-year-old Angus.
The care and philosophy the Goshen father of four uses to raise his children has come from observing and spending time with his father, Bob Duell.
“It helps to be in the same family business and same vicinity close by,” Nate said. “We hold the same values — to be close and take care of your family. Professionally and personally, I’ve learned how to treat people and how to treat every person. My dad has never met a stranger and he has instilled that in us.”
The family business is education.
“Both of my parents are educators. I did everything to avoid the family business at first,” he said, laughing. “Not until my early 30s did I realize it was my calling. Teaching is a service industry and you don’t do well if you don’t have people skills.”
And serving other people stems from the family’s faith and goes beyond that, Nate said.
“It’s not unusual for people to come up to me and say, ‘I love your dad. He gave me a chance. Everyone knows dad,” Nate said. “You don’t see many people who help other people. Dad says, ‘Take care of other people and take care of your family and your life will be a lot better.’”
Nate compared his home while growing up to a boarding house.
“People came to our house who stayed for dinner, stayed overnight if they didn’t have a place to stay. They were students or people from church, all ages. They were not discriminating,” he said. “My wife and I are trying to instill those same qualities in our kids.”
Being private and personal is not the Bob Duell way, Nate said about his father. “He’s been an open book all his life,” he added.
And Bob credits his father, Ralph Duell, for his philosophy on life.
“My dad was a spiritual person and a prayer warrior. I never noticed until the day he (Ralph) died and then Nate told me I was to be the prayer warrior now,” Bob said, with tears in his eyes. “Nate recognized my dad was a prayer warrior.”
And as a grandfather, Bob remains open to his grandchildren.
“It’s a different experience. I’ve had to learn to be a grandparent and not a parent and not be in control like I did with Nate. I tried to control Mackenzie a little bit,” Bob said. “Being a grandparent should be a place where kids can come for food, to relax, vent if need be and get away from parents.”
Mackenzie laughed while saying she’s “the best grandchild and the favorite. Grandpa is always there for me. He’s always helping others and we’ve rung bells together for the Salvation Army and other quirky service opportunities. He takes time out of his day to help others. People tell me the things he’s done and it’s like he’s an awesome hero.”
Nine-year-old Duncan will call his grandpa if he has a bad day.
“When I go to his house, he makes sure I can deal with it,” Duncan said. “He’s awesome and takes care of us.”
And the Duell family shares a lot of laughter with their sense of humor.
“Humor makes life easier sometimes to laugh about it,” Bob said.
And humor makes conflict resolution easier, Nate added.
“We all have a great sense of humor and it’s rare not to have a family gathering with a lot of laughter,” Nate said.
A father’s guidance lives on for counselor
ELKHART - This will be the first Father’s Day that Sheri Miller won’t be able to spend with her dad, Rene R. Neff.
He died almost a year ago at the age of 79 and she won’t be able to give him one of his favorite gifts, ice cream.
“A pint of ice cream, from The Chief, was always a welcomed gift. He loved ice cream!” Miller said, with tears in her eyes. “I think especially in this stage of my life, not having him here for Father’s Day is even more noticed because no matter how hectic life gets, it’s a day we set aside, specifically to acknowledge fathers.”
She asked her dad many years ago about some advice for dealing with people and his words made an impact when she counsels students. His words — It’s better to build bridges than burn bridges.
“I’m a school counselor and I love my job,” Miller said. “That’s my philosophy with people. I listen to them to get to their underlying needs,” Miller said. “My dad didn’t care about the limelight. He was successful. He was a true leader and it was a gift.”
Her dad would talk with the farmers in the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (now Farm Services Agency) for 24 years about different things. He was diplomatic when he gave information, whether it be good or bad and she tries to do that., she said.
One thing her father was very adamant about was his children getting an education.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do and my dad said, ‘I want you to go to college and live on campus for one year,’” she said. “Education was very, very important to him. It made an impact on me and I went on to get my master’s degree and many hours of college beyond that.”
She finds herself saying things like her father in telling people to ‘plan ahead’ and “about building bridges rather than burning them in establishing a rapport with them,” she said.
She grew up in a Christian home where “we were raised that we were never more important than anyone else. I don’t recall them talking bad about anyone else,” Miller said. “They never said anything negative about people, rather they looked for the good and never criticized.”
Daughter perfect gift for new dad
GOSHEN - Bradd Hile was hoping to celebrate today for the first time as a first-time father.
His daughter, Ryler Reigh, made it happen when she was born two weeks ago on June 3.
“I kept telling my wife (Jillian) it would be exciting to have her here by Father’s Day,” Hile said, smiling. “It gives (Father’s Day) a whole new meaning and I’m so pleased. It seems like she’s growing so fast already.”
Hile said he goes to work everyday with his new daughter on his mind.
“It’s very exciting and a different feeling going to work and I think about her all day,” Hile said. “I can’t wait to get home and hold her. She’s a good baby and we don’t get up too often in the night. She doesn’t fuss much and she’s very definitely spoiled.”
It can be a little intimidating to take on the role of being a dad and the responsibility that goes along with it, he said.
“Some things I know and some things I don’t. Knowing that I have that much responsibility, it’s a little scary but it’s exciting to look forward to,” the new dad said. “I have a good support system and I know I can handle it well.”
His dad, Mitch Hile, and father-in-law, Joel Zentz, have been good role models and he plans to follow in their footsteps.
“They lead by example, raised us in Christian homes and have always been there for us,” Hile said. “I want to lead by my example and be there for her.”
His daughter’s name — Ryler — combines the names of a special person in his life and a special person in his wife’s life.
“She’s named after my wife’s older brother, Ryan, and my friend, Tyler, from high school who passed away,” Hile said. “We wanted a name that would be a little different so we took the two names in honor of her brother and memory of my friend and combined the two.”
Does the new father have any special traditions he hopes to begin this year?
“At this time I haven’t thought of any tradition to start with Ryler this Father’s Day, but I think I’d like it when she gets older,” Hile said, “if she would let me take her on a Daddy Date every Father’s Day, just me and her. And even though it’s supposed to be Dad’s special day, I’ll still buy.”