As the oldest son, I observe that Dad's parenting style is not geared toward the verbal, even though he is a very verbal person. We learn from him, what Dad models. He and I never had a talk about being a husband, but I learned from him, by example, how to love my wife. Likewise, I do not recall receiving any parenting advice from him, nor have I sought it from him; instead I think I just absorbed it. A couple of weeks ago Bill Murray tweeted, “As you get older you realize that the ‘cool’ parents were actually just bad parents.” I am reasonably certain that neither my siblings nor I would put our parents in the “cool” category. I am equally sure that we agree that our parents were good parents, even though our family values at times put us at odds with fashion and mores of the time. Now that my own nest begins to empty, I more fully understand the goal of parenting is to pour godly values into our children, setting them free in the right direction. Dad aimed us true, and then set us free, with full confidence in the Lord to whom he dedicated each of us.
Industry is a word from another era, but it definitely applies to Dad. He is not a workaholic, but he is a hard worker. I remember the leisurely times around the fireplace while watching Star Trek, a bowl of popcorn during The Waltons, or a picnic at Lake Geneva. But just as vivid a memory is Dad working on a project well into the night. He didn't hire a handyman for anything that I can recall, he is the handyman. Only after I moved out of the house did Dad gain full-time employment from the ministry. Always, there was a second job; there were others, but I remember U.S. Plywood in Milan, Illinois, then the Swiss Maid Bakery in Harvard, Illinois. The Cassens, Grandma and Grandpa De Garmo, and our family shared a garden so we grew much of our own food. I searched my memory in vain to recall ever buying a bookshelf or a storage cabinet; no sir, such things are handmade in the De Garmo tradition. Wal-Mart would have gone out of business if they had depended on us in the 1960's and 70's.
As I entered the ministry, I learned the terminology for something I witnessed firsthand for my entire life: servant leadership. More than any minister that I have known, Dad led his churches by loving them and serving them. The same industry that we saw at home applied to the church. Dad, in those years, didn't use words like "a ministry philosophy," but here is what it is: Preach the Word. Be authentic. Work hard. Love the community.
Dad is a man with an extremely active and curious mind. I suspect that curiosity inspired a desire to travel, to see grand sights, to be where great things happened. Somehow we grew up believing that museums were the coolest places. Without doubt, we learned more on summer vacations than we ever did in the classroom, with the possible exception of spelling.
Dad loves people—to talk to them, work with them, and laugh with them. And you don't need to wonder, he will do what he promised, and do the right thing, no matter what.
We are all grateful to the Lord for the remarkable health that Dad has enjoyed. But he has carried his share of grief. I admire how Dad has gracefully moved from one stage of life to the next. His wife—and my mother—Lillian died much too soon in 1983. Five years later my father became a grandfather for the first time when our daughter, Kristin, was born. Over the years, the distance prevented our children from growing up with Grandpa, but our visits to Florida have been wonderful memories for us and our children. More than once we recalled the invisible insects that drove us from a picnic site, and the pontoon boat ride that was highlighted by the motor getting caught in a crab trap.
In 1990, Dad married Fern after they reconnected as Bible college classmates. I am proud of Dad’s love and obvious devotion to Fern and to her family for the past twenty three years. And, I am thrilled that my father continues to serve his Lord Jesus Christ as an ordained minister in the Cape Coral and North Fort Myers area of Florida. He is now the patriarch of our extended family and carries that mantle well, a genuine man of God.
In preparing for my father's birthday, I found this photo that was taken (probably with an Instamatic camera) on the night of my ordination, April 26, 1983. In addition to my father, both of my grandfathers were ministers.
Heritage is an often overlooked blessing. I truly appreciate the legacies of these men of God. Our entire extended family has been richly influenced by their lives and their love.