by Yvonne Vasquez and Cynthia Ladson
Although the first Father’s Day was observed in West Virginia in 1904, it was not until 1966 that President Lyndon B. Johnson issued a presidential proclamation honoring dads. Six years later under President Richard M. Nixon the day was made a permanent national holiday, nearly 40 years after the nation began celebrating Mother’s Day. The slow start of Father’s Day is in no way indicative of the role fathers play in the lives of their children.
Three local fathers, television news anchor Steve Spriester, businessman Gordon Hartman and former City Councilman Joe Alderete talk about how their fathers helped to shape their characters, and how they try and pass these same values to their own children.
Steve Spriester, main news anchor at KSAT-12, was raised in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Tabor, Iowa, along with his younger brother. Although his parents divorced when he was a young boy, Spriester says he was fortunate to have had more than one father figure to lean on as he grew up. He remembers playing football and baseball with his father.
“We would also play with a train set that my dad used to have when he was a kid, and these were some of the special times that I remember,” says Spriester.
After the divorce, his family moved to Iowa and his uncle played an important role in his life as well. His Uncle Terry would play basketball with him and his brother, and they enjoyed sporting events together. Spriester says his uncle was always there for him, and the example he set for him inspired Spriester to establish similar values when he became a father to three daughters. In fact, the newsman says, the importance of family is something that was firmly planted in him by both his father and his uncle.
“It was the importance of them being there for me, being interested in what I was doing and supporting my hopes and dreams,” says Spriester. “Now I really cherish my family time. I’ve got a hectic schedule, but I always try to carve out time for my family and my kids.”
Through an organization called Healing the Children, Steve and his wife, Nicole, are also currently sponsor parents to an 11-year-old girl, an earthquake victim from Haiti who has been recuperating from a leg injury while living with them for more than a year.
Gordon Hartman, former homebuilder and creator and developer of Morgan’s Wonderland, a 25-acre fully accessible theme park designed with special needs children in mind, credits his dad for teaching him the importance of ethics and hard work at an early age.
Hartman, whose father passed away one year ago, says his dad was very big on doing everything the right way – a character trait, Hartman says, has spilled into his own personal and business life.
“I try and make sure I am honest with myself and others in everything in which I get involved,” says Hartman.
Hartman says his dad also taught him the importance of working hard. “My dad taught me that if I wanted to get ahead, I had to work hard.” Of the lessons Hartman learned from his dad, working hard is what he strives to instill in his daughter, Morgan, 18. Hartman adds persistence to the mix of life lessons he and his wife, Maggie, try to pass on to their daughter. Morgan, who has special needs, and was Hartman’s inspiration for the theme park.
“I work at teaching her (Morgan) that she can do most of what she thinks she can’t do. People with special needs have tremendous potential, but they don’t always realize the potential they have. I find that Morgan can do most anything when she works hard at it. People with special needs have enormous potential if they are able to understand the importance of hard work,” says Hartman.
Hartman says the life lessons he learned from his dad laid the base for him to incorporate those types of core values into his business and personal life. Hartman, who sold his home-building business in 2005, now devotes his time to philanthropic endeavors.
Joe Alderete represents District 1 on the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees. A former city councilman, Alderete has also served on various boards and assisted in major fundraising efforts for several city organizations during the past 33 years.
He is a lifelong resident of San Antonio, married to Chris Alderete, and is father to four adult children – Claudette, twins Carina and Marina, and Joe III; another daughter, Clarissa, passed away as a young child. He also has two grandchildren.
All of his children are now working professionals, and he remains extremely close to each of them. A railroad laborer, his father instilled in him a deep sense of important family values that he now upholds within his own family.
“That’s one thing that I just treasure in my memories, all of the family outings that we enjoyed,” recalls Alderete. “Pop was also very religious and every Sunday we would go to Mass at San Fernando Cathedral.” His father loved to cook, had a good sense of humor and was a great dancer.
Although he had only a second-grade education, his dad was always a hard worker who lived through the Depression and served in the Army during World War II, which provided him with many important life experiences.
“It just taught me so much to value experience even from those people who don’t have a formal education, but still have a vast amount of knowledge to offer in many ways,” explains Alderete.
Yvonne Vasquez is a San Antonio freelance writer and the mother of one child.
Cynthia Ladson is editor of Our Kids and the mother of one child.