NEW YORK – There seemed to be a touch of magic at work at Thursday’s Father of the Year awards luncheon, sponsored by the National Father’s Day Committee at the New York Sheraton.
No, the wireless microphones didn’t give out as a discussion about faith and government commenced. However, divine inspiration seemed to be in the air as MC Ozzie Smith, the Hall of Famer and arguably the best fielding shortstop of all time, began to bring the proceedings to a close and the luncheon banner behind him fell to the ground.
Something special was afoot when Richard Wurtzburger of Peerless called out the winner of the raffle for an autographed copy of an enlarged Ozzie Smith GQ cover, and it turned out to be his dad, Ron. Or when the winner of the Mets Dream Package came up as Manny Chirico, the CEO of PVH, whose management partner, PVH president Allen Sirkin, had earlier been honored not only with a Father of the Year citation but also as this year’s Milton Margolis Humanitarian of the Year.
With 800 from the menswear industry looking on, the honorees all shared stories of their fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and also of the debt so many of them owe to their wives, left with the bulk of parenting responsibilities as they’ve pursued careers that have brought fame, fortune and, often, just not enough time at home.
Paternally applauded: Gen. George W. Casey Jr.,
Ozzie Smith, Allen Sirkin and Stuart Goldblatt
Emerging NBA superstar Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat, who became a father for the second time just a week ago, may have had the best anecdote of the afternoon when he told of his five-year-old son, Zaire, who would shoot hoops and proclaim, “I’m D. Wade, I’m D. Wade” in honor of his father.
Wade took it as an important reminder that he needs to get back on the court soon when, recently, his son began shouting, “I’m LeBron James! I’m LeBron James!”
U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr., delighted to be in the company of so many talented athletes – other sports luminaries being honored included Mets’ pitcher Tom Glavine and wrestling’s Hulk Hogan – probably got the biggest laugh of the day when he shared his family’s motto with the crowd: “We may not be big, but we’re slow.”
Presidential contender John Edwards stole the spotlight with a late entrance and early departure, but was himself eclipsed by his wife Elizabeth, who stayed in her off-dais seat after her husband left to resume campaigning.
ABC’s Harry Smith, the youngest of eight children, paid homage to his own father, noting that, whatever else was going on, he would always make a point of catching Walter Cronkite’s newscasts before dinner. Obviously, the importance of good journalism was impressed on Smith at a very young age.
Larry Whitcomb, the principal of Salamanca (NY) Middle School and recipient of the Ashok C. Sani “All-Star” Dad award, brought the crowd to its feet, and most of the assembled to tears, with his heartfelt expression of gratitude to his wife Connie and his personal story of survival when his mother and an aunt, who suffered from MS, pulled it together after the death of Whitcomb’s father. His selection was based on an essay about him submitted by his son Christopher.
Before the luncheon got underway, most of the honorees were on hand to share their feelings on fatherhood and family as Smith delivered the questions.
What were the most important lessons you learned from your father?
Tom Glavine: From my dad I learned leadership, commitment and the importance of just being around to influence your children. He had his own construction company but his family was always his priority. [Tom and his wife Christine have four children: Amber, Jonathan, Peyton and Mason.]
George W. Casey Jr.: My father always taught me the importance of family and the value of time. He was a major general who served in three wars before his death in Vietnam in 1970. [He and his wife Sheila have two adult sons and five grandchildren.]
Hulk Hogan: From my father I learned kindness: he never had a bad word to say about anyone. I also learned demeanor: to be consistent and never overreact. He taught me to be realistic and that cooler heads prevail. [The Hulk and his wife Linda are parents to 18-year-old Brooke and 16-year-old Nick.]
Allen Sirkin: From my father I learned integrity, to do what you say you’re going to do. And to give your kids hugs every day. [He and his wife Bonnie have two children, David and Ami, and three grandchildren.]
Harry Smith: The only reason I accepted this award was so I could talk about my father. He only made it through junior high school, he always worked two jobs, and we often bucked heads. But once I had my own children, I realized that his influence was invaluable. [Smith and his wife Andrea Joyce live in New York with their two sons.]
Dwayne Wade: Growing up without a father and having my son at age 20, I really had no idea what to do. So I guess you could say the lesson I got from my father was to be there. [Dwayne and his wife Siohvaugn have two sons, Zaire,5,and newborn Zion.]
Larry Whitcomb: I lost my dad what I was 17 but I can still see the twinkle in his eye whenever he was with his family. What I learned from him: don’t miss any ballgames; you never know how much time you have. [Whitcomb and wife Connie are parents to Christopher and Meghan.]
If you overheard your kids talking about you, what do you think they’d say?
Whitcomb: My sons want me to wear shorter white socks; my high ones are not so cool. And perhaps they’d talk about my work ethic, and how I enjoy stacking the odds….
Wade: All fathers want to be cool and want their sons to think they’re cool but I want my sons to think I’m the best NBA player in the world, not LeBron. I think they’d talk about how I help them with their homework, and how proud I am of them…
Smith: My sons are 13 and 17 and they know I’m not cool. I think they’d be complaining about curfews and how I make them do their homework but I’m hoping some day they’ll appreciate those things…
Sirkin: As they’re getting older, I hope they’d say it’s finally OK to hang out with dad.
Hogan: I would love to hear them say that I’m a good man, that I’m loyal and trustworthy.
Casey: They’d probably be saying that I’m a tremendous pain in the butt but I also hope they’d value the importance of family and say I set a great example.
Glavine: My kids are young enough to still think I’m cool but I know that I’m about to turn into a geek any day now… I hope they’d say that I’m a good influence….