What we learned from our dads

ALPENA –It’s Father’s Day weekend and (hopefully) dads everywhere are firing up the barbecues and popping open a cold beverage and settling back for a long summer day of doing nothing but exactly what they want to do.

Today, as Northeast Michigan begins to fete its fathers, we at The News take a moment to reflect on the men who made us who we are today.


You could hear my dad coming. Hanging from his hip, always, was an enormous ring of keys that jingled as he walked. Some of those keys he needed in his role as high school principal, the first one to open up the building in the morning and the last to leave at night. He needed keys for the custodian’s closet, so he could take care of messes that everyone else was too busy to clean, and to the classrooms, where he taught students the joy of learning for learning’s sake and the vibrant power of curiosity.

At home, he needed keys to his workshop, where he taught me to use a compound mitre saw and how to choose a good piece of oak, and to the van he drove to work every day and in which, for a few lucky years, I sat beside him and learned to love Broadway musicals and little life lessons.

A daddy’s girl to the core, I trotted along after my father and learned from him to work until the work is done, no matter the task. Dad taught me to think. He taught me to wonder. And he taught me to love the smell of sawdust.

What more does a girl need?

— Julie Riddle, News staff reporter


I never thought a parent could be considered your best friend, but that is exactly what my dad has been to me.

Growing up, most of the memories I have include sports and being around my father. I remember all of the games we would go see and, growing up, I realized how big an impact my dad had on me. He grew up around sports and, in return, so did I.

My dad has always been my role model, and everything he has taught me throughout my life led me to becoming the person that I am today. It is because of my dad that I have so many special memories as an athlete. Not only was he a dad, but a coach, a role model, and a best friend.

It is because of you, Dad, that I am the person I am today. You taught me how to have the right mindset, you taught me how to be unique, and told me being different is OK. From my open batting stance to all of the crazy arm angles and pitching deliveries on the mound at such a young age that I carried with me through college, I couldn’t have done it without your guidance and support.

I am proud to call you my dad and thrilled to be your son, but being your best friend is something that I will forever cherish. Thank you for always allowing me to be who I am and supporting me no matter what I do. That’s truly what best friends are for.

— Jonny Zawacki, News sports writer


It’s funny how you pick things up from your parents without either of you really trying.

My father never gave me any lessons on being neat or loving science fiction movies. He never taught me how to be comfortable talking to people or how to draw. He never directed me to try to keep a neat house or to admire a really nice watch. We never had conversations when I was growing up about having little patience for incompetence or cruelty or people who lack integrity.

Then there’s the way I raise my eyebrows and my long, exhasperated sighs and the way I get worked up so quickly when something excites or annoys or angers me. Dad never sat me in front of a mirror and showed me all those mannerisms I do that make my mother shake her head.

And yet all of those things are part of who I am, and I find myself looking and thinking and acting a bit more like my father every day.

Because that’s how things go. We are little bits and pieces of our parents, stirred together with little bits and pieces of everyone we meet and every book we read and every song we play.

And I’m grateful for the parts of me that are him.

Thanks, Dad. Happy Dad’s day!

–Justin A. Hinkley, News managing editor


My father, Gary Schulwitz, adopted this little monster when it was 3 years old and — what can I say? — I put him though a lot of crap and likely many sleepless nights while I was growing up.

I disappointed him on more than one occasion, but he always had my back and an endless supply of forgiveness.

As I matured, I realized that, although we didn’t share bloodlines, many of his qualities rubbed of on me. I have his quirky and often politically incorrect sense of humor, as well as his ability to stand up for what you believe in. I also share his sense of loyalty to the ones we love. My love and appreciation of veterans and our America also comes from him, as he was a veteran of the Vietnam War and was wounded in it.

Most importantly, he taught me what it takes to be a caring, compassionate man and to treat women with respect.

We unexpectedly lost my dad the day after Christmas in 2016, and there is not a day that passes that I don’t think about him. I never considered Gary a stepfather. To me, he was the only father I ever knew, and I never got a chance to thank him for adopting me and making my life better than what it had been if he hadn’t.

I can only pray that I can be as good of a stepfather to my two stepdaughters as he was to me, and that they acquire some of my good traits — which, believe it or not, I do have.

I think that is happening, much to the chagrin of my wife, as my youngest stepdaughter, Caitlynn, has already developed my sense of humor.

I know up in Heaven my dad lets out a chuckle when those little wise cracks come out of our mouths and he would have it no other way.

Thank you, Dad, for your service and the role you played in making me, me. I miss and mourn you every day.

— Steve Schulwitz, News staff writer


Even though I drove him nuts when I was growing up, I don’t know what I would do without my dad.

My dad helped take me to parks and recreation softball games, pick me up from high school marching band practices, supported me at the weekend marching band competitions, and took me to my alto saxophone lessons. I don’t think I’ve ever thanked my dad for all of that plus everything else he did for me, so, thanks, Dad, for always loving and supporting me.

My dad always picked on me whenever Dale Earnhardt Jr. — my favorite NASCAR driver — would crash, and sometimes picks on me whenever the Detroit Tigers lose — which has been a lot the past few years. Even though I sometimes get annoyed with him about that, I secretly smile on the inside, because that’s just something my dad would do.

My mom says sometimes that my dad and I are the same person, and I see that now more than ever. Whenever I go home to Clarkston for a weekend, we pick on each other and sometimes drive each other nuts.

Thanks, Dad, for supporting me here in Alpena and for everything you do for me.

You’re the best, and I hope you have a great Dad’s day!

–Julie Goldberg, News staff writer


My dad instilled in me many values that are important to me today, including the importance of taking pride in your work and doing a task right the first time so you don’t have to do it again. He also taught me how to enjoy the great outdoors and many outdoor activities, such as how to camp, how to fish, and how to ride a snowmobile.

Growing up, he would stir the bubbles out of my ginger ale when I was sick, paint and decorate my nails, and make a German chocolate cake so fierce that he has earned the nickname Billy Crocker. My dad sails on the Great Lakes and won’t be home to celebrate Father’s Day, because he is working.

I’d still like to wish him a happy Father’s Day. You’re the best!

— Crystal Nelson, News staff writer


What can I say to someone to whom I owe so much? I guess the simplest way to say it is to say thank you.

Thank you for teaching me important lessons growing up, even if some of those lessons didn’t sink in as I got older.

Thank you, Dad, for instilling a love of writing in me, even if I didn’t always appreciate it when I was writing countless essays growing up about family vacations and characters you told me to make up stories about.

Thank you for passing on your love of sports and for bringing me along to experience so many great moments. I will never forget being there for the Red Wings’ double overtime playoff victory against St. Louis in 1996 and sitting on the stairs of Joe Louis Arena’s upper deck to watch them hoist the Stanley Cup in 1997.

Thank you for passing on your love of the outdoors, but, most especially, for fishing. For me, many of the best times we’ve spent together have been out on the water, bringing in boat-loads of salmon and walleye.

Thank you for passing on your love of music, especially of classic rock, and for being there to experience so many great concerts with me.

Most of all, thank you for being my dad. We’ve become even better friends as we’ve both gotten older and we’ve spent many great times together, shared laughs and tears, and made many great memories. We’ve had our differences over the years, but you’ve always been there to offer support and words of encouragement.

One of your biggest and most important lessons you taught me growing up was to listen.

I’m still listening, Dad, and thank you for being as great as you are.

–James Andersen, News Sports Editor

Most people who know him will agree that Mike Cornelius is a humble Jesus freak, but what they may not know is that he is also an amazing dad. He may not even know that, but it’s true. Just ask any of his six kids.

This kid, in particular, remembers from a very young age that he instilled in us a wonderful (and I mean “full of wonder”) appreciation for the intricate beauty of nature created by a loving God.

He would teach us the names of trees and help us identify unknown plants and bugs. We’ve tapped maple trees for sap to make syrup and we still hunt for morels together each spring. He would take us fishing in a canoe on Sucker Creek or in our very own pond back in the woods of Hubbard Lake, where he built the log home we lived in with no electricity. But who needs flourescent lights or TV when you have crickets and bullfrogs to lull you to sleep? (Nevermind the occasional garter snake or shrew that snuck in through the cracks).

Dad took us hunting, which I recall sort of enjoying because I knew I would get to eat a full-size Snickers bar at some point while sitting all bundled up in the woods, but I was unclear as to why we had to do this thing at 4 o’clock in the morning.

But it was Dad time, and that’s what mattered most. Just me and my hero, hanging out in the woods.

I could write a book on how much I love and admire this man, and maybe someday I will. But, for now, I want to thank him for teaching me to love God, love others, love running, love nature, and not forget to love myself. To do the right thing, do my best, and keep moving ahead toward my goals.

“Let us run with perseverance the race that is before us, and never give up.” — Hebrews 12:1

–Darby Hinkley, News Lifestyles Editor