The Greatest Man I Never Knew

My dad.. trying to figure him out was always rather difficult. Knowing him – really knowing him, was even more difficult. I was blessed with many times at our lake cabin ( actually then it was his cabin ) where I started to see through this man to understand him.


I guess the first thing that someone would say of my dad was that he was a great business man. He had the knack of looking at an opportunity and knowing that it could make money. He invested in many companies and ventures – some better than the others – but there were many businesses in our city  that my dad had his fingers in.  He used to tell me that the secret to management  was to be fair, yet tough.  People had to know you meant business and more importantly  that you would always tell the truth.  He was loyal to his workers – almost to a fault. In fact when his main business went down due to near bankruptcy he paid most of the businesses debts out of his own pocket.


Dad was a mentor and a generous one at that. One time he told me that he couldn’t work as an Engineer for a few years after graduating,  as he didn’t pay off his university bill till his brothers got their degree’s. There were so  many people who came into  his life that he  encouraged, and he was so proud when they too built businesses and did well. Others came to talk to me at his funeral. So many of them just said, “he invested in my business and encouraged me.” I was amazed at how many owners of successful businesses told me that !!

He was famous for those ” one lines” that encouraged many. Even my friends!  One friend,  after a sailboat ride with Dad, realized there was no time like now to do his PhD.


One would not know  on first impression that he was either a rich man or a big business man.  He dressed simply and talked simply.   In fact one business trip to China, I took him to the airport and was surprised to see him in a ball cap and stained red polo shirt. He was never one to  brag what he did for a living, or what businesses he was involved in but when he  started talking ” shop”  people became aware that he was a very intelligent man.


The photo albums tell the story of a father who played with his kids, taught us how to snow ski, water ski and accompanied us on many ski trips and vacations. However, like many fathers from that era, work was an important part and Dad spent much time away from our home. As we got older, he seemed rather un-emotional  and unable to express his love. This was demonstrated by memo’s sent from work that had only a few words – and got to the point. The duplicate copy, I imagine was in a file marked ” Terry”.  Later, in getting to know him better, I realized that the emotion was there, but he was never able to show it.  We found that Reba McIntyre’s ” The Greatest Man I Never Knew” really described him well.  This really didn’t hurt our memory of him for it was this unique, somewhat eccentric man that we called ” Dad” who influenced us so much.

The father of three girls, he was so encouraging in that he felt we could do anything we wanted as a living.  Although we all went into traditional “female professions”,  we knew that Dad would support us in any decision and that if  we changed our mind about what our “living” would be, he would accept it and encourage it.  Although he would never push, it was apparent that an Engineer  would have been his choice for me. In a different era, I may have done it.. but a pioneer was not my calling at that time.


Similarly to his role as a father, there was an awkwardness to his relationships to his grandchildren. He often mispronounced  names, forgot birthdays and didn’t really know how to express his love. He did have a shadow in my youngest son, however, who would follow him around the lake, take trips out to the lake with him alone, and generally was his “little buddy”.  The grandchildren remember him with love and often recall those eccentric moments.  He loved to be part of game night, but despite his extreme intelligence it took him a while to catch on. This brought many a laugh !!

But I guess one of the traits that I admire most of my dad is that he took life’s ups and downs with a matter of fact acceptance that was rare.  He suffered with Muscular Dystrophy in later years and COPD as well as other small ailments. His answer to all was the line that he had “AIDS”. This shocked his friends till he added ” aids on my ears, aids on my eyes and aids on my legs”.   He also once told me that ” I came into this world poor, and will go out poor, but had a heck of a ride in between”. It was sad to see him without all his hard earned money in his later years, but he accepted that and continued to live well.

Dad passed away several years ago at the age of 75 .  He left behind a legacy for his  friends, acquaintances, and especially for his family. Many people say that I am very like him.  My first response is  ” Thank you !”  I would like to hope that some of those quirky traits are softened in me  but I can’t be more proud of the roots that I come from.

The Value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them… whether you find satisfaction in life depends not on your tale of years, but on your will

Michel de Montaigne

About Terry Jago

Retired nurse manager interested in living my best life with natural and healthy living choices.
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30 Responses to The Greatest Man I Never Knew

  1. Kimba says:

    What a lovely post; has me thinking about my Dad this morning. Think I’ll give him a call…

  2. Thank you for this moving portrait of your Dad! My Dad too was the quiet type, yet his integrity and goodness shone in everyday, simple ways: planting a tree, bringing home special treats, presiding over the barbecue. Fond memories!

  3. katelindsaylifecoaching says:

    I am seeing my Dad later tonight. I can’t wait to give him a big hug. An intelligent supporter of his kids and grandkids just like your Dad this post has made me miss him. Its so nice to hear some speak of their parents and their roots in such a confident whole hearted way, Thanks for sharing. He sounds wonderful.

  4. What a lovely tribute to a man who lived life well. I love the image of your dad – the businessman – at the airport in a ball cap. That says it all.

  5. What a great article about your Dad! My Dad was not a businessman, he was a laborer but personality wise, he sounds a lot like your Dad. We were also three girls and we were always made to feel that we could accomplish anything we wanted!

  6. Kungphoo says:

    That is a great story, thank you for sharing it. He sounded like an amazing man…

  7. Stacie says:

    What beautiful writting! I think it’ll remind everyone of their dads and great memories of time spent with them. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Your father is amazing, just like my dad, thanks for sharing 🙂

  9. How fortunate to have such a fabulous father.

  10. Dov Shapira says:

    Oh my, watta spirit you have Terry, I love this sweet blog.

  11. I loved reading about your sweet and special memories.

  12. Jim Striegel says:

    What a great story you shared with us.

  13. Jeff Brand says:

    I enjoyed reading this and it reminded me of my dad.

  14. Lorna Jeffrey says:

    Beautiful Terry and Oh so true. How I remember those memos that I would get at university. Today it might be Post It notes.

  15. Irene S. says:

    Wow you Dad sounds like a wonderful man. You are so blessed to have such a role model.

  16. jagoterry says:

    It is sad to lose parents isn’t it Meli.. but they do live on in great memories and later in looking at them objectively but also with love.

  17. Vicki Bezio says:

    What a great blog! It’s hard to lose a parent. That’s when you really know them.

  18. Don Purdum says:

    Your article reminds me of what makes people great! He reminds me of my Papa! Great role model and a person who makes a difference in their community and for their family. Thanks for the memories!

  19. How lucky you were to have had a Dad like that. I had a Dad much like yours. There has never been a day that goes by that I haven’t felt his many lessons. I smiled because my dad also taught me to ski. How funny that it takes us so much time to realize how lucky we were. Like your’s, my Day passed away a number of years ago. I still miss him. 🙂

  20. What a lovely tribute to your father … I didn’t get to know mine until I was 20 and we had the best relationship possible after years of not knowing him. We are as children part of our parents, when I laugh I hear my fathers laugh … and it’s a wonderful, comforting, experience that will always be with me…

  21. What a beautiful tribute to your father Terry, I think it is a common thing for people our parents age to not be so open in speaking,and often showing how much they care – and not speaking about their feelings. It is the same with my parents.
    But,I love how you understand him anyway 🙂
    Taking life’s ups and downs is a wonderful quality, and it seems he loved to encourage others to take opportunities and did so himself.
    He shines through as a very special man …
    thanks for sharing your memories 🙂

  22. Pingback: Isolation Journal Day 26 Collective ritual | Vitally Real

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