In Focus

June 4, 2014

Remembering Dad through precious keepsakes

Four grown-up daughters hold close to their hearts the fathers who once held their hands.

A father may be the man who gives a little girl life, but a daddy is the man who gives her love. The best daddies teach a little girl in the smallest ways to trust, to chance, to stretch and, finally, to believe in herself and others.

When she is small, he is her protector, her hero. When they are both older, he may be her adviser or even her champion. She will remember the lessons he taught her her whole life long, and when he is gone, she will breathe life into his memory, reminding generations to come who he was, what he valued and how he lived.

She is his legacy, the gem he leaves behind.

Four North Texas women share treasured keepsakes and memories of their dads, the men they loved first.

Betsy Price

Fort Worth Mayor, bird hunting enthusiast, dog lover

Father: Wayne Cornelius (1914-89), car dealer, outdoorsman, dog breeder and trainer

Treasured Keepsake: Belgian-made Browning A5 20-gauge shotgun; English pointer dogs from the Guardrail bloodline

Precious Memories: “Daddy would have absolutely loved to know I got into politics,” says Price. “He always supported everything I did, but he would have loved this.”

Gregarious and charming, Cornelius was a car dealer who shared his love of the outdoors with his four children, says Price. He bred and trained English pointers, says Price, who remembers that puppy love was a constant part of his life — and of hers.

“He had a kennel at the office and a kennel at home,” she remembers. “He’d tell me, ‘Behave yourself or I’ll trade you for a good bird dog,’ and I was a pretty big kid before I knew he wouldn’t.”

An avid bird hunter, Cornelius taught his children to shoot early. Price runs a hand over the Browning’s smooth stock. “This is the gun I learned to shoot with,” she says.

Still a bird hunter with many awards to her credit, Price no longer hunts with the Browning, but it is a precious talisman connecting her to the past.

She also keeps two English pointers from the Guardrail line, the bloodline her father bred. “When he died, he had three puppies and I took one of them. I’ve kept the Guardrail line ever since,” she says.

The dogs are a constant reminder of her father, but Father’s Day marks a milestone in her life’s journey.

“We buried him on Father’s Day 1989,” she says. “At first I thought, ‘Oh, no. This is horrible.’ But I went back and thought about it again and it became something sweet. Every year I stop, look back and think about him.”

Vicki Bass

Western heritage advocate, award-winning cutting horse competitor who says she “aspires to be a horseman,” quiet philanthropist

Father: Blaine Skinner (now 81), skilled carpenter, former U.S. marshal of Idaho and sheriff of Bonneville County, Idaho

Treasured Keepsake: Genealogical research of her father’s family from the 17th century and a treasure trove of family papers.

Precious Memories: “My dad loved being sheriff, but the pay was terrible and he had a big family. At night he built houses. He could build anything. He had seven children, so he had a supply of labor. We all helped,” says Bass. “When he had a house going, we worked into the night and on the weekends, except Sunday. He wouldn’t work on Sunday,” she says.

In his later years, Skinner has crafted furniture, including beds, dining tables, chairs and other items for all his children, but recently Bass wanted one more handmade item from his workshop.

And so last summer, with permits in hand, she and her father drove into a burned area of an Idaho forest. He pointed out the tree. She cut it down with a chain saw, and he fashioned a rustic bed for her. It is one of many treasures that he gave her, which she keeps in Idaho.

That bed will always be a reminder of the close bond she shares with her father, but the principles he instilled in her by example are even more precious.

Because he valued work, she says, he taught her to drive a nail, dig a basement and lay in firewood for the winter.

He also taught her to love the mountains, to believe in her own ability, to overcome adversity and to honor her ancestors.

“Family is very important in our religion,” says Bass, who, like her father, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“We feel it is important to be connected to those who came before us. They sacrificed so much. But this is way more than lineage,” she says, patting a stack of books and papers.

“These are stories of people that lived in Germany and Switzerland and Sweden. How they struggled; how they survived. This is where I came from. It is my dad’s gift to me,” she says. “This is his legacy.”

Kit Moncrief

President of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, co-chair of the Fort Worth Zoo, co-founder of Saving Hope Foundation

Father: Harry Lee Tennison (1919-2009), outdoorsman, hunter, founder of Game Conservation International, one of the founders of “Operation Rhino” aimed at saving the black rhino from extinction

Treasured Keepsake: Her father’s trademark red hat.

Precious Memories: “Dad loved family. His mother died when he was 7. Then, when he was 14, his father died. He was passed around to relatives. I think he always wanted his own family, and when he got it, he loved being with all of us,” says Moncrief, who is one of three children. “He was so sentimental. If you gave him a present at Christmas, he’d cry.”

Tennison may not have been entirely carefree, but this blue-eyed man did possess an infectious optimism and an usual capacity for delight.

His grandfather taught him to hunt and fish as a boy, and Tennison never lost his love for either sport or for nature, says Moncrief.

He became a celebrated conservationist who traveled the world promoting anti-poaching measures while championing responsible hunting practices and protection of endangered species.

“He introduced me to everything that interested him: the outdoors, Africa dogs,” she says.

Hope, one of several dogs Moncrief and her husband have rescued and the inspiration for the Saving Hope Foundation, is in her lap.

“My dad always said you couldn’t wait for someone else to do what needs to be done. You have to do it yourself,” she says. “It was the best advice he ever gave me.”

Her father’s trademark red hat is on her knee. He wore the fire-engine-red fedora adorned with leopard-skin band and a conservation pin in all his Christmas card pictures. “It was a celebrating-life hat. A happy hat that made people smile,” says Moncrief.

The hat ordinarily is displayed in a Plexiglass case like a treasured piece of art. It is a reminder of the man who told her she could do anything and inspired others to enjoy the outdoors while protecting the world’s wildlife.

Anne Marie Bratton

Artist and arts patron active in the leadership of several art museums

Father: Pete Rozelle (1926-96), iconic commissioner of the National Football League, famous for championing Monday Night Football and the Super Bowl

Treasured Keepsake: A string of graduated pearls and pearl earrings and a stack of letters and poems from her father

Precious Memories: “Dad raised me alone. He was father, mother, adviser, everything,” says Bratton.

Even with his hectic schedule, this elegant, charismatic man always made time for his only child, often taking her along to meetings, parties and dinners at the 21 Club or P.J. Clarke’s restaurant.

“He never missed a play, a program, a birthday. I don’t know how he did it,” says Bratton.

They lived on New York’s tony Sutton Place, but at home, he seemed a man of simple tastes. “We ate off of TV trays Swanson frozen dinners. Remember the kind with the little tin foil thing that you peeled back over the dessert? One of his favorite meals was creamed chipped beef on baked potatoes with peas and applesauce,” says Bratton. He considered a bologna sandwich with extra mayo washed down with a vanilla shake four-star lunch fare.

Over the years Rozelle sent his daughter dozens of letters and poems filled with humor and emotion. Now those papers are a touchstone to a childhood filled with love. But when she was 17, Rozelle gave his little girl something else to cherish.

“He left me many things in his will, memorabilia from his time in the NFL, but these pearls were a real gift from him to me,” Bratton says, touching the delicate necklace at her throat.

The pearls and the matching earrings were a very feminine gift given on the day she was presented at the St. Vincent Debutante Ball in Rye, N.Y.

“I was already in my dress and he called me into his library and put the pearls on me,” says Bratton. “I guess this is the first ‘real’ jewelry I had. I’ve always loved these pearls, and I wear them all the time. I wore them with jeans and everything long before that was popular,” she says.

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