Friday, June 19, 2015

A Tribute to My Father

In honor of this upcoming Father’s Day here in the USA, I want to pay a special tribute to my dad, Marvin Rice. I’m thankful he is still alive and I am able to visit with him. I know that many people don’t have that blessing.

When my dad was very young he worked in the broomcorn fields of southern Oklahoma. As he grew into adolescence, he showed an aptitude for working with mechanical things, so he helped support his parents and siblings by working on cars. He was drafted into the Army after WWII to go to Japan as part of the rebuilding effort. There, he was a small arms specialist.

When he returned home from Japan, he opened a Texaco station in Chickasha, OK. The building is still standing today.

I got my love of business from my dad. From the age of 8 or 9, I was helping at the service station he leased in Chickasha from Champion Oil Company (that building is still there, too). That station was located in the “bad” part of town, but the early 60’s was a different time in our country, and especially in Chickasha. I remember how the old men, both white and black, would sit around the stove in the station just shooting the bull.

I saw how my dad served people of all races and economic levels the same way. (By the way, gasoline was 19 cents a gallon then!) For those of you too young to remember, there was a time when most gas stations were full-service. Not only did someone else put the gas in your car, but you got your windshield cleaned, your oil checked, hoses and belts checked, and maybe even your tires were checked.

As a kid, I washed a lot of windows and checked a lot of tire pressure!

I saw my dad bounce back from financial setbacks, like the time someone stole all the cash from the day’s business. That would have been roughly $3,000 in today’s money.

He worked long hours, gave good service and had loyal customers because he enjoyed what he did, even though it was hard at times. He was always working to improve himself. I remember early in my life when he took a Dale Carnegie course – a big thing back then. Guess what? I listened to the tapes as well and read the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” before I graduated High School and they shaped how I deal with people.

As I got older, Dad became my scoutmaster and I learned lessons of leadership. We also rebuilt two engines! In fact, we are working together right now to restore a 1949 Plymouth that has been in our family for 65 years. That has taught me a lot about problem-solving.

My dad is a man of few words, but I think the thing he told me most often (usually while working on something) is "If a job is worth doing, it's worth doing right." That sure fits into the quality picture, doesn't it?

Much of what you see in the work I do through Rice Consulting Services, is actually a branch off a tree with deep roots of skills, hard work, integrity, creativity, tenacity, and a strong belief in God and Country. I try my best to maintain the standards my dad has in his own life.

It is incredible, but at age ninety, he still works almost daily on sewing machines. He has a steady stream of customers. I find that both inspiring and depressing - inspiring that he still has the energy and desire to still be active and working - depressing that I may have inherited that same gene.

As I look at my two sons, both fathers, one a software tester and one an auto technician, I see his legacy forming in their lives as well and it makes me proud.

That’s what this posting is really about. Not just buying your father a card and gift for Father’s Day, but if you are able, to tell him what he has handed down to you in your life. Too many times we remember the disagreements or strife, but there were likely good times in there as well. How has he shaped your life? What is his legacy? I’ll bet if you tell him how he helped to shape your life, that will be the greatest Fathers’ Day gift of all. If you can’t tell him in person or by phone, then set aside a few quiet moments and reflect on his memory.

Have a great weekend (and a Happy Fathers’ Day if that applies to you)!