‘Nobody except Dad was willing to help him, and he would remember that as long as he lived’

Bordentown, NJ–Background: Sadly, Tim Russert has died of a heart attack at age 58. Many are rightly honoring Russert for his role in American politics and media, but fathers have a different reason to honor Russert–the respect he paid us in his books. In 2004, Russert published Big Russ and Me about his father, and says he received an “avalanche” of letters from men and women who wanted to tell him about their own dads. His 2006 book Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons is largely a sampling of those 60,000 letters, and the book was a surprise runaway hit.
When Wisdom came out in 2006, we co-authored a column about it–America’s Father Hunger (World Net Daily, 10/13/06). I also often excerpted stories from Russert’s book on my blog. To honor Russert, and in honor of Father’s Day, I am reposting some of those over the weekend. The story below is “Mr. Strawberry” from Joseph Harrison Kelly of Bordentown, NJ, about his father, Joseph Harold Kelly, a store owner (1925-2003). “When I was ten and helping out my dad’s liquor store, a man walked in looking disheveled and confused. He told Dad he had no money, his car had broken down, and he was trying to get home. Without hesitation, my father gave the man twenty dollars and called him a cab. “‘Dad,’ I said, ‘that guy was a bum. Why did you do that?’ “He said he could see from the man’s eyes he was telling the truth and was in trouble. “The following Christmas Eve, flowers were delivered to our business, addressed to Joseph Kelly and his son, wishing us a merry Christmas and signed Mr. Strawberry. For the next forty years, the flowers came without fail. I finally asked Mr. Strawberry, who had become a regular customer, why he sent us flowers every year. He told me that on one of the worst days of his life, on one of the hottest days of the year, his car broke down and he, a black man, was then mugged by three white teenagers while he was trying to get help. His insulin was low, he was dazed and confused, nobody except Dad was willing to help him, and he would remember that as long as he lived.”

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