AND THEN AGAIN……by Tamara Pettit

…….I was John D.’s girl. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that I worshipped my father and was always two steps behind him trying to learn about his world.

……Today is Father’s Day and like many of you my Dad is longer with me on earth, but he is with me in spirit every day.    I must say my love and appreciation of him has grown every year he has been gone.  His words continue to guide me and his pragmatic view of life has somehow become mine.

…..The day is a happy one for most with barbeques and cards and gifts. It will be a tough day for my kids, Doug and Shannon, who lost their Dad less than a month ago.  My heart aches for them and one of the hardest lessons you learn as a mother is that there are times when you can no longer make it all better.

…….I think of what lessons I learned from my Dad?.    What experiences formed me? What shared moments I remember?  How best to explain our relationship?

……We were partners in crime, Dad and I. No, really we didn’t pull off bank heists, but I did get to experience every aspect of the collective jobs he accumulated. He was the Justice of the Peace, a lower court judge who reach extended to many areas including illegal gambling, in a most interesting time in Hancock County.  Knowing that a move was afoot in the Legislature to abolish the JP system and replace it with the Magistrate system, he organized all the JP’s and constables in all 55 counties into the West Virginia Minor Judiciary; collected dues from them; and became their first and only president and lobbiest for twelve years. And, yes he got me out of school and I tagged along as he lobbied in Charleston.

……. He got the job as city judge in New Cumberland, County Coroner and operated an insurance agency.  He co-owned Hancock County Finance and oversaw to the day-to-day operations. He was featured in LIFE magazine in 1973 in an article entitled “The Good Old Boy.” He was, quite simply, the most interesting man I ever knew….and, oh yeah, he knew really interesting people. Whether it was a golf game with Mob boss JoJo Pecora or sitting down to dinner with Gov. Arch Moore, he was friend to a wide range of people.

……But, most astonishing as I looked back, was that he took me with him on the Coroners cases.  At 13, I saw the raw side of death and the reality of murder and suicide. The cases that came through his court ranged from sordid to ludicrous and I sat hidden on the covered steps behind the office when interesting cases were on the docket..

……Remember, it was the sixties when girls were just beginning to see the inequitable treatment and limited opportunity for them.  When I saw the inequity and took a stand in school, it was my Mom who shook her head and said “don’t rock the boat.”   It was Dad who said “you’re right that is unfair” and it was he who went to school with me to back me up.

…It was the mid-sixties and what my Mom taught me was how to dress and act like a lady.  In doing so, however, she taught me that there were limitations to being a girl.   My Dad taught me that there were  no limitations to what I wanted to do . 

…….While many came home from World War II and used the GI Bill to attend college, Dad came home and used it to finish high school.  He had dropped out because he got a job at Weirton Steel. I have a picture of him in 1946 with my sister, Marsha age 6.  at his high school graduation. He loved the law and once said in a LIFE magazine article “God, I’d a loved being a trial lawyer. But, I got about as close as I could get.”

…….He didn’t just tell me I could do anything I wanted; he showed me by his example that anything was possible and not to be afraid to take a risk.  He was my inspiration when I succeeded and my backbone to get back up and try again when I failed. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of the greatest gift he gave me……the freedom to be me!