My Dad: The-Servant-Dendrologist

I’ve learned a lot from my Dad. How to gut a fish, value hard work, roof a house, grow almost anything (except desert plants!), find my way around in a city, draw 3D houses and great trees, take a group picture without causing a riot, be a servant, feed a sick turtle, share my faith, eat sunflower seeds… this list goes on!

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One of my favorite pictures of dad and I

One of the biggest things that my Dad gave to me was a love of gardening and the outdoors! He is a Professor of Forestry at Virginia Tech, so there were always an abundance of bizarre tree species and science projects around the house. As long as I can remember I have been “helping” Dad in the garden, and thanks to his endless patience with me he passed on his green thumb. In High School and early college he suggested that I pursue horticulture, since I liked it so much. I shrugged him off in typical teenager fashion, thinking that was ridiculous. Years later, after floundering around in different majors, I finally took my dad’s advice and pursued a degree in Horticulture at Virginia Tech.  Better late than never? *facepalm* To this day I am thankful for all of the outdoorsy things he taught me, especially “specialty” skills like reviving plants that other people threw out, collecting maple sap to make syrup, caring for sick or injured wildlife and just exactly why forest fires are actually a good thing.

“Dr. Dendro” collecting photos for his DVD textbook “Woody Plants In North America”

Day in and day out, Dad also taught me how to work hard and be a servant to those around me.  Lots of little lessons really have left an impact! Just to name a few:

“The latest you should be is ten minutes early”  taught me time management and respect for other people’s time.

“Make the juice” refers to making the next pitcher of orange juice when it is empty, so that it is ready for the next person.

At the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. I am rocking corduroy suspenders!!

“In the dust of defeat as well as in the laurels of victory there is glory to be found if one has done his best” is a quote from Eric Liddell, Olympic champion and missionary to China. Dad reminded me of it often, encouraging me to work hard and do my best, no matter what the outcome. Knowing that he would be proud of me if I worked hard, regardless of the grade I got or where I placed in an event, was a big deal to me.

“Change is good.” Believe it or not, I used to be CRAZY shy and really hated any type of change… even something small like getting new carpet! Dad taught me that change is not only good, but inevitable, and gently nudged me out of numerous comfort zones.

“The fish gutting lesson” can be summed up as – Instead of taking  a break in the middle of your job, work hard to finish your task so that you can fully rest afterwards and enjoy a job well done.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Dad is an avid Steeler, Pirate and Penguin fan!

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Phillippians 2:3 really sums up Dad’s heart. He always puts others first. This was especially visible to me in High School, when he donated an enormous amount of time to lead our church youth group. He took on what basically was another full time job to organize weekly youth group meetings, service activities, lock ins and mission trips. 

Dad – master navigator (before fancy cell phone GPS) and teenager wrangler for youth trips.

His giving went far beyond youth group, though. He is always using his handyman skills to help those in need, whether is is paining a widow’s deck or fixing a leaky roof for a family in need. I will NEVER forget a particular project where Dad was crawling under a run down rural trailer to fix a plumping problem – in the mud and sewage and all. Who does that?! My dad. That family had a need, and he knew how to meet it. I didn’t realize it when I was younger, but now I realize that selflessly giving so much of your time and talent is a real rarity in this world. Dad, I am forever grateful that you made giving normal and a part of every day life! It’s a habit that I strive to carry on every day.


While Dad passed on a lot of serious life lessons, he is also a goof ball and knows how to play hard. He played rec football for years with guys half his age, and loves to fish! I can’t say that I have the football and fishing genes, but that is ok with me. I still have spent plenty of time watching his fish and play football. Work hard, play hard!

Today on Father’s Day, it is neat to look back and realize what an impact my dad has had on my life.

Dad, you didn’t just teach me important life skills, but you taught me how to be a servant and how to leave this world better than when I came into it. You’ve built into me lessons that are already paying  forward to those around me. Eventually those lessons will keep on giving, even after you are gone. That’s one serious legacy, and I love you so much for it! 

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photo by Abby Grace Photography

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