The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

November 2, 2013

BILL EGGERT | History according to Dad

— Today marks the 11th anniversary of the passing of my dad. I think it was the worst day of my life.  It is one of those calendar dates that I take time to think about my father, along with his birthday and Father’s Day, though, to be quite honest, I think about him every day. Someone will say a phrase he used to say, or an event or incident will call to mind something unique Dad would do, and the flashbacks will start up.

But Dad (and Mom) has had a profound effect on my life, and that of my two brothers and my nephew and niece. The lessons they taught us have been ingrained in our psyches since childhood, and continue on to the present day. Children pick up the cues of their elders consciously and unconsciously, and embrace them as fact.

I wonder sometimes if parents realize how much effect their interactions with their children have on their kids’ lives. For example, I have a deep love for history, any history: American, cinema, music, sports, television, popular culture and most important, family. I love doing research on history, to fill in the gaps in my knowledge on various subjects. I did not get this passion from school or history teachers, but from my dad. I could ask him about almost any subject and he would have an answer for you. His encyclopedic knowledge came from anywhere he picked it up: grade school through college, television or mainly through the newspaper. Mom has said that Dad would sit there at breakfast and read the newspaper, whether it was The Tribune-Democrat and/or the Pittsburgh Press, from front to back, every page.

His memory was impressive as well. Dad could recall events from childhood to college with ease and remarkable detail, decades after the fact.

Dad was well-informed on any subject, from local and national politics, to what was wrong with the Pittsburgh teams: Steelers, Panthers, Pirates or Penguins. He read with a discerning eye, spotting any rhetoric a mile away.

Dad would never talk down to you, either. He would take your questions seriously as a teenager and give you the same answers he would any adult.

I remember him telling me the “unvarnished truth” about Ben Franklin one day. Dad used to say that real history was much deeper, much more fascinating, than the history that was written with broad strokes in grade school and even high school books. Dad taught me to look beyond the text, to read between the lines.

Dad’s knowledge extended beyond these subjects as well. He knew how to make and pour cement, fix an electrical socket, lay bricks, work a table saw, lay roofing tile, fix a clogged sink, install paneling and paint a life-size Santa, his sleigh and reindeer, with the eye of a Rembrandt.  

But most of all, Dad taught me how to be a man. Not just the obvious things we think about, but the nuanced characteristics that were just as important as the big ones. And these lessons were not always verbal; sometimes he taught by example. And if you were observant you picked them up simply by watching. I learned how to bite my tongue with grace and diplomacy, instead of shooting from the hip with my mouth.

I learned not to sweat the small stuff. I learned that there were two sides to every story. I learned it was sometimes better to lose the battle but win the war. I learned the power of giving (and receiving) an apology. He taught me it was no sin to make a mistake, as long as you learned from it.

And so, I guess Dad taught me more than just an appreciation of history. He taught me the history of life.  

I will mark this day as I have the past 10 anniversaries. Mom will put one of those touching memorials we see in the newspaper today. It is always a shock for me to see those, because I still cannot quite get over the fact that he is gone.

Dad used to travel for U.S. Steel in later years, and I have sort of deluded myself to think he is on an extended trip for the mill. I know I will see him again one day, but until then I will always have my memories and his lessons.

Bill Eggert is a Johnstown resident. He writes an occasional column.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Denne, Williams & Stanton Records hearing scheduled

    A Cambria County judge will consider complaints filed by two Johnstown residents seeking documents related to the city’s municipal waste water operation at hearing at the end of this month.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sen. Bob Casey Casey targets heroin

    The heroin trade has brought addiction, death, violence and theft to Johnstown and other Pennsylvania communities.
    Figuring out how to deal with those issues is difficult for local, state and federal officials.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drive-in to open with high-tech projector

    Drive-in movie theaters and the term “state of the art” seldom share the same sentence.
    But that will soon be the case for the Silver Drive-In, it’s owner said. The Scalp Avenue site, often marketed as a nostalgic summer night escape, soon will boast a high-end projector capable of displaying the latest and greatest blockbusters in razor sharp high-definition, theater owner Rick Rosco said.

    April 18, 2014

  • Sheetz work underway

    Earthmoving is underway at Richland Town Centre for a nearly 6,500-square-foot Sheetz store.
    And the real estate broker marketing the land says a 3,000-square-foot retail building will be built next door.

    April 18, 2014

  • Smith, Shakir Mosi Police seize heroin, money in Prospect

    Johnstown police reported that several bricks of heroin, along with $4,000 in cash and a handgun, were discovered in the city's Prospect neighborhood around 4 a.m. Friday. An arrest warrant has been issued for the man be­lieved to be the owner or renter of the two homes raided.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Comedy night targets serious problem

    Animal advocates are using comedy to take aim at a serious problem.
    The third annual Funny Fundraiser to benefit the Nardecchia Spay and Neuter Fund will be held at 8 p.m. May 16 at Ace’s, 316 Chestnut St. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

    April 18, 2014

  • Local briefs 4/19/2014

    April 18, 2014

  • Early morning police raid in Prospect area leads to arrest warrant

    Johnstown police reported that several bricks of heroin, along with $4,000 in cash and a handgun, were discovered in the city's Prospect neighborhood around 4 a.m. this morning.

    April 18, 2014

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    April 18, 2014

  • new councilman Judge fills City Council vacancy

    A lifelong Johnstown resident who has never sought election to public office was named Thursday to fill the vacancy on City Council.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo


Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads