What’s in a name? Shakespeare knew; so did Dad. Father’s Day is once again here. For those of us whose fathers are still with us, we hop in the car one Sunday in June annually and visit “dear old Dad,” gifting him with golf equipment, fishing gear, or those notoriously bad neckties.
But for those of us whose fathers have passed on, we are only left with bittersweet memories of a man who was always there for us in good times and bad; cheering us on in our games, or consoling us in our setbacks.
No matter their size, shape, color or personality, our dads were the guys who we turned to in times of trouble; our first line of defense. They could bring down the wrath of Zeus in one moment, putting the fear of God into us. They could also touch our hearts with an unexpected act of kindness in a moment when all hope seemed lost, yet never stopping to take a bow. That is how my dad was; I am sure he was a lot like your fathers as well.
Those of you who are regular readers know my dad through the past seven years of my column. Sometimes he is the subject of my column; other times his presence is off-stage, or in the background of a related subject, like the one on Pirate legend Arky Vaughan. I always appreciate the nice feedback I get from readers about the columns with Dad; they obviously strike a responsive chord as you all remember and honor your fathers. Recollections are all I have left of Dad to cherish as I sort through the attic of my memories of him, now that he is gone.
Dad was a wonderful raconteur; he loved to tell stories. Like the one about his unique name. Roman Catholics have four names: first, middle, Confirmation name, and surname. But Dad had an extra name. Dad’s full name was William Anthony Bernard Francis Eggert. William was Dad’s father’s name, Anthony was his middle name (After St. Anthony), Francis was his Confirmation name, to honor his mother (Frances), and Eggert our surname.
Where did Bernard come in? Bernard was Great-Grandpap’s first name (Dad’s grandfather, my great-grandfather) who lived to be 103 years old, and the patriarch of the Eggert family. Bernard von Eggert immigrated to America (from Germany) via Ellis Island when he was just a teenager. He was one of Pittsburgh’s first mounted policemen in the early 1900’s. Great-Grandpap no doubt felt slighted that his name was not attached to Dad, so he had his old friend, the parish pastor, add his name to Dad’s birth certificate when he was baptized. Like Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, Great-Grandpap did not believe in no-win situations. Dad always got a kick out of telling that story.
Names were important to Dad and his family. I will always be grateful to Mom for giving me an old photo from a Father’s Day long ago in Pittsburgh. Standing in the backyard was Great-Grandpap (Bernard Eggert), Grandpap (William J. Eggert), a young Dad (William A. Eggert) and his little son (me, William D. Eggert). Four generations of Eggerts, three of whom were named William. I always enjoy looking at that photo; it gives me comfort gazing at their smiling faces, tinged with a bit of sadness realizing that all of them are gone.
The photo reminds me of how tradition was important to those men, like continuing the name of William. It used to get confusing growing up at home. The phone caller would ask for “Bill Eggert” and Dad would say “You got him,” and then chuckle when the caller clarified they were asking for the ‘other’ Bill Eggert. Mom now fields calls asking for Bill Eggert; it must be painful for her to tell callers that neither Bill Eggert lives there anymore.
Dad loved music, but was not much for country, and especially rock. But one song he always enjoyed was the Johnny Cash classic “A Boy Named Sue,” a huge hit for Cash in 1969. Dad loved the father-son theme and the significance of a name. He also appreciated good comedy. I know that if I ever settle down with a nice young girl and have a son I will definitely name him Bill, in honor of Dad. Maybe add Bernard also. Dad would like that; Great-Grandpap would love it.
Bill Eggert is a Johnstown resident. He writes an occasional column.