Plumber Reflects on Father’s Unspoken Words

Looking back on a lifetime of hard work, dedication and pride.
Plumber Reflects on Father’s Unspoken Words
Jack Zohner

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Dad died August 12th at age 91. That was my birthday. I wondered how difficult it would be to write an article so soon after his death, but what I learned needs to be shared. It’s a story about what dads struggle to tell us.

Typically the disciplinarians, the stern role models, the men who grew up in Dad’s era had to work extra hard. Life was not easy. I believe people who grew up during the Great Depression and WWII are some of the best ever. They sacrificed so much. They were creative. Their efforts improved the lives of future generations.

Something that stands out is how much they naturally stayed involved helping others. So many of the organizations started during their lifetime required dedication, involvement and volunteering. They never seemed to be “too busy.”

Dad participated in many ways and did not expect any recognition. He just helped where he could.

A great example of his beliefs was given during his funeral at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church when the Rev. Leo Kosch made sure the back doors of the church were left open so the outside west doors were visible. A bright light shined through the windows Dad had installed. The installation was not easy. Dad didn’t want anyone to know he had installed the windows until after he died because he did not do it for the recognition.

No one remained a stranger around Dad. A great example was a gentleman I met at Dad’s funeral. Bill explained he came to Lincoln, Nebraska, in the ‘70s from his farm for dinner one night and was all alone. Dad saw his “25” county license plate, which is “back home” in Butler County. (Outside Lincoln and Omaha, license plates start with the county number — 3 for Gage County, 5 for Dodge County and 25 for Butler County.) That was all Dad needed. They talked like old friends and developed a friendship through the years.

A turning point for Mom and Dad was when they were sitting at dinner at a packed lounge in Lincoln one night and there was a couple standing at the door waiting for a table. Of course, Dad offered them a place to sit. The couple became great friends and taught them how to polka. Dad’s random act of kindness started a hobby that took Mom and Dad to hundreds of dances for over 40 years — most of them polkas. They had dance friends in almost all of the surrounding communities.

Dad outlived many of his friends and commented a few months ago that there were not many left to attend his funeral. The reality is he touched lots of lives. There were so many that sent cards, called, attended the funeral and have reached out. Thank you!

Dad struggled with his health these last three years and has found peace. I can envision him listening to polkas in heaven and talking to his many friends as he looks for more.

I thought I knew Dad really well, but it wasn’t until helping Mom sort through the things he cherished did a hidden message come resonating back at me that answered some personal questions.

I always wondered if I stacked up to Dad’s expectations. Was I good enough? Did Dad appreciate my efforts? Then I found Dad’s 3-inch-thick binder that contained the history of John Henry’s Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning.

That binder was something Dad had held hundreds of times as he put it together. Dad documented every business achievement and collected advertisements and newspaper clippings that dated to the beginning of John Henry’s 20 years ago. Dad knew I would find it and understand his message that may have been difficult to say out loud. Those are the messages we get from beyond. Yes Dad, I now understand. I also know the challenge will always be there to continue to get better and I will never let you down.

About the author: Jack Zohner is the owner of John Henry’s Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning in Lincoln, Nebraska.


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