Three Lessons I Learned from My Dad, Doc Wollen
#1 Community matters.
Instead of the handout generation, my dad was raised as part of the “let me give a hand” generation. Back in his day, his hometown Garnett might as well have been light years from Kansas City. If things were going to get done, it was up to the community to make it happen and folks took care of each other. If someone was in trouble, you did what you could to help and even the smallest gesture could mean a lot. For example: Dad remembered how much he appreciated the gift of cold watermelon after a high school football practice and for years took it upon himself to buy truckloads of melons for local Olathe players. He understood the importance of opportunities for young people, so he involved himself in helping to support and build the local Girl Scouts of America Council and also served as a district director for Little League Baseball. He saw the value of exercise and education so he involved himself in Parks and Recreation and the Johnson County Community College Foundation. Dad participated on most of the major fundraisers for Grace United Methodist Church, but you would also see him working with the local “Carpenters” group doing maintenance work for those in need or handyman jobs around the church. He was proud to be one of a number of men and women who keep the spirit of service alive in Olathe whether it was with a hammer or a pen. He proved that the enthusiasm of like-minded people can make a difference.
#2 The Measure of a Man is how he treats folks on a daily basis, not how many accomplishments he can rack up on a resume.
Dad received trailer loads of awards and honors for his service work over the decades. However, what stays with me is how easily he connected with people. He genuinely was interested in their stories whether the person was a patient or a clerk or a grand poopah. He liked people, even the crazy ones. And people cared for him in return. When word got out that his nickname was Teddy Bear, Dad’s office was overrun by gifts of bears in every shape and size. When he went into the hospital the first time, we received a stack of get well cards higher than the coffee table. Dad’s Daughters were expected to treat people with respect and if you could throw in a bit of love and laughter, well, then all the better.
#3 Living is about being engaged in life.
My dad didn’t like to sit home. He enjoyed being out and about, his wife by his side. After he retired, Dad stayed involved in his volunteer activities. Making a difference was fun to him. He understood that leadership can be exercised at any age and a helping hand is always appreciated. Over the last two years of his life, he tapped into his inner tenor and relished being a member of the Trails West Barbershop Chorus, a whole new experience.
But the common theme throughout these lessons is that Dad valued friends. He admired people who brought something to the table—a sense of humor, insight, wisdom, muscle, whatever the gift. People matter, and it is this lesson none of us should ever forget.
Dad died September 10, 2013.