My dad was a kind of man who reached legendary status. He wasn’t a rock star, billionaire business mogul, or famous movie actor, but nevertheless he achieved that kind of notoriety with me and many others. He died unexpectedly nearly three years ago at the age of 71, far too young for a guy who looked like the Dos Equis man and had friends and admirers everywhere. I had the privilege of working with my dad for many years and sharing his fatherly qualities with our two companies. Pete Wells had some very incredible traits, but here are three of his stand-out, ‘great dad’ qualities:
1. Be present
In this age of digital distraction and the need to be busy, my father had the ability to be present, engaged, and focused not on a task but on people. There were countless times we sat down during one of my busy work days to have a cup of coffee. Often it was the first time all day I felt listened to! Although my dad was a dreamer in many ways, he had this incredible ability to stay very engaged in a discussion. I lend it to his endless curiosity of knowledge and people. He never liked school, but loved to learn, and in this sense he was able to soak up what others had to offer. As a daughter, having an example of a man who would take the time to hear me was a huge gift and set a high standard. My father’s choosing people over things always showed dedication to family, reliability, and integrity. High-quality interactions with my dad made me feel loved, supported, and most of all, important.
2. Embarrass your kids
My dad was never afraid to question the main stream and not just go along with the trends. I love that he marched to the beat of a different drummer and showed me that parenting isn’t a popularity contest. I didn’t always appreciate it, especially as a teenager when everything seems embarrassing, particularly a parent who shows his love for his kid! Daily notes in my lunch (often times they were funny poems), that I would try to keep secret but my friends would tease and quietly admire. He had innumerable inventions that involved duct tape, two by fours, and the signature Sharpie Wellco trademark (his inventor name). For example, growing up, our pond skating rinks were always kept clean with the Wellco Econo-Scrape method of a homegrown Zamboni. We laced our skates with the signature wooden tool fashioned with a bent nail. I envied the other kids store-bought things but his inventions always had a clever name and a useful purpose. And he made the time to do it. Pete never met a project he didn’t like, chiefly if it would benefit his family. This was a great example for me of independence…following passions without peer pressure to conform.
3. Show love
His philosophy in life was “keep your foot flat to the floor and don’t let up on the turn.” Just like that motto, Pete’s love never let up. Through his humor, broad mindedness, and kindness, he unfailingly showed his love for us all, including his work family. Although he and I spoke multiple times a day, he always ended our phone conversations with the words “I love you.” He never hesitated to show affection with a big hug, not just to me, but to people who needed it. Our employees all remembered the way he could stand next to them showing encouragement by wrapping his giant hand around a shoulder and asking about them, usually accompanied with a nickname. He would bring this loving spirit even on my early morning rides to swim practice in the dead of winter; my dad could make me smile (a tall order with a grumpy 11-year-old girl). Our rides to practices or school were always filled with laughter and life lessons. Monkey bites (squeezing my knee with his huge hand) in the front seat of the car were a solid “go-to” for him, but the ride was never complete without a vocabulary word usually explained in a funny way. He shared this kindness with strangers, acquaintances, and even his political rivals (my dad spent many years in town politics and the State Legislature). He showed this love with words, affection, kindness, and guidance. This trait created trust, not just with his daughter but with the world.
The pain of losing my dad still feels fresh and the hole his passing left in my life still feels too big. I talk about him every day, and most importantly I will feel the benefit of his great dad traits for the rest of my life. It’s nothing complicated or fancy, but what my dad did was give me a remarkable gift of love. These are some traits to live by not just to be a legendary dad, but to be a legendary person.