In honor of Father’s Day this weekend, I thought I’d take the time to write about my dad for this week’s post of 52 Ancestors. I will not include his first name for his privacy.
I started writing this for a father’s day post, but got super busy before finishing it, I’d still like to add more after talking with my dad, we were all together for father’s day, but I just wanted us all to enjoy each other’s company and I didn’t want him to feel like he was being interviewed!
My dad was born on August 8, 1943 in New York. His parents were Anna Dorthea (Thea) Reighel (1914-?-deceased)and Louis Adam Villhauer (1912-1999).
His parents separated when he was young and he bounced around a couple foster homes before he was taken in by his grandfather Adam Villhauer. He lived with his grandfather for a while before he was then taken in by his uncle John Villhauer. I really need to sit down with my dad and talk about his childhood with him, but unfortunately we just haven’t had the time. My mom remembers that when his parents divorced that his mom (Thea) married a man who was part of a traveling carnival which was why she couldn’t raise my father. I’m not sure why he didn’t go to live with his father, unless that was a part of the divorce requirements.
I don’t have a lot of photos of my dad growing up, just a few here and there, I really wish I had more.
My dad with his two older brothers
My dad at age 4, this is one of my favorite photos of him.
My dad went to Holy Cross High School High School in Burlington Co., New Jersey. I was ecstatic to find some year book photos of my dad during high school on ancestry.com.
I especially love this page which shows my dad and his co-captain accepting the passing of the trophy from the senior captains. My dad is the guy on the left. He is also in the group photo at the top. I can’t tell you how amazing it was to see these yearbook photos! I have a few of him as a little kid and then a bunch after he met my mom, of course. So finding these photos of his teenage years was just incredible!
I also love this one of him zoning out in typing class
and then my dad in chess club as well 🙂
Finding all these great photos made me want to find more and luckily I still live near John Carroll University where both my dad and I went to college, so it was super easy to stop by there and ask to see the old yearbooks. I looked in every year book while he was in school there and found a few more photos.
Of course there was the senior photo, he graduated in 1968. But I also found a photo of him on the football team again:
My dad is in the top row, 5 from the left (#69), he was kind of a jokester, to say the least, so he gave the wrong name – B. Starr, the name of one of his friends when he filled out his name for this photo.
I also found this great candid of him playing guitar in the dorm room:
He’s the top guitarist in the back.
My dad took a couple years off from college to join the Navy during the Vietnam War. He was on the USS Austin at this time in the Caribbean.
My dad in his Navy uniform
I was also able to find this photo of the ship he was on:
I have so many stories I want to share about my dad that I could probably write a book. He is certainly one of those people who lives life to the fullest and has been involved in all sorts of adventures, both good and kind of scary!
There was the time, while in the navy, that he was arrested in Mexico and put in this open air prison with just a dirt floor and fencing to keep people in. He was with several Navy buddies and they’d been drinking and being a little crazy and were therefore arrested. Fortunately another Navy friend was able to track them down. He says he worried that they’d never get out. There was another man there who said he didn’t even know why he was in jail or how long he’d been there. Just this poor forgotten guy.
When I was really little, my dad got in a really bad fight and was hit over the head really hard with a bat. After a few days he started having severe headaches and went to the doctor. They told him to take it easy and just go home and take some extra advil. A few days later he was still having really bad pain and went back. The doctors took a closer look and discovered he had a blood clot and needed immediate brain surgery. My dad was shocked and asked why there wasn’t a step between advil and brain surgery. He was rushed off and the next time I saw him his head was shaved and he had a huge bandage on his head.
My poor dad has been electrocuted more times then he probably cares to remember! Once during a bad thunderstorm his friend’s car rolled over power wires that had fallen and the car was all tangled up in them. My dad got out to help direct the driver away from the power lines. He put his hand out to direct the driver, and as the car was slowly rolling over the wires my dad’s tip of his middle finger grazed the car door and he was electrocuted so badly that he burned holes in his socks.
Another story that stands out about my dad and electricity was when I was in either high school or middle school. My dad is a general handyman and can fix everything, and once when he was working on a ladder three stories up, his ladder somehow came into contact with an electrical wire. Unfortunately it was a metal ladder and the whole thing started bucking so badly from the electricity that it actually carved gouges into the cement driveway below. Fortunately the ladder bounced away from the house and he fell backwards into the wall of the house next door (the houses were close together, fortunately, just separated by a driveway). I remember my dad driving me by the house later to show me the grooves in the drive way.
Then there was a time more recently, like in the past 5 years or so, that my dad was trimming trees at his and my step mom’s house. Her house’s backyard is right up against a deep ravine. He was trimming trees near this ravine when somehow the bottom of his ladder broke off and he was left dangling from a branch over the ravine. My step mom wasn’t home at the time, but somehow, by the grace of God, she came home right after this happened and was able to get a second ladder under my dad’s feet.
I swear this guy is part cat! The number of times he’s been severely injured and lived to tell the tale!
My dad is also the guy who always gets a close by parking spot even on days when a parking lot is packed with people. And it’s not like he circles until he finds one, it just always magically appears as he begins to look for a spot.
He also is the type that know literally everyone! It doesn’t matter where we go or how far from home we are, my dad will see someone he knows. He once went to Toronto, we all live in Ohio, and on an elevator in some building he ran into some guy he knew from way back.
It’s really no surprise that so many people know him and remember him. My dad is really a pretty cool guy, and in fact he’s such a cool and fun guy that even in high school when you are supposed to think your parents are ridiculous and be embarrassed of them, I still thought he was a cool guy then. He used to do a lot of open mic, playing his guitar and harmonica as well as singing, at coffee shops and on Coventry which was a big hangout place for a lot of us in high school. Everyone knew my dad and liked that he sang and played guitar. He was a great dad to have growing up. My parents separated when I was about 5 or so, but he remained a big part of my life and my parents both loved me so much that despite the fact that they didn’t love each other any more they both still worked really hard to still be parents together and they once again became really good friends. I remember thinking as a child that even though my parents didn’t live together that I had a better relationship with my dad than some of my friends did who still had a dad living with them. He’s the kind of person who is totally un self-centered. He is good natured and people are just happy to be around him and hear is crazy stories and be involved in whatever he is doing because something strange, funny, or unusual will probably happen.
He was always willing to be as silly as a kid could ever want their parent to be. He would always race with me down the street whenever I wanted, and for a long time he would pretend to let me win. One day he told me that he realized he lost because I really had become faster than him. I was really into puffy paint shirts for a while and I made him tons of shirts with frogs on them, or horses, and who knows what else. He was such a good sport about wearing these shirts too! I spent a lot of my summer days with him when I was out of school and my mom was still working. I remember these being care free times where we would wander the city, making quick stops to area homes where he would touch up some paint, fix a leaky faucet, or repair something else broken, hanging out at coffee shops, and always running into people he knew. People loved meeting me because basically I was a smaller identical version of my dad! I look more like my mom as I get older, but as a little kid I was the exact image of my dad, goofy grin and all!
My dad encouraged in me a love of music and sports. He came to every track meet, every piano recital, every band/orchestra concert, marching band performance, and horse show I was in. And he was always proud of me, and I was always aware that he was proud of me, no matter who well or poorly I did in a competition/performance.
The best part about this photo, besides my dad pretending to kiss a frog, is that he’s wearing, in public a ridiculous puffy paint shirt I’d made him. He always did stuff like that 🙂
At a family talent show during elementary school
Don’t worry, I was crying because I was happy!
And a bunch of scrapbook pages: