From our first family home to the Colonial Courthouse, we’ll remember Dad with places important to him.
It gets easier with time, they say. The firsts are always the toughest.
First birthdays, first anniversary, first major holidays.
First Father’s Day.
Without our dad.
My sister Nikkii and I lost our dad, Bill Stallsmith, on Jan. 30 after a decades-long battle with emphysema and COPD.
Nikkii and I want to do something special this Father’s Day, instead of our traditional lunch. Sure, we could join Mom, make his favorite meal and sit around to tell stories, but we have been doing that together and virtually since he died.
Dad didn’t want a funeral, he wanted a party. He asked that his ashes be spread, not buried.
Like many people, COVID-19 delayed those plans. But the virus won’t delay Father’s Day.
And now we are left to celebrate the day without the dad.
Instead of lunch with him, we will hit some of the spots around York that were important to him.
We’ll start with the house he built for Mom shortly after I was born. He gave her what she wanted, a rancher with a finished basement and sunken living room complete with a cathedral ceiling.
We spent nearly 20 years in that house.
It was where I grew up. Where I learned to love John Deere tractors, big dogs and reading books by the fire, or on the couch, or in bed, or under a tree in the backyard.
It was where I rode my bike for hours on end, hit tennis balls against the house, shot baskets well after dark and had my own volleyball court.
Dad wasn’t what you would call a sporty kind of guy, so all of those Father’s Day ads with the perfect athletic gift idea weren’t for him. He liked ice hockey, and that was pretty much it.
That changed as I got older. Dad was the perfect example of nurture over nature because my sister, nieces and I made him a solid proponent of girls/women’s athletics. He didn’t know the first thing about tennis, basketball or volleyball when I started to play, but he never missed a game or match I played in for Central York. The same held true when my sister played three sports each year at Carlisle.
When my nieces started to swim, he attended as many meets as he could until his breathing made it too difficult.
He led by example in teaching Nikkii and me to speak up for what we thought was right.
Sometimes it was for little things, like getting the booster club to purchase championship jackets instead of photo plaques for the high school volleyball team.
His target was a little bigger when he wrote to the Shippensburg University president to complain about forcing the volleyball team to play in an illegal gym to appease a coach of a men’s team. After going four years in high school without being called to the principal’s office, that call to the president’s office was a little unnerving.
On Sunday we’ll take the back roads from Manchester Township to West York to the site of the former family contracting company. What was most recently the Big Ugly Warehouse, was I. Reindollar and Son, Inc. when I was growing up.
When it snowed, Dad and I would go to the office and pick up a four-wheel drive pickup truck with a snow blade on the front. We’d go from one relative to the next to take care of their snow.
I would shovel the walks and steps and he would plow the driveways. We did it for fresh coffee in his thermos, a cup of hot chocolate for me, and maybe a cookie or two if we were lucky.
There was never an expectation of getting paid any other way.
We’ll head down Sumner Street toward the York Fairgrounds, where Nikkii and I have fond memories of the York Fair, and the York Wine, Cheese and Beer Festival.
Dad was a life member of the York Sertoma Club, which had a hamburger stand at the fair and ran the food concessions at the festival. Dad won several Pork Cookout King titles at the fair, and came up with the menus for the Sertoma Club’s food stands.
We spent an entire summer testing one sweet and sour pork recipe after another as he perfected it for his first competition.
That was the start of his love of cooking for other people. That led to creating a catering company that specialized in hog roasts. We all worked for him and with him over the years.
He never had any formal culinary training, but boy did we learn a lot from him. He cooked for politicians, business owners, celebrities and clowns (yes, actual clowns).
He developed recipes that he wouldn’t give away, and he turned an oversized shed into a commercial kitchen.
And it all started with the York Sertoma Club.
From the fairgrounds, we’ll head to downtown York, to the First Presbyterian Church where Nikkii and I were baptized, just like Dad and three generations of his family before him.
We will swing past Hannah Penn Middle School and William Penn Sr. High, both places Dad attended.
And we’ll finish up at the Colonial Courthouse, one of the structures Dad was most proud to be a part of. It was built by Reindollar.
We won’t be able to go inside yet because it’s not quite ready for the public because of the pandemic. But we will be able to wear a company hat and take pictures next to the sign in front of one of the last houses that Dad helped to build.
And Nikkii and I, like so many other people each year, will help each other get through another first without our dad.
We’ll see some of the things that meant so much to him, and if we’re lucky, we’ll be able to see a little bit of him in each one.
Shelly Stallsmith is a trends reporter for the York Daily Record. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at @ShelStallsmith.
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