Hope Wissel

A Tribute to Dad!

Today will be a rough day…. we say good bye to my Dad, Robert Milfred Heldreth (aka Milfred Lee or Bob).  I’ve gone back and forth trying to decide what to write.  I have decided to be true to sharing my strengths, hopes and experiences with my readers.

Dad was born in El Monte, CA, as Milfred Lee Heldreth (otherwise known as Bob) where he joined the Army when he was 15.  Of course he had to change his birth certificate so he could serve his country. He served for 7 years and was a member of A Troop 66th Squadron 6th Regiment serving in Dergendorf, Germany for two years.  Dad told this story often but the reality hit when we found the “corrected” discharge papers from the Army.

He loved working with his hands and held a variety of jobs – a real “jack of all trades”. He was always building something.  He changed our garage into a family room.  He built a deck off the house.  He even built a trailer which we used when we traveled cross country.  And then there was the endless hours spent working on cars.  He bought my first car and spray painted it blue for me.  I was not initially happy with it because it was a stick shift BUT I learned to love it.  He taught me how to change a tire, and check my oil so when Belinda got her license they were things I taught her before she could go out on her own driving.  His garage and his tools are a true testament to his love of fixing things. Dad’s jobs came with perks…. being the manager of the Monmouth Bottle Shop got us a trip to Acapulco when I was 13 years old.

He was a ham radio operator with the call letters WA2IAE. He loved connecting with people all across the world and being able to help others. Many of my school projects were done with the help of dad’s connections.  Postcards and items from across the country were always good for bonus points.

Dad was loving and kind, nonjudgmental and accepting. Yes, there were tough times with  years of anger and hurt when my parents divorced.  Dad was not perfect.  He admitted his faults, and even with memories of bad times, I forgave him.  No matter how bad a situation was, he always found the silver lining and worked through it.

Dad loved to tell stories which always left us wondering if they were true or just a tall tale.  Did he really eat bugs as a kid growing up?  He shared many stories with my daughter who as a child was always ready to share them with her classmates.  Of course, the teachers sometimes wondered if they were true too.He leaves a legacy filled with memories for his family and friends. Dad liked to cook especially on the grill.  Didn’t matter if there was snow or rain, he found a way to grill.  He was best known for his mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving – no lumps.  Despite our best efforts, none of us have ever gotten the hang to it.  Then there were his potato pancakes made with the left over mashed potatoes.  Mom and dad actually served breakfast to the entire Junior Class of OTHS after the Prom in 1974.  Yes, the entire class.

He was a Past Master of Asbury Lodge #142 F&AM, a Past Patron of Neptune Chapter #214 and a past member of the Advisory Board for Iris Assembly #31, Order of the Rainbow for Girls.

Dad taught me many lessons which have helped to mold me into the person I am today.  I love you dad!

Hope Wissel

Happy Birthday Dad!


Remember that I said October is birthday month in our family? Well, today is my Dad’s 85th Birthday!  WOOHOO!

Life with Dad wasn’t always easy but it was always interesting….Dad worked a lot and at some really unusual jobs.

Mom and he worked at the local private airport. Mom worked in the office and dad in the monkey house. Yup, that was what it was called.  He used to transport cars down to Florida for Mr. Brown (the airport owner) then fly home on one of his little planes. I thought the airport was my private playground.

He worked at Monmouth Bottle Shop but it wasn’t just your typical liquor store. They sold amazing furniture (bars, coffee tables, etc) that came from Mexico. As a result, we got to go to Acapulco one summer for a “business trip“. The summer of my first bikini.

Then there are some memories that stand out and each have their own story:

  • Lots of Camping trips – including cross country
  • Dad picking up my now hubby from the police station (maybe more than once)
  • Dad picking me up at Horner’s when I was late coming home from a date
  • Dad reaching out to his HAM radio buddies to help me with geography papers in school

Then there were the rough years when alcohol stole my dad from me. He was not the dad who pulled me on the sled to visit my grandparents at Christmas. He was not the Dad who worked tireless along side my mom to serve breakfast to over 300 kids after the junior prom. Those years are the years that I have chosen t0 forgive him for knowing that it was the addiction and not him.  But for 16 years, I was angry and then came Belinda and my own addiction.  That is when I started to understand…

I will be eternally grateful for my Dad for a visit during my first few days in drug rehab in Pennsylvania. Edythe told dad what was happening and despite the fact that I hadn’t seen or talked to him in almost 16 years – he came to see me. In fact, I was supposed to be on blackout and he convinced them that this visit was important to my recovery. He was right! That was when the long road to recovery began not only from my addiction but to a relationship with my Dad.

I will never forget the smile on his or Belinda’s face the first time they met – Belinda was about 2 1/2 years old. Then there was the birthday party where Belinda helped opened cards for Dad, only to announce when they had no money in them. Dad gave her a male role model in her life.  She was blessed to be “adopted” by her best friend’s dad but this was different. This is her Pop-pop. From then on, two holidays were always celebrated with Dad – Father’s Day or as Belinda always called it “Pop-pop Day” and Thanksgiving.

The greatest gift was the day that he walked me down the aisle at my wedding. I never thought the day would come (the wedding or dad being a part of it). Dad was there – holding on to me as the realization that I was getting married sunk in and dancing that Father/Daughter dance despite the pain. Memories that I will cherish forever.

Thank you Dad for your love and support. The road may have been rocky but I learned so many things along the way. I love you and wish you many more birthday years.

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