My Dad, Joseph J. Ozanic, Jr., is truly one of the most remarkable and wisest fathers that our Creator every gave to a daughter. I am blessed to be the oldest of eight children raised in the small town of Mount Olive, Illinois. My Dad is a journeyman machinist who drove to McDonnell-Douglas every day for thirty years. It was a three-hour round-trip drive in a carpool, but he wanted to raise his family in a small town. Even though we had very little money as children, we never felt that we ever lacked for any material thing. Perhaps it was because our Dad filled our lives with joy, fun and love instead. For my 13th birthday, my Dad bought me a horse for $100. It was a lot of money to our family back then and I am still not sure how he managed it, but that was how much he loves me .. his little “Memee” as he called me. A live, living, breathing horse named Buck. How many kids hold a memory this special from their childhood? Our home sat on three acres and every night, already exhausted from a full day of work, Dad would dig a few postholes for the fence. He dug every single posthole by hand with a manual posthole-digger … his poor hands, burning with blisters even through his gloves. I will forever be grateful for what he did for me. There is no material gift that could repay this act of unconditional love for me. Stemming from his own quiet nature, Dad taught me what the blessing of unconditional love truly means and how to find it everywhere in our everyday lives. Dad taught me to have respect for all living things and how to nurture and protect the natural environment that we all share ... and to love the Creator that gave it all to us.
Our summer vacations each year were camping trips to southern Illinois where we learned the simplest things like leaving the wildflowers and the rocks for the next person to enjoy rather than picking them to serve as unnecessary souvenirs. He taught us that our experiences will always live vividly and alive in our minds. The gentlest of men, one afternoon as an adult I was riding in the car with my dad driving. A squirrel darted into the middle of the street and stopped, frozen and afraid. Dad, slowly braked the car and speaking aloud to himself and to the squirrel, said, “Hurry up there, little buddy.” The squirrel safely darted across the road and Dad continued his conversation with me. I didn’t mention to him what I had just observed, but my eyes filled with tears at how much this small act said about him. I reflected and remembered what this kind soul has done for each of his sons and daughters over the years and how truly blessed I am to call this man, My Dad.