Photo credit: Peace Corps

There are people who enter your life and leave an indelible impression on your soul. Ones that impart lessons and leave a mark that lives with you for all your days. When you least expect it, you hear their words echo in your head or feel their presence as if they were there with you. For me, one of those persons was a man that I met as an employer, learned to admire and respect and became a second dad to me as I grew into the woman that I have become. When I lost my own father, he was someone that was always there to lend a gentle, guiding hand – a person who was truly happy and proud of my accomplishments, much as my own dad would have been if he were still with me. I came to know his family, watched his daughters grow into wonderful, amazing women of whom he was immensely proud.

Today is his birthday. The last time I spoke to him was on this day several years ago, just prior to his death. Unbeknown to me at the time, he was ill and would died less than two weeks later from an unknown ailment that he most likely acquired while he was doing something that he loved and aspired to do for a very long time, working with the Peace Corps. He taught me lots of lessons in the years that I had known him, how to be a good lawyer, how to treat people fairly, how to be ethical in my profession and how to never be afraid to learn something new. I remember that when his daughters learned the violin, he took lessons right alongside them, never having played the violin himself. He decided that he wanted to learn Spanish (which he would later use in the Peace Corps) so he enrolled in college to take Spanish lessons. He learned Pilates and took dance lessons. He was known for the fedora hats that he sported on a daily basis, both around town and in the courthouse. He was a proud Marine and the father of three West Point graduates.

He taught me that a lot of things can be worked through with a simple “walk around the block”.

He was, for all intents and purposes, in the decades that I knew him, a second father. I cried almost as much as I cried for my own dad when I learned that he passed away. Just like my dad was the only one to call me “Babe”, John was the only one who could call me “Kiddo” (beside my own husband) and get away with it.

After he passed away I made a trip to New Jersey to help his wife go through old files. I sat on the floor of the room that contained years of legal work, much of which I was a part of, and cried alongside her. They were, and still are, like family.

You never know when the stranger that entered your life will leave that kind of mark. You never know how you are touched by those, once strangers, who become family. You never know how they will shape the person you become. Just like I miss my own dad, I miss him too. I always think of him when June 15th rolls around and smile. He was one of a kind and will always hold a special place in my heart.

Happy Birthday John Dolan Harrington, you are very much missed.