Monday, October 13, 2014

A Tribute To Dad - A Naval Officer and An Inspiration


With today marking the 239th year of the United States Navy, I thought it only proper to celebrate two dads who proudly served. My husband Guy's dad was a career Naval officer and my own dad, though not career, was a Seabee (a member of the Navy Construction Battalion) in the Philippines. Guy and I both pause to celebrate our country's brave men and women who selflessly serve - with our thanks and sincere gratitude.

Guy Algar learned a lot from his father. When he was only five years old, his dad recognized Guy’s keen interest in mechanical things, took him under his wing and let Guy “help” in work on his classic car. At the start, Guy had to learn the tools - the names of each one, the function and purpose of each, as well as watching how to properly use them. As any good mentor will do, he was gradually given tasks of increasing difficulty and complexity. These are fond memories of a young boy’s childhood, but truly they are so much more than that.

When asked, “What is the one thing that you are most grateful your father taught you?”, Guy responded, “Discipline”.  While many young men do not learn discipline until they serve in the armed forces, or sadly, do not learn at all, Guy’s father ruled with an iron fist yet with a loving heart.  The result was forming what most would call “character”.

Guy's dad served on the submarine USS Whale 638 (SSN-638),
a Surgeon-class, nuclear-powered attack submarine of the US Navy
Guy’s father was career military. As a naval officer, he was at sea at least half of the time serving on nuclear submarines in the early years, and as they were dry-docked into retirement, went on to serve on aircraft carriers before his retirement just after Guy graduated high school. When he was away, he expected (and demanded) proper behavior from Guy. When he was home, he taught Guy the value of quality work (“if you can’t do the job right, don’t do it at all”), a thirst for knowledge (  ), and perseverance (“if you don’t know how to do something, find a way to learn the right way”), problem-solving ( ) and completion (“always put away your tools so you know where to find them next time”).  

Guy was often given projects to accomplish while his dad was out to sea. Knowing that he was expected to have it completed when his dad returned, it was up to Guy to figure out how. He read every hot rod magazine he could get his hands on (his dad’s subscriptions and those copies he bought with hard-earned money earned from chores), along with using his mechanical aptitude to put the lawnmower back together, tune-up the family car, repair the water pump, and all the increasingly difficult projects that were left for him.

All this may have seemed like work to some, but for Guy it was great. His dad always showed appreciation for the job well done, and encouragement for learning even more. It was a challenge that led Guy to develop a thirst for knowledge. It led him to have a very clear goal of becoming a Mechanical Engineer before he had even left high school. He found through his love of working on old cars that he had a gift of being able to easily conceptualize the mechanical working of things, and an acute appreciate for the intricacies of the working gears and pieces.

Guy with his '55 Belair in 1976
Even before he got his driver's license at 16, Guy saved up and bought his own car - a 1955 Chevy Belair - one similar to one that his dad had owned when he was small. A former drag race car, complete with fiberglass nose and roll cage with no rear seat, Guy spent after-school and weekends looking for parts to return her to stock and working on the engine. 39 years later, he still has the same car. 

Guy did not know it at the time, but the skills he acquired went far beyond the know-how of performing the task at hand. What it instilled in Guy was integrity, honesty, fairness, and a love for what you do. The “discipline” was never thought of as cruel or unfair. It was something that became self-administered. A matter of pride at doing the best you can, doing the job well and doing it correctly the first time. This is the motto that Guy lives by, and it is the basis for all the work he does at Motorheads Performance, the shop he founded with me in 2004 in South Central Texas.

We reflect back on the influences our dads had in our lives and know that the lessons they learned while serving our country in the United States Navy played a big part in the men and fathers they became. They have our thanks and appreciation.