Journalism lost a legend today with the passing of Tim Russert, 58, host of NBS'c "Meet the Press" since 1991. I met the man in 2006 at North Central College, during a book tour stop sponsored by Naperville's world-renowned Anderson's. He was down-to-earth and friendly, and it's a privilege to say my father's story is included in one of his books.
So, in honor of Father's Day, and in memory of a great man, here's a story I wrote two years ago when Tim Russert visited Naperville:
A legacy of love
By Ted Slowik
My father could fix anything. He could straighten a bent bicycle wheel, repair a window shattered by a baseball, even mend tattered relationships.
It's a tremendous honor for my father, Jozef Slowik, to appear in Tim Russert's new book, "Wisdom of Our Fathers." But it's no surprise, given the subject matter. Russert, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," will talk about the book and sign copies tonight at North Central College.
My sister, Jeanne Moran of Aledo, read Russert's 2004 book, "Big Russ & Me," and responded to the request for readers to submit stories about their fathers. More than 60,000 stories were submitted; only 175 were chosen.
Our father was a mechanical engineer. During the 1960s he worked for the Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute, where he designed and built androids NASA used to test spacesuits. One of the androids is on display at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
He invented the surgical stapler, a device still widely used by doctors.
He was a brilliant problem-solver, but to his 12 kids he was simply Dad.
"I had a dad who read to me when Mom was too tired to think, a dad who knew when he walked in the door after a long day at work that Mom had had a tougher day at home, feeding and raising 12 children," my sister's story reads.
In a few weeks, we will experience the first Father's Day without our father. He died of leukemia March 5 at age 84.
"At least he got to read it before he died," my sister said of the story she submitted.
Her story is featured in a section about discipline. She wrote about how one punishment consisted of cracking walnuts. Those who misbehaved in church had to kneel on the gravel driveway.
"If two of us were fighting, we had to stand in the kitchen, each in a separate square on the tile floor far enough apart so we couldn't reach each other, and think of three nice things to say about the other person," she wrote.
Many of the book's stories are about large Catholic families, and the stories resonate with familiarity.
"I had a dad who sacrificed so that all of his children could attend Catholic schools. On Saturday nights, he used to line up our polished shoes so they would be ready for church on Sunday," my sister wrote.
We grew up in Countryside, near La Grange. Most of us still live in the area, including our brother, Paul, who lives in Naperville and owns Bud's Concrete. Our sister, Jo Marie, is married to Mark Robbins, who was a lieutenant with the Naperville Police Department before he retired and who now teaches criminal justice at Minnesota State University in Mankato.
The storytellers in Russert's book were not paid, though each writer did receive an autographed copy of the book.
I miss my dad, his wisdom and his ability to lead by example. I try to be like him, and I try to emulate how he could bring people together and mediate disputes.
My sister is No. 11, and I'm the youngest. I love my sister, but once, as a kid, I pushed her down a flight of stairs.
"The greatest legacy that Dad has left behind is that his children get along so well as adults," she wrote. "With all the sibling rivalry that existed as we were growing up, we still manage to get together often during the year, and we actually like one another. Dad taught us to care. In the long run, what more can a father do?"