Dr. Fred Clemenz

Growing Up And Learning With Daddy

Christy Dunbar

I was born before Dad finished college. My mother had already graduated and was a 1st Grade teacher. So Daddy started teaching me to read early using her 1st grade materials. He bragged that I knew how to read when I was 4 so I started 1st grade when I was 5. This was just the beginning of my education. Dad had a box of vocabulary words by the dinner table and every night he pulled out a card. I had to spell it, give the meaning and use it in a sentence. The word I remember most is onomatopoeia. I have yet to use it in conversation except when I tell this story. An example of onomatopoeia “clang” which sounds like its meaning. By the age of 10 he had me reading the Iliad and the Odyssey. We also had a set of books containing all of Shakespeare’s plays but I did not finish them much to his chagrin. Of course after reading Papa had a list of questions for me and I usually failed the test. Daddy loved to travel and wherever we went we stopped to read the historical signs and were tested later that day. And of course current events and politics - I hated those inquiries almost as much as i hated history lessons. I still know the date of the Battle of Hastings is 1066 but have never found that knowledge to be useful. I did love learning card games but if you were his bridge partner you better bid and play correctly. We were all encouraged to play the piano and participate in singing in the choir. He was a difficult task master sitting beside me while I practiced piano. By the time I was 10 I rode with him early to church on the back of his scooter to get to choir practice on time. His teaching method was often immersion such as to learn to swim he threw me in the water. When he wanted me to learn to ski at age 10 I was not allowed to get back in the boat until I skied. And then when I was too afraid to go over the wake he just drove the boat in a tight circle so there was no other option but to go over the wake. And I still love to ski. His goal was to give us every opportunity he could for us to excel in life. He instilled confidence and supported all of our interests.

Obviously Daddy taught me many things that have enhanced my life but most of all what he gave me was the gift of time which also meant the give of love. As a medical student, internist, resident, flight surgeon, commander of TAC hospital in the Vietnam war and then solo practitioner surgeon he was busy and often not at home. But when he got home, no matter how tired he was he was spending his time with us. He would get on the floor and play with us and I remember many a time when we were climbing all over him, I would look down at him and find that he had fallen asleep. After I had children he spent time with them visiting us most Wednesdays and giving the grandchildren the same attention, reading assignments, and quizzes. Playing cards with them beginning with Go Fish, Old Maid and Slap Jack until they were ready for Euchre and California Rummy. He brought Brighton a deck of cards before she was one year old and starting teaching her cards- starting with an Ace. He sat at the piano with them, helped with their homework, and encouraged them in life in so many ways. He gave them the same time and love he gave me. I only hope I can continue to give to my grandchildren and show them the same kind of love.

The last time I spent time with Daddy several weeks before he died, he was having a particularly good morning. He was watching an old movie about Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and Mary Shelley. I sat next to him and we held hands. He quizzed me about their lives and quoted their poetry, just like old times.

His gift of love lives on.