COTE DE TEXAS: A Family Birthday

A Family Birthday

 

Please allow me a personal post  today.

 

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Ralph D. Cohen – 1923

 

This past September we celebrated my father’s 90th birthday – with a family weekend in his honor.   A 90th birthday is definitely something to celebrate – and we had cousins that flew in from California, New York, and even Tennessee for the event.   On Friday night – my sister held a BBQ for all the out of town relatives and on Saturday, we hosted a dinner party at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse for our family, both in-town and out.  

I’d like to tell you about my dad – Ralph David Cohen.   He was born on September 11, 1923 (what a birth date to have!) in Chicago Illinois and grew up during the Great Depression.   When he says he walked to school in five feet of snow – we believe him!   Money was scarce and when he went to college, he worked at the fraternity as opposed to joining it.   Dad enlisted in the Navy during World World II, but it wasn’t his first choice to be a sailor.   If he had been in the Army or a Marine, he probably would have lived out his life in Chicago.  Instead, he met my mother on a leave in Galveston, Texas.  She noticed him mainly because of his sailor uniform – which she found particularly appealing – so it was a very good thing he wasn’t in Army khakis!  They married after the war and had my brother and later, me, a few years later.

 

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My dad in his handsome Navy uniform that my mother particularly liked!  Famous for having a moustache his entire adult life, this is a rare picture of him sans facial hair!

 

My mother’s family welcomed my dad into their small grocery business, which consisted of three stores on the east side of town of Houston.  Eventually our family merged our stores with another family and grew the business into a highly successful one that included not only groceries, but liquor stores, restaurants, real estate investments, vending machines, and even a home security business.

Along the way, there was much happiness and sadness too.  My mother passed away at a young age, as did my brother, but Dad found another soul-mate and he married Betty Rae over 40 years ago.   I gained two sisters in the deal!!   Life really does give you lemonade instead of lemons.

My father is an interesting man – to say the least.  He became a health and fitness fanatic years before it was a fad and he joined the first health spa in Houston, where he regularly worked out.  He continues his work-outs today and even still plays golf.   He easily gave up nicotine and caffeine years and years ago and his healthy lifestyle enabled him to overcome what could have been debilitating heart disease.  The only meat he indulges in is a lone hot dog once a year.    Obviously, he is the most disciplined man I know.  He never makes a wrong step.  He pays his bills before they are due and every thing is organized just so on his desk.  I know this because after college, I was his secretary for 8 years.  

A healthy body needs an alert mind and even though my dad has been retired for many years, he is still at his desk every day, busy with his computer while watching the financial networks.  Politicians on CNN get an earful from him too.  “You’re never too old to learn something new” – he says, so I wasn’t at all surprised when I ran into him at the Apple Store last week, signing up for One on One lessons.  Nor, I was surprised when he started a blog last summer for the residents of his summer condo, where he was just re-elected to the Board of Directors.  Nothing he does really surprises me.   The only shock would be if he ever slowed down.

 

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Dad and Betty Rae about 15 years ago.

 

Socially, he and Betty Rae are more active than Ben and I could ever hope to be.  They are always eating out with their many friends or taking in a new film at the Indie theatre.  He loves to go grocery shopping at Costco and my friends see him there more than me.   He and Betty Rae spend their summers away in Southern California and life really couldn’t be much better for them.

He’s a great dad, and is always supportive of me and also Ben and Elisabeth.  He’s my number one fan and I’ve tried hard to follow in his path, but I’m not quite as disciplined as he is, no matter how hard I try!    I know that I can always talk to my dad about anything that bothers me or worries me and in the end he will always make me feel better and will usually make me laugh.  I know he’ll always give me good, sound advice.  Most important, I’ve never heard him tell an untruth.

At his party, after all the toasts, he told his family and cousins that though he’s tried to do the right things and live the right way – luck played a large part in why he made it to 90.  Honestly, I’m not too sure about that!

 

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On Friday night we had a BBQ at my sister Cathy’s house.  Here is Dad with Betty Rae.

 

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My sister Cathy standing, cousin Scott and Melissa, her brother Reed Evins, and my brother in law Robert Wise.

 

 

 

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At the party, my nephew Jeffrey and his wife Brooke, sister Cathy, Robert, moi, Ben, Elisabeth and her boyfriend Rob along with Betty Rae and Dad.

 

 

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Dessert, birthday singing, and toasts.   As  you can imagine, it was a very emotional night!

 

 

 

 

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Out of town cousins who came in for the birthday party.

 

 

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Happy Birthday Dad – and many, many more!

I love you!

 

 

 

Here are a few older stories I’ve written about my family, if you are interested in reading more!

A story about Betty Rae HERE.

A story about my nephew and niece’s new house HERE.

A story about my shoe designing cousins HERE.

A story about my sister’s house HERE.

A very old story about my Houston cousins HERE.

74 comments :

  1. Joni, what a wonderful birthday celebration for your handsome father! And, so nice to see and hear more personal stories of your family. He's obviously loved and adored by all. What an inspiration.

    Betsy
    West of the Square Designs

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  2. Joni, you are so blessed to have your father. Had you not revealed his age, I would not have guessed it correctly - handsome indeed! You have a lovely family and getting together with extended family for this special celebration and reliving it through such wonderful pictures will bring you a lot of joy through the years. Congratulations to your dad and thanks for posting such a lovely tribute to him.

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  3. What a beautiful tribute to a man that has obviously been a wonderful dad to you and your siblings, a kind companion to many and faithful friend to all. Happy birthday to your father, may he continue to be blessed.

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  4. Just simply fabulous, Joni! What a celebration! Lovely.

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  5. Joni, this is an absolutely beautiful tribute to a wonderful man! I am crying so much I can barely see to type. If there are typos, please forgive me. I loved reading every word, and I appreciate
    you sharing your family, particularly your dad and his birthday, with us. I would like to join you in wishing him the Happiest Birthday ever and many more happy years to come. What a precious man! And what a precious daughter to write this loving tribute! Great job!

    xo,

    Sheila

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  6. What a beautiful family! Very happy birthday - and many more - to your wonderful dad! You are all very lucky. xo, Beth

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  7. What a wonderful family you have, Joni. I am also very close with my cousins, even though we don't see each other frequently. It's such a blessing to have a close relationship with all of your family.

    Most of all, though, what a DAD you have! He is so handsome in the Navy portrait, and has aged with a look of warmth and gentility. Thanks for sharing this post with all of us.

    Fondly, Kate

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  8. Joni your father looks fantastic! (I need to get back to the gym. :) Please wish him a very Happy birthday! It was great to see Betty Rae too as I know she is your mentor. Thank you so very much for sharing such a special day with us. May you and your family enjoy many more wonderful years together.

    An interesting side note, your father shares the exact same birthday as my dear Papa Jack who was also a sailor and one of the best men I have ever known. Must be a magical day/year.

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  9. What a gorgeous family post Joni! I enjoyed the pictures! Your father looks just fantastic at his age!!! This is promising for you!
    Happy Birthday to your dad and many many years to go, together with his family!
    xx
    Greet
    PS You look fantastic too!!!

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  10. What a wonderful tribute to your dad, Joni! My dad will be turning 90 in February and, like your dad, is still quite active and interested in new things (maybe that's the secret???). How lucky we are to still have them by our side. All the best to you and your dad!!!!!

    Barbara

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  11. Joni-

    What a beautiful heart felt posting!!!! Your Dad is so handsome - still - and your family is so beautiful. I lost my father this past December and I still deal with the loss of this great man everyday.

    Thanks for a great blog and great twitter! You keep me up to date on everything! ;-)

    Nancy

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  12. Wow! Really incredible. I hope he celebrates 100 with just as much vigor!

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  13. Dear Joni--Congratulations to your father on reaching his 90th. And how lucky he is to have such an obviously loving family around him.

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  14. How blessed you are Joni to have wonderful father and family. He is very dashing to boot. Love the photos.

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  15. I really enjoyed your post about your dad. He looks great for his age. He sure doesn't look 90. I love reading stories like this. I just read the other post about Betty Rae. She sounds like an incredible woman and you are so fortunate to have such a wonderful relationship with her. My youngest daughters middle name is Rae too Thank you for sharing this personal story.. Blessings to your dad and all of you.

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  16. What a handsome and dapper man! You are very lucky to still have your dad.I lost my dad when he was 64 and still miss him everyday.

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  17. Oh, Joni! What a wonderful post. You have such a beautiful family and your father seems like a perfect gentleman. Thank you for sharing some of your personal life with us, it is appreciated.
    xo
    - Ashley

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  18. Joni
    What a lovely post to honor your father and his beautiful bride. They look amazing! You my dear look fabulous as well! Enjoyed every minute of this post!!

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  19. A beautiful life lived with grace. An example for us all. Congratulations to your Dad....Happy Birthday!

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  20. What fun! Can I be a part of your family? Please? :) Thank you for sharing and a happy birthday to your amazing father!!!

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  21. Hi Joni,
    What a lovely post.It makes me think of my father who passed away two years ago. How lucky you are to still have him with you. He sounds like a wonderful man. Happy Birthday!!!

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  22. Congratulations to your dad! Only special people have 9/11 birthdays. Mine is 9/11/54. At least people remember it now. :-)

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  23. Joni-thank you so much for sharing such a lovely story and for sharing your Dad with us. What a blessing to have a Dad such as yours. As he is blessed to have you as well. I wish you and your family many more happy times. That is how I wish "90" to be.....thanks for the inspiration.

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  24. A lovely tribute to your father Joni, and what a handsome couple he and Betty Rae make ! Have dropped the nicotine years ago, now on de caff, can only hope it does the same for me as your dad ! Lovely to read, my mum is 93 but sadly has dementia now but her wicked sense of humour still comes through every now and then. Hope he reaches 100 in the same good health Avril x

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  25. Joni - such a wonderful, love-filled post! Hats off to your Dad for all his hard work and accomplishments throughout his life - including fostering such a lovely family. All the best, Michele

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  26. Joni, how lucky are you and your family to have this wonderful man in your lives! Happy Birthday to your Dad and many more in good health.

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  27. Raised in the Houston burbs on Galveston Bay.....your dad & Betty Rae's life is quite exotic to me. Remember well the awful interiors of every home in our neighborhood. AWFUL. Still don't like things from the 1960's.

    Keep sharing your family. Quite a joy.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

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    1. I am honestly trying to hold my tongue, Tara. Did Happy Birthday or Congratulations even dawn on you. Rereading the blog post may be helpful and I emphasize "helpful".

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    2. Actually, should have emphasized "may be"!!!

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  28. Ohmygoodness! Your Dad is so handsome and his wife so pretty! What a life to be proud of. God bless him!!!

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  29. A wonderful personal tribute, indeed. My mother turned 90 in August....what a generation that was. "Do the right thing"...how often did I hear that and have said it myself. We are fortunate to have had such role models. franki

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  30. What a great post! Thanks for sharing :)

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  31. Sweet family, terrific post. Thanks!

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  32. what a great tribute to your dad.90 the new 60! happy birthday, dad. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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  33. This brought tears to my eyes, reading about the love and admiration a daughter has for her father. I smile when I remember my post on a newly redone law office and you commented "that client on the photo looks my my dad."

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  34. It's 8:39 am and I am teared up. Charming, loving, personal story of your farther. I so appreciated reading the honor you gave him! Happy Birthday Day to your precious Dad. Sincerely, Laurie'

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  35. Michele from BostonOctober 17, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    Wonderful post, Joni. What a lucky woman you are!

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  36. What a great post and surprise for your dad perhaps when he reads this? Happy Birthday Ralph!

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  37. Great post Ms. Joni! Thank you for sharing your amazing father with us.
    Pamela Bozanich

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  38. Wonderful tribute to your Dad! Thank you for sharing, and it brought me to tears finding similar traits of my father who lived by some of those healthy rules past his nineties! There is something about them that is inspiring, and they radiate strength and life!

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  39. Happy Birthday to you wonderful Father. How lovely to share such a personal milestone and celebration! Beautiful.
    Love to your Father.
    pve

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  40. What a great post, the pictures were fun and I never knew much about YOUR family..... Your Father is a true gem and seeing all of you together with Elizabeth was very moving. You should indulde yourself more often........ Thanks for the peek of your personal life and the lovely people you share it with...... Maryanne xo

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  41. I am so glad you shared this. Your family is beautiful; and how blessed you are to have parents like yours. It's nice to "know" you better.
    ~Julianna

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  42. What a handsome man and wife and family! My very best wishes to your father and Betty Rae for many more years together. My late mother shared his birthday, but she was born in 1915. THE September 11 was her last birthday on earth. She would now be 98 had she lived. It is wonderful to have family celebrations such as this one -- thank you so much for sharing.

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  43. HAPPY 90th BIRTHDAY to your very handsome Father!..... Betty Rae is no slouch either in the looks department *winks* What a blessing to have such a lovely close family! I loved getting to "know" you better. Vanna

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  44. Joni, thanks for sharing your wonderful tribute with us! My father-in-law was born on 9/11/26 - it is just for really special people!

    I know others have said it, but your dad and Betty Rae are adorable! Please tell your dad Happy Birthday!

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  45. Thank you for sharing this awesome history of your family! Beautiful!

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  46. What a beautiful dad you have, Joni! I had one, too - also a World War II vet - a pilot! So lucky you kept yours - Happy Birthday, Ralph!

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  47. I lost my dad in 2000. I remember the broad smile that crossed his face when I told him that the reason I had married so late in life was because I was looking for someone just like him. He even asked if that was really true and I replied "yes". Indeed it was true for so many of the reasons Joni that you site here about your dad. I loved the fact that your dad paid bills before their due date - so would my dad and his attention to record keeping was enormously helpful when his family had to step in and begin performing some of his financial task because of his extended illness. I would bet that there are traits that you love in Ben that mirror those of your father. If you know what they are and haven't already told your dad about them, I would encourage you to do so. It will the highest honor you could give him.

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  48. Aw, he is adorable and you looked gorgeous! I can feel your love for him!

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  49. This is one of my favorite posts ever. All good wishes to your father and his lovely wife. They are an adorable couple and they are blessed to have a loving family.

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  50. Joni:
    I loved this personal post. Congratulations to your father, and to you for having such a nice family. He has enjoyed his life in health and that is a great achievement.

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  51. Awesome post, Joni...my father was in the Navy in WWII as well. We lost him in 2007. Your story brought back memories, and a tear....Kathi K

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  52. My Dad too, turned 90 in September, George W. As your family did, we had weeks of parties held from San Antonio to Dallas. He is a proud Aggie, Class of 44.
    He is in the hospital tonight in Austin. Please pray for him.

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  53. What a wonderful story! Your Dad is very lucky he has all of you and his wife. My Dad is 83 and he and his galpal (as I call her) have a better social life than me!! What a great life! Happy Birthday to your Dad and many more years of happiness!! xo

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  54. Joni, Happy belated birthday to your handsome dad! I think it is wonderful that he is healthy and still very active. I am caregiver for my 87 year old dad and his health has deteriorated significantly over the last two years. I can't begin to tell you how heartbreaking it is to watch someone you love suffer. Enjoy every single moment with your dad and I wish him many more birthdays.
    Hugs,
    Sherry

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  55. Happy birthday to your Dad!!! what a beautiful story!! I lost my dad five years ago this Nov. he was way too young to leave this earth -he was only 57. But life brought another wonderful man into our lives and my mom is recently happily married again and we are blessed to have another "Dad" back in our lives. What a wonderful blessing for you and your family to still have him here and going strong!!

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  56. Such a nice tribute. I can tell you are really close to and proud of your Dad. And no wonder your mother fell for him...what a handsome sailor! He has had a wonderful life and he raised a wonderful looking family. Many more happy birthdays to him.

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  57. We love these personal stories about family members who you mention from time to time. You father reminds me of my two grandfathers (one in the navy one in the airforce) who served in WWII, our family have photos of both of them looking young and handsome in their uniforms. They, along with your Dad are of that special, brave and one-off generation of people who lived through the great depression then World War II. I have to say that in the words of Martyn Lawrence Bullard your Dad and Betty Rae are looking super-glam-glam. Happy birthday to Ralph!

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  58. Joni this is so dear and what a wonderful post. You have such a loving family and how wonderful to have your darling dad for his 90th! Mazel Tov!

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  59. Joni This post brought me to tears. I have been a bit emotional lately and reading about your parents and huge family reminds me of mine.
    The photographs are all wonderful! It is so good he keeps busy/ active! I can see how much he enjoyed his 90th!
    My 83 year old Dad came by yesterday. Lets see, he brought a Town & Country magazine, a sweet potato, soy milk, and an Orrick vacuum!
    Thats my Dad! Another surgery and cannot handle much pushing, pulling, lifting. He knows I appreciate the sweet potato as much as the vacuum!

    xoxo
    Karena
    2013 Designer & Artists Series

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  60. What a terrific post. Your dad and his wife are wonderful examples of creative aging as evident of their vibrancy and engagement in life. I have an aunt who just turned 103 this past July, and I'm constantly amazed at her wit, sharp mind and humor, and yes she still lives by herself!
    Congratulations to your dad Joni.

    Donna.

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  61. Joni, I have posted a congratulatory message earlier, but I did have a couple of questions based on your post. Can you tell us more about the years you were a secretary. I am having visions of Lilly Tomlin sitting behind a big desk. Also, tell us about the grocery business your father started. Was it strictly kosher or a mix and what is the name of the company he merged with and the names of the subsequent businesses. It sounds like your dad was a consummate entrepreneur. While I had no idea that your mother had come to this country from Poland nor that she had died so very young, I now understand your usage of the word "adopted". Heretofore, when you made reference to being adopted, I had no idea that you even knew your parents. Betty Rae sounds like an exceptional woman and your dad was very fortunate to have met and fallen in love with her. You had much to celebrate.

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  62. What a lovely story, Joni.
    Your sweet father sounds like a wonderful, inspirational man.
    God bless you all.
    xox
    A

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  63. This is so sweet - you are so lucky and blessed to have your wonderful father in your life. Happy Birthday to him!

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  64. Thank you for sharing, I love when a blogger lets us into their lives, it makes us feel important. Happy birthday to your father, wonderful that you may have him in your life for so many years. Alaina

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  65. I wonder who could have possibly inspired your father to blog? LOL. What a beautiful story and tribute. My father is 80 and is also part of the generation that inspired Tom Brokaw to pen The Greatest Generation. The great depression created two types of people: a scarcity mentality of not wanting more or dreaming big because you could lose it all; or, my favorite, those energized by options, the great entrepreneurial spirit. My father was the latter, just like yours. My absolute FAVORITE part of your post was that you bumped into him at the APPLE STORE. When we stop learning, growing, finding a purpose, a passion, and a dream....we stop living. I am not just proud of your father, but you for this tribute to him.
    e

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  66. This is so lovely! Thank you for sharing and all the best to you and your family! Becky

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  67. Off topic Joni, but having looked at some of your pictures from the event, I recalled a picture of Ben sitting in a restaurant having just been treated with shots for his migraines.

    While I am not trying to be intrusive here, I did want to ask whether or not Ben has seen a chiropractor for spinal issues which may be the culprit in his condition. I know a number of people who have received a lot of relief from many issues, including ones related to internal medicine, with the help of chiropractic physicians. I also know people who have been relieved of migraine headaches with a program of spinal adjustments. Perhaps you have already explored this option, but your mentioning his condition from time to time has caused me to ask a lot of questions among friends and relatives. If you have not considered it, perhaps this is another avenue to explore. Also, alternative medicines are on the cutting edge of chemical imbalances which cause all kinds of physical issues. I would seek out physicians who practice alternative medicine (and believe me there are some outstanding ones in this country now who have gained national recognition) as another medical source. I know this post is about your father, but seeing that picture on instagram made me want to post a message of encouragement to you.

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  68. lovely ttribute to your dad, joni. thank you for posting about your family treasure. donna

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  69. What a wonderful post Joni! Happy Birthday to your dad, he sounds like a wonderful man. You are so lucky to have a dad you can always come to for advice and support. Happy Birthday to him and have a great day :)

    xo
    Edyta

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  70. Congratulations to your Dad for hitting that milestone birthday! He looks absolutely fantastic; an inspiration for all of us! Belated Happy Birthday!!

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  72. You have wonderful and loving family here. We've been planning to celebrate our Father's 87th Birthday, I just customized invitation postcards through this link: http://www.printing4u.com/pages/dallas-postcard-printing and it'll be arriving soon but we cant find any pictures of our dad when he was still. Good thing you still have pictures of your parents, they're really cute and love is in the air. Congratulations!

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