Celebrating Dads

Darleen Jarocki

Celebrating Dads

2 mins
June 22, 2021

Although Father's Day wasn't made a national holiday until 1972, the efforts of one woman in the state of Washington sparked a movement to celebrate dads long before then. The first known Father's Day service occurred in Fairmont, West Virginia, on July 5, 1908. The service was to honor all fathers, especially those hundreds who were killed during a devastating mine explosion in Monongah, just a few miles from Fairmont, the previous year. However, the observance did not become an annual event and it was not promoted. Very few outside the local area even knew about it. 

In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, also was inspired to create a holiday honoring fathers. William Smart, her father, was a farmer and civil war veteran who raised Sonora and her five younger brothers by himself after his wife, Ellen, died giving birth to their youngest child in 1808. While attending a Mother's Day church service in 1909, Sonaora, then 27 years old, came up with the idea to celebrate Father's Day. Within a few months, Sonora had convinced the Spokane ministerial association and the YMCA to set aside a Sunday in June to celebrate fathers. She proposed June 5, her father's birthday, but the ministers chose the third Sunday in June to celebrate fathers. The widely publicized events in Spokane struck a chord that reached all the way to Washington, DC, and Sonora’s celebration started on its path to becoming a national holiday.

In 1906, President Woodrow Wilson and his family personally observed the day. Eight years later, President Calvin Coolidge signed a resolution in favor of Father's Day “to establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.” In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed an executive order that the holiday be celebrated on the third Sunday in June. Under President Richard Nixon, in 1972, Congress passed an act officially making Father's Day a national holiday. Six years later, Sonora died at the age of 96.

In traditionally Catholic countries, such as Spain and Portugal, Father's Day is observed on March 19. The Taiwanese celebrate Father's Day in August and, in Thailand, Father's Day occurs on former King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s birthday, December 8th.

Here are some interesting quotes on fathers.

My father didn't tell me how to live, he lived and let me watch him do it.” Clarence Buddington

I believe that's what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” Umberto Eco

Through special times, like Father's Day, seem the nicest ones by far, to tell you how wonderful you are. You surely know you're loved a lot, each day the whole year through. And are always wished the special things that mean the most to you.

I hope you had a blessed and healthy Father's Day.

This article was orginally reported by
Darleen Jarocki

Darleen Jarocki is an expert gardener and cook. She is an excellent folklorist and local historian.