Joe Boyles Guest Columnist
I’m writing this column on Father’s Day. I lost my Father to cancer 20 years ago shortly after he turned 71, but he is still my Dad and I will always be his son.
Eugene Harry Boyles was born on February 27, 1920 about 27 hours before Leap Day in Erikson, Nebraska, the first born to Harry and Olive Boyles. Two sisters would follow his birth. His Father was an orphan and his Mother was born to immigrant parents in a sod hut.
They moved their young family to Florida in 1926 only to find that the land they had purchased to farm was in the middle of a Baker County swamp. My Grandfather was hired at Penny Farms in Clay County.
In 1931, the family moved to Live Oak. Young Gene became very involved in 4-H. By his junior year in high school, he was the most accomplished 4-H student in the state. It was 4-H – the prizes, scholarships, and earnings – that permitted him to attend the University of Florida in 1937.
UF was an all male, land grant college in those days. Following in his father’s footsteps, he majored in animal industry in the College of Agriculture. ROTC was mandatory for freshmen and sophomores. In the spring of 1939, Gene decided to continue his ROTC program for another two years because of the deteriorating situation in Europe and Asia.
When graduation came in June 1941, he was quickly commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army’s field artillery. Six months later, America was at war.
On January 2, 1943, while stationed at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, Gene met Frances Holdren on a blind date in Tulsa. She was a single mother and worked at the Douglas Aircraft Factory. 14 months later, they married at the post chapel at Camp Maxey, Texas. Shortly after, he shipped overseas with the 758th Field Artillery Battalion.
Gene was overseas for fourteen months. During that time, the newlyweds exchanged letters every day. That’s how they did things back in those days. His battalion entered combat on New Years Day, 1945, at the north end of the Battle of the Bulge. Four months later, they were engaged in occupation duty using martial law. By November, they returned to the United States – mission accomplished.
Eugene’s first post-war job was as the county agent in the least populous county in Florida – Glades on the west side of Lake Okeechobee. I came along in 1948.
We lived for a couple more years in Moore Haven and for a short period of time, Lakeland, but most of my formative years were spent in Gainesville where Dad worked in the state USDA office. I spent quite a bit of time with my Grandparents on their farm near Live Oak and with family in Punta Gorda. In fact, the only year I spent outside the state was my 8th grade year where we lived in Raleigh as my Dad pursued a master’s degree from North Carolina State.
Our family was a traditional, two-parent household. Dad said to Mother, “I’ll make the living; you make life worth living.” It was a simple formula and it worked. I looked no farther than my family for role models. Discipline, education, and religion were important values that were instilled in all of us.
One of the things I learned from my Dad was what I like to call “strategic thinking.” My Father could think more than a few steps ahead of the current situation. He realized that his career mobility in the Department of Agriculture would be limited, so he thought about how he might use his ability for other pursuits. He began to buy farmland and plant pine trees. In 1986, he incorporated his holdings in a family partnership we call Boyles Tree Farm. Twenty-five years later and two decades after his death, BTF is an important unifying enterprise for his children and grandchildren.
The modern culture downplays the role of men. Hollywood and advertising portray men as dummies and bumbling fools, propped up by clever women. This is both damaging and a disservice.
Never forget this: the building block of society is the family. It takes two parents to form an effective family unit and men … dads just like mine — are an integral cornerstone of the family. Thanks Dad … and Happy Father’s Day.