McHenry County leaders reflect on fatherhood

CRYSTAL LAKE – For some fathers, their duties as leaders do not end with their children.

Before fathers around McHenry County celebrate Father’s Day golfing with friends, enjoying meals with families or just relaxing, the Northwest Herald asked some community leaders to reflect on their fatherhood and what it has meant to them.

From reverends to mayors, fatherhood has played a large role in molding the men into community cornerstones.

Aaron Shepley

The Crystal Lake mayor is the proud father of 16-year-old and 19-year-old daughters and senior vice president of administrative affairs for Centegra Health System. The juggling act between city leader, high-ranking administrator and father can be challenging, but it is the title of father that he said he always keeps first.

Q: What does being a father mean to you?

Shepley: I think it’s probably the greatest thing that could ever happen to anyone. It’s obviously a tremendous responsibility, but at the same time, the reward surpasses everything else. It’s a pretty tremendous experience to have kids and watch them grow into the people they become.

Q: How do you balance being a father with everything else?

Shepley: It’s not easy. I think the good news is kids in this generation are now very independent in all the activities they get involved with. At the end of the day, our weekends and our lives as parents revolve around the most precious thing we have, and that’s our children. Our priorities are our family, and if that means I have to juggle something to make it work, then that’s what I’ll do to make it happen.

Ron Parrish

The McHenry County College Board president has spent a lifetime in public service. Whether it’s teaching at Northern Illinois University, serving as village president of Bull Valley or now giving back to MCC, service has been a key component in Parrish’s professional life and personal life as a father and grandfather.

Q: What does it mean to you to be a father?

Parrish: Well first off, thank God I married the woman I did, because [the kids] all turned out great. I have four kids and 10 grandkids, so now, for me, it’s all about having them come home to the farm and having the greatest time riding horses and fishing in the pond. It’s just absolutely a gift from God.

Q: What’s your fondest memory of your own father?

Parrish: I’m from West Virginia and from a very large family, and my parents made every single one of us go to college. My dad never had an education, but he and his brothers forced it upon us, and it was the best thing he could have ever done.

The Rev. Paul Martin

The McHenry pastor has two families – his wife and children and his congregation. The Alliance Bible Church pastor said his role as the head of a church has similarities to his role as head of a household, but it is still individual choices that determine whether either will be successful.

Q: What does being a father mean to you?

Martin: The first word that popped in my mind was an example. To model character and behavior and integrity and to be consistent both in the home and out of the home so that they observe my behavior and learn from that model.

Q: How do you view pastoring compared with being a father?

Martin: I think there are similarities. The family is the smallest unit of people living together, working together and cooperating toward common goals that are family goals. What’s learned in the nuclear family is carried into the church on a much broader scale. I think every set of parents has the opportunity to live out their faith and their convictions and their character in the nuclear family.

Bryan Pierce

The Harvard fire chief has his hands full with four young children, his oldest about to turn 13 on Father’s Day. But even with his hectic schedule and long hours at a fire station, Pierce said he knew immediately family would always come first after having his first child.

Q: What does being a father mean to you?

Pierce: It means the world to me. It’s amazing to watch them grow and watch them become young people. It’s a jaw-dropping experience from the very start.

Q: What advice would you give to other young fathers or expecting fathers?

Pierce: Always make time for family. You can always put work away. Put family first, even if it is hard sometimes.

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