There is no other suitable beginning than to start by sincerely thanking Mayor Bill Simpson and the Aberdeen City Council from the Airhart family for their proclamation declaring Nov. 10, 2012, Leonard Airhart Day. It is an honor that would have made my father very proud.
As I sat in the council chambers that evening, I thought a lot about why we were there. Dad loved Aberdeen and loved being able to serve his community. It may sound sappy or trite to some but he just believed a citizen has an obligation to help make their community a better place. He didn’t do it for recognition and, in fact, he usually avoided any recognition for his work. It was simply the right thing to do and that was that. But his volunteerism didn’t just come from a sense of duty. He genuinely enjoyed working with people, whether to make plans for the City’s future, improving the museum or helping our children. It was enough for him to see some change for the better based partly on his efforts.
Like many parents, Dad put in his time with his kids. He always made time for our activities and he did it with gusto. I know all of my siblings will remember the school carnivals at Robert Gray. More importantly, they will remember that the last people out the door after those events were our parents, staying to count money, clean up and complete the job before going home. As kids it was just boring and tired us out. As adults we see that it was just as tiring for him, particularly doing it after a day’s work. However, it was a statement of the value that he placed in having good schools for his kids as well as those of his neighbors. It was an example of stepping up and contributing to your community. More than anything it was a clear, unspoken demonstration of how important we were to him.
That concern for community went far beyond his own kids. You know, he worked that carnival for years after we were all gone from Robert Gray. An avid rock hound, he would pack up his rocks and go to the school to share his knowledge with classes there. He was on the Troop 5 committee long after I was done with Scouting. His work with the City never stopped at just attending meetings but had that same commitment he’d given us kids. He would read the material, visit the locations and spend extra hours talking to people so when he went to those meetings, he was informed and ready.
His work with the museum was tireless and stayed that way for over 35 years. Leonard Airhart was a remarkable man. I get to say that as his son and know it would be echoed by his family, but the best part is that I have a community full of people that will agree with me.
There was a final lesson that I take from my father that became clearer while sitting in the council chambers: Make a difference. That is what Dad did in every part of his life, personal, professional and as a citizen. It rang true as so many City staff and council members stopped to offer condolences. It was brought home when Mayor Simpson had to wipe his eyes during the proclamation. It just hadn’t occurred to me that so many others would recognize his contributions. Make a difference. It wasn’t a lesson my father told me but a lesson he showed me, along with everyone else around him. One of these days, each of us will pass out of this life. As I look to tomorrow, I think that when my turn comes, nothing would be better than to have people able to say, “He was just like his dad.”