During the month of June, we’ve had the wonderful privilege of sharing some amazing submissions about fathers and father figures. It has been a delight to read how these men have not only influenced the lives of their biological children, but also, how they’ve stepped up in the community, embraced the commitment of blended families and have used their faith, adversities and level of influence to show themselves as an example to follow and learn from. As we close out this month long campaign, I, Joyce Kyles, wish to share a bit about my father, John Louis Spencer, Sr.

He was born in Blytheville, AR, however, my grandparents moved to Chicago, IL when he was about 2 or 3, and that’s where me and my six brothers and sisters were born. We remained in Chicago until the early 80’s and went back to AR. My daddy was a member of West End Missionary Baptist Church in Blytheville, AR where he sang in the choir and served as a deacon. He held several jobs over the years, but the one I know he most enjoyed was being the Director of The Neighborhood Center. His office was in the middle of the housing complex he lived in and was able to provide various resources/referrals to people in need of tangible items (clothes, food, jobs, resumes, etc.). If you take a look at our website, our mission and certainly if you know me/my personal story, you will see some similarities. 🙂 With a heart filled with joy, head filled with some great memories and still with a few tears in my eyes, I regret to share that my daddy made his transition on March 7, 2004.

As with the other submissions, we asked why individuals chose to honor their fathers/father figures. So, why did I choose to honor mine? Because my father was the 1st man to tell me he loved me. He was the first man to tell me I was beautiful, smart and intelligent. He was the first man to encourage me to do more, love myself and would talk candidly with me about his shortcomings as well as his successes. He would tell me that I was the first of seven of his most important successes. He was the first man to encourage me to keep writing after taking an interest in it in the 3rd grade. There is so much about the things he said and did that I didn’t quite understand when I was child, and even as an adult. As I get older, learn more about myself, fail and succeed, I have come into a deeper appreciation for who he was. One of his favorite scriptures was ‘lean not to thine own understanding, but in all things, acknowledge God and he will direct your path.’ One of his favorite things to say was ‘it’s hard by the yard, but it’s a cinch by the inch.’

I have to say, there’s an entire village of other men that I can name without trying hard who helped to positively influence my life since I was very small. For example, my uncle Elbert, my daddy’s brother, was, is and always will be my other dad and hero.

I miss my daddy very much and think of him often. Of all the things I’ve written, this was one of the best but also, one of the hardest (the hardest was his obituary). Today is my nine year anniversary of officially leaving an abusive relationship and embarking on an unpaved road to holistic restoration. My children and I have experienced some extreme peaks and valleys during this journey. I’m not able to hug him or physically communicate with him that I’m alright now. With every good or bad experience I’ve had, I can’t physically cry or celebrate just how far I’ve come or how many wonderful things I have coming up. But, I’ve learned how to talk to him in my dreams. Sometimes, he appears in them. I take comfort in that. At this point, it’s enough.

So, on this day, I choose to share him with the rest of you through my actions and my work. He is a reflection of who I am. He gave me half his DNA and his name (my middle name is Louise). His words of support, love of people, the thick belt with the eagle buckle, big smile and sarcastic or hardy laugh, depending on the situation will forever influence me to dream, survive, thrive and live the life that I didn’t always believe that I could, say I love you often and to learn as much from failure as I do success. Continue to rest in love Johnny, Big John, Mr. Spencer and all of the other ways that others knew you. Humbly submitted by one who is honored to have known you as ‘daddy.’