Heroes, mentors, coaches

Sunday, June 17, 2007
Randy Morris Sr. and his son Randy Morris Jr. are firefighters based at fire station No. 2 in Cape Girardeau.
AARON EISENHAUER
aeisenhauer@semissourian.com

While attending a Mother's Day sermon in 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Wash., decided her father, who had raised her by himself, needed to be honored as well.

Since then, some have thought the day was born as a greeting-card sales ploy.

But Father's Day has not lost its original meaning for four area sons and daughters. Although each story is different, the message is the same: It takes something special to be a dad.

Fighting fire with father

Randy Morris Jr., 24, of Cape Gir?ardeau grew up idolizing his firefighting father, Randy Morris Sr., a 21-year veteran of the Cape Girardeau Fire Department. Now Junior and Senior work together -- just not on the same shift due to department rules -- at Cape Girardeau's fire station No. 2.

As coach of the Plaza Tire Capahas, Jess Bolen has the opportunity to work with his son, Tommy Bolen, on the baseball field. (AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com)

"It's always been a dream of mine," said Morris Jr., a firefighter with the Cape Girardeau Fire Department for three years. "You get at the junior high age and you think about being an architect or something, but after graduating from high school I joined the military and became a military firefighter."

And although he had his apprehensions, Morris Sr., 51, of Cape Girardeau did not stand in his son's way as he followed his father's career path.

"The job is not a bad job, it's just inherently dangerous," Morris Sr. said. "But he used his own initiative to move forward, and I'm proud of him for what he did and how he did it."

While Morris Jr. still wants to make his own mark, he says working with his father gives him a chance to learn.

"He's always encouraged me to do better than he did, and I don't want to follow every footstep that he's ever taken because I want to take a path of my own," said Morris Jr. "But at the same time it's just really neat being beside him. We sit down and just talk about the incidents that have been going on and get feedback off each other. We're learning from each other."

As coach of the Plaza Tire Capahas, Jess Bolen has the opportunity to work with his son, Tom Bolen, on the baseball field.

"I can let him know the ins and outs of the job because I've been there before, and I like being able to help him with that," Morris Sr. said. "We can talk to each other about different things, and I think we have a little bit more of a bond because of that."

But the best part about working with his father, Morris Jr. said, is being with his dad.

"He means the world to me," Morris Jr. said. "In my life he's one of my biggest heroes. I've gone astray sometimes, and he's always led me back in the right direction. I couldn't ask for a better mentor. And to me, anybody can be a father, but only certain people can be a dad, and he's my dad because he's there for me when I need him and he has always helped me in everything I've ever done. I love him."

The daughters Diebold

Diebold Orchards has been a staple of Southeast Missouri since the 1920s. Were it not for generations of Diebolds keeping up the family's farming tradition, one might not be able to purchase items like the Fuji apples the orchard in Benton, Mo., is famous for today.

David Diebold works with his daughters Jessica and Brittney at the family-owned Diebold Orchards.

This family farming tradition lives on, thanks to Brittney and Jessica Diebold's work with their 56-year-old father, David Diebold.

"I love working with my dad," said Brittney, 17, of Benton. "I've always helped out since I was a little kid, but I probably didn't start working and driving a tractor until I was 12 years old."

"It's been very beneficial to me," said 21-year-old Jessica, a business major at Southeast Missouri State University. "I've learned a lot about business, and I really think I'm going to be at an advantage when I go out and start my career after college."

Anyone who has ever seen a Diebold Orchards commercial probably already knows Brittney and Jessica Diebold. The pair not only help out around the farm but are also known to star in television ads from time to time.

"Twenty years ago, I started following Jessica around here with a camera when she was a toddler," David Diebold said. "She was looking at things and smelling flowers and we made it a TV ad. Both of the girls have been in our family TV ads for years now, and Jessica celebrated her 20th year last April or May."

David Diebold works with daughters Jessica and Brittney at the family-owned Diebold Orchards.

And after working in the family business for most of their lives, both daughters say their father is a great boss and an even better dad.

"I can always talk to him about anything," Brittney said. "I've done so many different things from driving the tractor to working in the office, and I don't think if I were working somewhere else I would be able to do that."

"Working in the office, my desk is right across from my dad's and we talk about everything," Jessica said. "Whether it's work-related, my personal life, we can talk about anything."

David Diebold says his daughters are the best Father's Day gift a dad could receive.

"I give them a lot of responsibility and they learn how to handle that responsibility, and that's one of the important things I'm doing as a father," David Diebold said. "I expect more out of them than I would a regular employee, and they're stepping up to the plate and delivering. I'm proud of both of my girls."

The Bolen brand of baseball

Jess Bolen, 65, of Cape Girardeau has coached the Plaza Tire Capahas baseball team for 41 years. For the past five seasons, however, one of his players has been like a son to him ... because he is.

Tom Bolen, 31, of Perryville plays outfield for the Capahas and is known to be an excellent bunter. Not only does Tom love playing for his father, he has always wanted to be a Capaha.

"It's always been a dream of mine," Tom Bolen said. "Growing up, I chased foul balls and watched the tradition of the team. Now I look up the third base line and see my dad and up on the hill and see my mom, so it's a perfect scenario."

"He's always been a fan of the team growing up and followed every player," Jess Bolen said. "Being able to play on the team is nice."

But don't think Coach Bolen shows any favoritism toward his son.

"He's got to be just another player on the field," Jess Bolen said. "You make it tougher if you don't do it that way. You don't want to show favoritism. But he's paid his own dues, and he's done it his own way."

Playing for his father, Tom Bolen said, is one of the best experiences he has ever had in baseball.

"I've played baseball since I was 5 years old, and this is the most laid-back and most fun I've ever had playing any ball anywhere for anybody," Tom Bolen said. "He just lets me play, and if I make a mistake he'll pull me aside and tell me what I need to work on."

Outside baseball, Jess and Tom Bolen have a close father-son relationship both say is bigger than the game or anything else.

"You can't put a price on our relationship," Tom Bolen said. "Every time I look down the third base line to get the sign I still get a little choked up 'cause I think about how that's my dad. It's a dream come true."

"As father and son, there's always that bond and that love you have for your son," Jess Bolen said. "But I think that Tom and I have a respect for each other, too. I think he respects the man I am, and I respect the man he is. It's not baseball, it's not sports."

jsamons@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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