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SUPER DADS: Slavich is a parent with a servant’s heart

June 12, 2012

photo contributed John Slavich and his two boys, Connor and Cameron, enjoy some father son time together. Slavich is the father of five children, Kelly, Cindy and Jill being his oldest daughters.

Editor’s note: The following is the first of a four part series in honor of Father’s Day.
COLUMBIA CITY — John Slavich is known as one of the faces of the Whitley County Community Foundation, but to his five children he is known as “Dad.”
This father is somewhat of a “super dad.” Having two teenage kids in his 50’s will make him a superhero to any young parent.
A resident of Whitley County since 1969, Slavich would describe life as “good.” Between the chuckles over antics of his kids and the tears when describing how special they all are, Slavich shared his years of wisdom and insight.
Q — Talk about your family and your kids.
A — ”I have five children and have been married twice. In my first marriage, I had three daughters. Two of them are employed with Parkview Health and Cindy, my middle daughter, is the new director at the United Way. I have two boys with my second wife. One just graduated high school, Connor, and the other, Cameron, is going into high school.”
Q — What is life like with five kids?
A — “I can’t imagine my life not having been a parent. I enjoyed being married enough to get remarried and made the choice to have more kids. I can’t imagine a life that would have been without kids. My life has been really good.”
Q — What difference do you see between parenting kids now versus kids then?
A — “For me, raising children in the first marriage was easier. First of all, there was no internet and there was nothing in the way of the explosion of extracurricular activities. There just wasn’t that much to do then. There was some summer baseball, but there was no summer basketball, summer golf. There just wasn’t that kind of stuff. And now there is so much available. I tell people, having raised kids in two different generations, it was easier then. So, that is the perspective I have being an older parent.”
Q — Most people would be looking toward retirement and taking it easy. You have teenagers still. For some, that is the age that makes parents cringe.
A — “I am 65 and Connor is 18. I had him in my late 40’s. I had Cameron when I was 50. And making a choice to have a family again, it wasn’t that difficult once I decided that it was OK. At first I was thinking, ‘Do I really want to go down this path again,’ but once we had Connor, I convinced Susannah to have another. Once we had Cameron it was all OK. I do sometimes say, ‘a man my age shouldn’t have to be dealing with this,’ but we chuckle about it and go on. I do have the advantage. I retired from teaching 11 years ago and started working here full time. I was free everyday at two. My daughters never came home to an empty home and my sons never come home to an empty home. Dad has always been there. I think that was an important thing for my current wife and I. We wanted to have somebody available for the boys. A lot of men my age would say it would be nice to take a nap. There are mornings that I feel 65, but having kids that age for sure keeps me busy. Busy is good, so I don’t mind it.”
Q — Given your hindsight, what would you say to parents who are parenting teens?
A — “I am a person of faith. So, I would say that through all the turmoil, it will all work out. Maybe they (teens) succeed in spite of us. I believe that we still have to be hands on. I just don’t think we can wash our hands of them or give up. You just can’t give up. You have to, not stay after them, but let them know you are there. When my oldest son, Connor, was in high school, about once every other week, I would go down there, not to see him, but the athletic director. He would see that Dad was strolling around the hall. It’s the awareness that dad was there. So, I would say that it will all work out but stay hands on.“
Q — Your oldest kids are in community positions much like yourself. Do you think your career choices influenced theirs?
A ­— “I think that you live your life in such a way as to be an example. I knew in the third grade that I wanted to teach. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to teach and it fit my personality. I was lucky that I was able to be paid for something I loved to do. And not everybody has that. As far as the boys, it is going to be interesting to see. Connor is a giving sort of kid. How he is going to develop, I don’t know, but they see that their parent is involved in a servant kind of career. Cameron, well, he is just starting high school, so I don’t know how he is going to develop. But all the kids have watched the example set by me and their mother. They know what we believe is important.”
Q — You are a super dad, so you probably had a super dad. What was one of the great lessons you learned from your father?
A — “Work. He was a depression era child and worked. I had to work since I was nine, but I don’t mind. I can’t imagine it any other way. I don’t want my biggest decision right now to be, ‘coffee first and then shower, or shower and then have coffee.’ I still enjoy the work. The biggest lesson I learned from my dad was how to work. We have a wood stove at home, and I still cut the wood with a chainsaw. I split it with a splitting mull and I stack it. I do it all myself. Every once and a while, as we are driving from the house, I will tease the boys and say, ‘you see that, all that wood, I did that…while you guys were asleep.’ So from my dad, it was work. I can remember going to my first job interview at age nine. My mother would say to me, ‘the squeaky wheel gets the oil. You go back next week and see if there is a job open. You go back the week after that and after that.’ Well, I think the poor man gave me a job to deliver papers just so I wouldn’t bother him every Thursday. Work isn’t negative. It keeps me busy and active in the community.”
Q - What would be the defining characteristics for each of your kids?
A - “My oldest, Kelly, is a free spirited person and a rescuer. If there was an animal that needed rescuing, Kelly would be there for that animal. Cindy is very community minded and a good mother. Jill, my youngest daughter, is the organizer. She is the one who dots all the “I’s” and crosses all the “t’s.” Connor understands that nothing comes easy and you have to work hard. Cameron, he is still young and not totally defined, but he can make me laugh. He can make me laugh harder than any other kid. He’s a funny kid and makes me laugh like crazy.”

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