Family ties: Love, laughter and hand-painted ties a Father's Day tradition

When Tom Ethans opens his closet each morning, the ties that hang tell the story of his life as a father.

Tom Ethans gets a new, unique tie each year from his 2 children

Tom Ethans and his daughter, Jennifer, showcase their family's Father's Day tradition: Tommy's ties. (Nadia Kidwai/CBC)

When Tom Ethans opens his closet each morning, the ties hung there tell the story of his life as a father.

For 25 years Tom's two children have hand painted him a brand new tie for Father's Day.

"It's my life and the love I have for my kids and what they have for me. These ties mean everything to me. I adore wearing them every day," he said.

In his River Heights home, the closet that holds the ties is a special place — like a photo album showcasing what his kids enjoyed, like cartoons and sports, but also family loss, love and certainly laughter.

Tom pointed to his "hamburger tie," one of his favourites, and daughter Jennifer laughed. She explained it's a showcase of where her art skills have some room for improvement because they were supposed to be happy faces, but instead look like hamburgers with eyes.

"We've got all of the ties my brother and I have painted for my dad over the years. I don't know how many there are, maybe 50 in front of us," she said smiling. "Lots of different colours, lots of different styles. It's pretty fun."

Tom Ethans says there are probably about 50 hand-painted ties in closet. (Nadia Kidwai/CBC)

The Father's Day tradition started when Jenny was only four years old. The family was living in Toronto and Tom went into a department store and saw a special tie set which included a polyester tie, a paint brush and three paints. He just had to buy it and see what his little girl would make for him.

"That's the very first tie that she ever painted and I still wear it all the time," Tom said.

Jennifer doesn't remember that first tie but she said it kicked off the Tommy's ties tradition.

"I do remember as a kid having to make sure we set up the newspapers on the dining room table so we didn't get paint everywhere, but somehow we still got paint everywhere," she said with a laugh. "I remember trying to sketch on paper what we wanted to draw first so we didn't ruin the tie because the paint wouldn't come off."

Jennifer Ethans helps her dad, Tom, put on one of his special hand-painted ties. Tommy's ties are a Father's Day tradition for the family. (Nadia Kidwai/CBC)

Jennifer and her brother Jordan look forward to coming up with different ideas for the wearable artwork every year, she said.

A red tie has finger-painted splotches, a blue tie has a Prairie landscape and a black tie showcases the Winnipeg Jets' logo.

As the executive director of Take Pride Winnipeg, Tom's job meant he could showcase his special tie collection in a downtown office environment, in businesses and in schools. It doesn't matter who spots them, kids or business professionals, Tom said everyone loves them.

While the comments and compliments are fun, Tom wears the ties to remember how his life is filled with love.

"I'm the luckiest man in the world to have this legacy of all my ties that will always be with me no matter where I go," he said, holding back tears.

The family tradition has expanded to include friends and now Jennifer's fiance. She said her father means the world to her and they are best friends.

"I can't wait until I have kids and they can paint grandpa a tie," she said.

with files from Nadia Kidwai and CBC Radio's Weekend Morning Show