For Islanders young and old, Father's Day means sharing 'lovely memories' of dad

Islanders young and old talk about how they'll be thinking of their dads this Father's Day.

'He makes you smile a lot that's a really good thing. When I'm down, he makes me really happy'

Ninety-six-year-old Shirley Johnston has wonderful memories of her father. (Sarah Keaveny Vos/CBC)

Ninety-six-year-old Shirley Johnston loves talking about her dad.

Her eyes light up when she looks at the family history book created by her granddaughter.

Johnston's father, David Aurthur Lavers, was the owner of a general store in Parrsboro, N.S. Johnston remembers the fresh, white apron he always wore and the pride he had in selling everything to his customers from groceries, to lumber, to fine china.

David Lavers at his general store in Parrsboro, N.S. (Sarah Keaveny Vos/CBC)

"He was a very kind-hearted, good man who went to church twice on Sundays," she said.

Her dad even had a friendly relationship with his competitors in town, Johnston said, sharing stock with them when they ran low on supplies. She can remember a mother in town with a big family, and not a lot of money, who would come to the back door of her father's store and ask for food for her children — and Lavers always gave her food.

"He was a good role model and his work ethics were good and I think mine were, back in the days when I worked," she said with a laugh.

"I have lovely memories.… He was a great dad."

Johnston still cherishes the memories of going fishing with her dad and taking special family outings on Wednesday afternoons.

"I hope that I did a few of the things as well with my children as my father did with my brother and me."

'Thank you for taking care of me'

Zoey Wang speaking with Sarah Keaveny Vos. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Zoey Wang will be missing her dad this Father's Day.

The seven-year-old student from Spring Park Elementary School said her father is away from P.E.I. working hard to support their family.

"It feels like one person from my family is missing," she said.

"My dad is in Vancouver right now because we want to earn more money because my mom wants me and my little brother David's life to be better."

Zoey appreciates that her father is working hard for their family and said it's important to celebrate dads on Father's Day — even though her own is thousands of miles away.

This year she has a simple message for her dad: "Happy Father's Day.… Thank you for taking care of me."

'My husband was a very loving father. The kids came first and they came first with me too,' says Doreen Nicholson. (Sarah Keaveny Vos/CBC)

Father's Day can be hard for Doreen Nicholson.

When the now 86-year-old was a child, her relationship with her father was slashed. 

Nicholson grew up in Saskatchewan and became ill at six years old. She was sent away to hospital, where, she said, her parents never once went to visit her and they never brought her home again. 

After recovering, she left the hospital and was sent to live in a group home with other children. That's where she found her "substitute father."

We all loved our substitute father and we loved our substitute mother— Doreen Nicholson

"The father there was our father," she said. "And that's the father that I'd look to.… The father that we had as a substitute was very loving."

Nicholson said her surrogate father was kind to her and let her do important jobs around the house, which helped her build self-esteem. She counts herself grateful to have grown up in such a loving group home.

"We all loved our substitute father and we loved our substitute mother," she said. And it was because of them that her and her new family "were able to grow up and be good people."

Nicholson also thinks of her late husband on Father's Day.

"My husband was a very loving father," she said. "The kids came first and they came first with me too. We brought up four children. They miss their father and I miss him too."

'He makes you smile'

'Sometimes they don't really realize how important they are in our lives and you just have to let them know that,' Lauren Graham says. (Shane Hennessy/CBC)

Ten-year-old Lauren Graham loves her dad, Peter.

The Grade 4 student at Spring Park Elementary is planning to treat her dad to breakfast in bed on Father's Day, make him a homemade card and a give him his favourite chocolate bar. 

After all, she said, it's the little things that really count.

"Sometimes they don't really realize how important they are in our lives and you just have to let them know that," Lauren said.

There's a lot of reasons why she wants to celebrate her dad, she added.

"He's very helpful, he helps you with a lot of things and he jokes around a lot," she said. 

"He makes you smile a lot that's a really good thing. When I'm down, he makes me really happy and he's really important in my life. I think Father's Day is just a great time to let him know how special he is."

Knowing she has a dad she can depend on means the world to Lauren and she doesn't take it for granted.

"He works really hard to keep us safe and to make us happy. It makes me feel very loved and very cared for and very safe inside just to know that I have people that really care about me," she said.

Harry Snow was only 12 years old when his dad developed pneumonia and died. (Sarah Keaveny Vos/CBC)

Harry Snow grew up in the rocky and remote village of Leading Tickles, N.L. His father was a school teacher who travelled to teach in an even tinier community. The 84-year-old remembers his father fondly.

"He was a great guy," he said. "A great man."

Snow was only 12 years old when his dad developed pneumonia and died. 

Losing his father at such a young age was difficult, and it left Snow with a lesson that he has tried to impart to his own six children.

"It takes a long time to get over … a long time. It's not easy, losing your father," he said. 

"I always say to my children, about their children, keep holding their hand … keep close to them and keep them close to you. I've always tried to instill that in the children."

Harry Snow and his son Paul visit together at Andrews Senior Care in Stratford. (Sarah Keaveny Vos/CBC)

Snow's philosophy of staying connected to his kids early in their lives has paid off. 

During the short time it took to be interviewed for this story, two of his sons, Nelson and Paul, came in to spend time with their dad at the Stratford seniors' home where he now resides. 

This Father's Day he will be celebrated as a father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather — and he's loved every stage.

'He's a really warm-hearted person'

Mihika Verma says she's learned a lot from her dad — and that those lessons have paid off. (Shane Hennessy/CBC)

Ten-year-old Mihika Verma said her dad is the best person she knows, apart from her mother, who's "really nice too," she giggled.

"He's really nice. He's really kind and he always likes to help people. He's a really warm-hearted person," she said. "He rarely gets mad at anything and he always tries to explain things in the most comfortable way. He's really cool to hang out around."

The father and daughter duo love to do word-search competitions against each other, colour pictures together and sometimes just sit and talk. 

She said she has learned a lot from her dad — and that those lessons have paid off.

"He taught me how to colour better, colour inside the lines. And then the tooth fairy came and saw that picture and then she gave me a bunch of pastels just because I drew so good."

Mihika has a special Father's Day tradition that she enjoys doing. Each year she makes her dad a beaded bracelet keepsake.

"He never really wears it but it's like a collection that he keeps to remember," she said.

She also loves to make her dad glamorous pop-up cards to show him how much she loves him. Putting those great colouring skills he taught her to work. 

"I always have to do it behind his back … but not in a bad way," she said with a smile. 

"Behind his back in a good way!" 

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Sarah Keaveny Vos is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism degree. Sarah has won regional, national and international awards for her work and loves sharing stories of Islanders doing meaningful and inspiring things in their communities. You can email her at