There are few things more gratifying than reading the letters that pour in each year for our “Cool Dads” feature. The descriptions of men who devote themselves to raising children of integrity renew our faith and remind us of everything that’s right in the world.
Each year that we meet these men – this is our seventh – one particular theme emerges from the descriptions of all of the fathers. It’s a parenting trait that shapes every child’s outlook on life and transcends generations. It’s usually expressed this way: “My dad was always there for me.”
In a world of distractions, occupational demands and ongoing obligations outside the home, it stands to reason that many fathers are focused elsewhere, but for a few, there’s an abiding sense of connection to their children that overrides other commitments. Here, you’ll meet six of the “coolest!”
Happy Father’s Day!
As she describes her husband’s deep compassion for others, Jamie Bruehl characterizes Curtis Bruehl as a loving, sacrificing and selfless person – traits that no doubt came to the fore the day she told him she’d like to adopt a child into the couple’s family of four.
Adoption had been something that had been weighing on his wife’s heart, Curtis explains – not his. But a mission trip to Haiti changed that. “It breaks your heart to see the children there who have so many needs. You want to do anything you can to help them,” he says.
“But the minister there said, ‘God didn’t call you to do this in Haiti. Go home and solve the same problem in your state,’” Curtis says.
The message couldn’t have been clearer. Jamie says that her husband’s heart always had a great capacity for service, but that mission trip had a profound effect on Curtis, by preparing his heart to adopt a child in need of a nurturing family. A short time later, Curtis got a call at work. A baby boy was on his way, to the joy of his adoptive parents and his two new (big) sisters who were waiting to welcome him home.
Preparing Curtis’ heart for adoption may actually have begun years earlier. “My father taught me that a worthy life is one spent in service and sacrifice for your children,” he says. “I don’t think I would have been strong enough to be a foster/adoptive parent without learning a fraction of his strength.”
Jamie adds that her husband has never regretted that her idea has changed his life so much, but Curtis will quickly affirm that his life has infinitely changed for the better, noting that he’s most grateful for the opportunity to be a father.
Wife: Jamie Bruehl
Children: Ellie, 5, Marybret, 2, Adoptive infant son
Nominated by his wife
Photographed behind Joey’s Pizzeria in the Film Exchange Building, built circa 1927 at 700 W. Sheridan
Reverend Larry D. Foster, Sr.
It’s inevitable that a pastor would have an arsenal of tried-and-true approaches to good parenting, but Reverend Larry Foster, Sr., founding pastor of Progressive Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, simplifies the complex in his observation that children should be “the main event, and not a side show.”
His wife Rozia describes her husband as a tireless advocate and source of guidance for the children and youth in his community, who embodies the concept of being a “Cool Dad” by encouraging and enriching their lives in any way possible.
Much of the advice Larry, Sr., offered his sons while they were growing up was based on the Bible’s teachings, although his older son, Larry II, also acknowledges the power of his father’s positive reinforcement and encouragement when it comes to nurturing young spirits. “I am so humbled that, everywhere I go, young people ask about him and express their love and admiration for him,” Larry II, says. “My dad has always been there for me, as well,” he adds.
It’s the “being there” part that resonates the most with Larry, Sr. A constant presence among his sons’ various sports teams over the years (he admits, “I’ve been known to invite myself to the coaching team on occasion!”) or alongside his beautiful wife as the ever-present parents in the stands, he cherishes the memories of those very real, father/son moments along the way. “I’ve tried to be there for my sons in all aspects of their lives,” Larry, Sr., says.
Despite growing up as one of 10 children in his family, he always carried a sense of being the “main event” to his parents, the late Carl Foster and the late Leahnell Kemp Foster, who both held multiple jobs to support their large family, yet still found time to support him in meaningful (and sometimes quiet) ways. Larry, Sr., recalls learning, years after the fact, that his father sometimes arranged to take off work early just to catch a glimpse of him as he played football at Douglass High School. Years later, the elder Foster’s example of being there for him still evokes palpable emotion and gratitude in Larry, Sr., which inspires him to serve as a presence for many children whose fathers simply aren’t there.
“Investing in the lives of children is always rewarding,” he says.
Wife: Rozia McKinney-Foster
Children: Larry D. Foster, II, 33, D’Andre H. Foster, 26, and
Krystle Foster (daughter-in-law)
Nominated by his wife
Photographed at the International Crystal Manufacturing Company in the former Gaumont British Pictures Corp./20th Century Fox (Fox Films) building, built circa 1936 at 10 N. Lee
Mickie Lara describes her husband, Jeff, as a person who is happiest when he is serving others, pointing to his 29 years in firefighting and his current role as the Director of Operations for the Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Command as just two examples of her husband’s commitment to improving the lives of many.
Jeff’s commitment to improving the life of one came about seven years ago when he and his wife adopted their son, Jackson. The timing of bringing home a newborn was especially interesting for the Laras; Jessica, their older daughter, was married three days after her new brother’s arrival to the Lara home.
“It was literally one child out the door and starting again with the next one,” Mickie writes. Jeff adds, “We always tell people that we’ve raised our kids one at a time!”
He finds his family’s steadfast faith an essential and important part of raising his son. And, being a little older for his second go-round at fatherhood, Jeff has a different perspective on the subject. “This will either kill me or keep me young!” he laughs.
Happily, Jeff’s involvement with Jackson seems to be doing the latter. Mickie points out that her husband stays busy during non-working hours by coaching tee-ball or soccer and teaching Jackson to shoot hoops and hit golf balls. It’s the time they spend together that Jeff believes makes a difference. “Both of my parents taught me the importance of always being there for each other,” he says. “I’m the third of four children. I can’t remember a time when one or both of my parents missed one of my ball games, band concerts or my other so-called important events.”
Still, Jeff expresses appreciation for being nominated as a Cool Dad. “I never really thought I did much worthy of note, but I can look back and see where I may have made some contributions along the line,” he says.
More importantly, a grateful Jackson will look back one day and see all of those contributions.
Children: Jessica Lee (Lara) Bell, 29, Jackson Joseph Lara, 7
Grandchildren: Bennett Graham Bell, 3, Brynndall Lee Bell, 3 months
Nominated by his wife
Photographed at Computerized Business Solutions in the National Screen Service/Roland Theatrical Art Signs/ Oklahoma Theatre Supply building, built circa 1946 at 624 W. Sheridan
Carrie Parker describes her husband, Brendan, as her best friend whose passions for music and helping others contribute to what she believes is his true calling as a musician.
After Brendan wrote some songs for his goddaughter, a gift that was very well received, he was encouraged by other listeners to write more – and eventually, the compilation of children’s songs became an entire album, and then another album and a DVD. Over the past two years, the evolution of Brendan’s featured character in song, “Spaghetti Eddie,” has taken the children’s music market by storm, so much that Brendan quit his day job in the medical equipment industry to focus on the growing demand of entertaining children and sharing the gift of music.
“Things have just fallen into place,” Brendan says of this new direction in career paths. “It almost started by accident and suddenly, the band (including drummer Todd Parsons) was playing more than 60 gigs last year,” he says, adding that the unorthodox hours allow him to spend much more time each day with his almost two-year-old son, James.
According to Brendan, bringing music to children is a means to make a “positive stamp on the world.” Toddler James contributes to the creative process by being an excellent “focus group.” “Lately, I’ve been working on a train song that James has begun singing and really likes. When he wants to sing along, that’s a good indicator that I’m onto something!” Brendan observes, while failing to mention the unexpected adult appeal of his repertoire.
No doubt, this fall’s arrival of James’s new brother or sister (the Parkers are waiting to see what the baby will be) will be the source of more musical inspiration for the vocally smooth Brendan, whose view of fatherhood continues to expand to the same degree of his children’s music anthology, which can be explored on iTunes via www.thespaghettieddie.com.
Wife: Carrie Parker
Children: James, 20 months, and one more on the way in October!
Nominated by his wife
Photographed at the Consolidated Theatres/Griffith Theatre/Video Independent Theatre building, built circa 1926 at 11 N. Lee
Dr. Edward A. Shadid, II
In her letter of nomination for her father, Dr. Edward Shadid, II, 10-year-old Maya Shadid expresses appreciation of her father’s commitment to helping others, both as a physician and as an Oklahoma City Councilman. “He does many great things for this city,” Maya writes, adding that her father “is interested in public health and has helped many people understand health and why it’s important to stay fit.” In a personal side note, Maya also points out, “He also knows just what to wear.”
Maya, her younger sister Dahlia and younger brother Zane are the single focus of the co-parenting efforts of their mother, Dina, and Edward. Dina describes her children’s father as an involved, loving parent and a man who also cares deeply about the well-being of his patients and the citizens of Oklahoma City. “I ran for city council out of concern for the public health epidemics that our city faces,” Edward explains, adding that, in spite of the demands of dual careers, he finds the process of learning about running a city to be particularly rewarding.
Ward 2 constituent Wanda Jo Stapleton characterizes Edward as a “public servant par excellence, not only for the residents of his Ward 2, but for all the residents of Oklahoma City,” while his friend, Nancy Cain, describes him as “an exemplary dad.”
It’s not uncommon to find Maya, Dahlia and Zane at their father’s side at a civic function. “It’s important to me that my kids understand the importance of civic involvement and service to others,” he says. The message hasn’t been lost on Maya, who writes, “He has inspired me to become a politician and a musician.”
Time spent with his children often takes place abroad. “He takes us on amazing trips to get to know the world,” Maya says. In fact, the children began traveling the globe as babies. “My hope, in doing that, is to expose my children to different cultures, to help them appreciate diversity and develop empathy,” Edward says.
Maya sums it up best in the conclusion of her nomination letter for her father: “I hope when I grow up, I may live up to his legacy.”
Day jobs: Physician/Surgeon, Spine Care of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Councilman, Ward 2
Children: Maya, 10, Dahlia, 9, Zane, 7
Nominated by friend Nancy Cain, Ph.D.; daughter Maya; Ward 2 resident Wanda Jo Stapleton; and Maya, Dahlia and Zane’s mother, Dina Hammam
Photographed outside IAO (Independent Artists of Oklahoma) Gallery in a building that has housed numerous film exchanges, built circa 1925 at 706 W. Sheridan
For the definition of “Cool Dad,” one needs look no further than Eddie Shapard. Encouraging mentor, wise friend, life coach, confidante, community leader, amazing storyteller, the “rock,” supportive parent, caring friend, the consummate teacher, loving and faithful husband, adoring father, amazing grandfather, magician, loyal and kind friend, “the center of my world…”
In their letters of nomination, the Shapard children lovingly detail the patriarch (and “Master of Ceremonies”) of their family, Eddie, whose approach to parenting reads like a “how to” manual for fathers and whose life can practically be measured in Little League games.
“He treasures his family above all else,” writes daughter Nicole. His daughter Ericka adds, “From the time I can remember, my dad has been the center of my world. He never missed a single thing in which I participated during my whole childhood… countless sporting events, school plays and programs. He and my mom were always there, providing support, offering encouragement and supplying an abundance of unconditional love. Every day of my life, I’ve heard the words, ‘I love you,’ from my father.”
Eddie’s philosophical views on life reveal his joyful sense of humor. “Our family motto is ‘Laugh and Be Fat,” he quips. “We’ve set our life standards pretty low, so as not to disappoint anyone,” he adds. “Occasionally, though, someone will turn up with a good report card or some other achievement and that throws off the whole balance and raises the bar unnecessarily for the next guy.”
His children, however, maintain that it was Eddie, an attorney and restaurateur, who has set the bar extraordinarily high on the subject of parenting. “He leads by example and takes a sincere interest in other people and tries to help others reach their full potential,” says Nicole.
“He taught me so many of life’s great lessons,” adds Ericka. “Most importantly, how to be a loving and supportive parent and an understanding and caring friend.”
The highlight of the year for most of the Shapard clan – some 41 of them – has taken place every Thanksgiving for the past 40 years: “The Supper Bowl,” an annual celebration, steeped in pageantry, parades with uniforms and floats and a touch football game between the family’s two teams, “The Grammies” and “The Papas.” Eddie serves as the ballyhooed Master of Ceremonies, handing out special awards, such as the “Outlandish Trophy” for the most ridiculous play of the game and reminding the others of The Supper Bowl’s battle cry: “Ours is not to wonder why. Ours is but to bake and fry.”
Nicole shares that her father received a diagnosis of terminal cancer earlier this year. As the family struggles with the heartbreaking news, Eddie’s enduring optimism and sunny spirit remain a source of inspiration for those who know him. “Since his diagnosis, he has taken his zest for living a good life to another level,” Nicole writes.
Ericka notes, “He has faced this challenge in the same manner in which he does everything else in his life – with an amazing attitude, unyielding optimism, humor in the face of adversity and a strength that amazes me daily.”
Explaining that he has “lived his bucket list,” Eddie points to the blessings in his life – devoted parents and brothers, his wife Sandy, great kids and grandchildren – as filling his life with the joy that emanates from him as he shares stories about them.
His advice to new dads? “Celebrate the little things and enjoy the journey,” – something Eddie has always done and will continue to do this summer, among the laughter and company of his family.
Nicole concludes, “There aren’t enough ways to thank someone for being such a treasure in your life.”
Wife: Sandy Shapard
Children: Nicole Shapard Jacobsen and Jeff Jacobsen (son-in-law), Nathan Shapard and Katy Shapard (daughter-in-law), Ericka Shapard Croft and Russell Croft (son-in-law)
Grandchildren: Teddy Jacobsen, 10, Tucker Jacobsen, 8, Shapard Croft, 7, Cooper Shapard, 7, George Croft, 5, Sumner Shapard, 5, Blake Croft, 3, Sutton Shapard, 1, Tennybelle Croft,
Nominated by Katy Shapard, Russell Croft, Nicole Shapard Jacobsen and Ericka Shapard Croft
Photographed at Slice Magazine Headquarters in the Ice House Building, built circa 1920 at 729 W. Sheridan
Where’s That Dad?
Slice Magazine wanted to showcase (OK, show off) our new neighborhood, and what better way than to host a photo shoot and share with our readers? We’ve been in our new location at 729 W. Sheridan for only a few weeks, but the creative atmosphere and energized vibe of Film Row has made us feel right at home. Thus, it’s the perfect spot to capture film-inspired images of this year’s class of Cool Dads!
Historic Film Row is located in the 600-700 blocks of W. Sheridan in Oklahoma City and has recently been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As part of the 42-block OKC Film Exchange District, this area was a vital piece of the puzzle in the era of burgeoning movie business. The film exchanges were the centralized distribution point for major studios to get their movies into the hands of theater owners. If it had to do with running a theater, you could probably get it in the district: everything from the actual films (which were highly flammable!) and projectors to seats, carpets and concessions – the street was a one-stop-shop located on the then-fringe of Oklahoma City. Many of the buildings housed fireproof vaults to store the film, and at least four private screening rooms existed on The Row.
The OKC Film Exchange District is actually the third incarnation of the film exchange businesses that flourished in the early part of the 20th century, but due to the danger inherent in the storage and transport of the films, the businesses were relocated farther and farther from the center of downtown for safety’s sake. The Urban Renewal craze that leveled so many of Oklahoma City’s beautiful historic buildings stopped just short of the 600 block of Sheridan – it seems funds ran short – fortuitously for us.
Local historian Bradley Wynn has written an excellent book about the district, Oklahoma City: Film Row, as part of the Images of America series. Join him for a book signing and program about Film Row at the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, Oklahoma City, on June 5 at 6pm. Program starts at 7pm. His book is also available locally at Full Circle Bookstore and Barnes and Noble or online at amazon.com and arcadiapublishing.com.