1967: He might seem familiar to many of you, but he was the first man that showed me how to put a red worm on a hook and cast my line with hope and anticipation. The last one to sit down on the bank of Walnut Grove Creek, 10 miles east of Greenwood, he would patiently move between the cane poles of his five young children (two more would come later). More often than not, he would do less fishing and more dislodging the tangled fishing line that was snagged in the overhead tree limbs — usually three at a time.
Earlier the same year he made the decision to be baptized into the Catholic faith. His third daughter was in third grade — it made an impression.
In 1963/1964: He walked on stage at the newly opened Clowes Hall with his Gibson guitar to lead his three daughters dubbed “The Hommel Sisters” in an Eli Lilly Variety Show. As he got set up and ready to play, he noticed something amiss and quickly walked off-stage to gently wake up his youngest, who had fallen asleep waiting for her turn to sing with her sisters. She was four.
1972: The same year that Title IX was passed, entitling “male and female athletes to receive equivalent treatment, benefits, and opportunities” — he stepped up to help coach Our Lady of Greenwood’s girls basketball team where his third daughter played. He also coached the boys fifth/sixth basketball team and Greenwood Little League teams where his sons played.
He might seem familiar in that he worked hard at Eli Lilly for more than 40 years, but he played equally as hard. He could be seen playing catch with his sons, shooting around with his daughters, playing music and singing to everyone within a 100-mile radius.
Pitching horseshoes at the fairgrounds, playing music at festivals and nursing homes, he’s still the guy to beat in a competitive game of a bean-bag toss or table tennis. He’s still known for his ‘Hommel hook’ in basketball, his prowess on a piano and banjo, where his ambidexterity comes in handy.
He might seem vaguely familiar because he was the first man to hug his third-born and tell her “I love you, Janny.” He also was the first man to swat his children’s rear-ends if they were being outright disobedient. He was also the man to confront his seven children if they were being sassy to the woman who gave them life.
But seared into the third-born’s mind are the few moments he brushed her straight hair behind her ears while she was crying and he was communicating important information to her — like why he wasn’t going to paddle the neighbor girl that had thrown rocks at her because that little girl was special and she didn’t know better. He taught her that life wasn’t always fair, but even more he taught her compassion.
And most of all he taught her to laugh and love life.
Happy Father’s Day to my dad and all the other fathers!