Honor humbling for dad, family

Published 11:15 pm Friday, February 25, 2011

A decade or so ago, it was my privilege to phone a lifelong friend of my husband’s, Sam Crook, to tell him his mother was to be honored as citizen of the year.

“Well, I guess it’s all right if you give it to her,” Sam said, as if he had a say in the matter. “I don’t want her to think she’s old or anything”

Now that’s a laugh. The then-octogenarian was busy running the Red Cross with an iron fist. No way she thought of herself as “old” or ready to quit.

Recently, I found myself in Sam’s shoes when a newspaper friend called to say that my father, a Covington County native whose roots here go back at least as far as the Civil War, was being honored with the state press association’s lifetime achievement award.

Daddy is younger than Mrs. Crook was then. Like her, he’s not old and he’s not through.

His award wasn’t a surprise, so he had some time to think about it. After a lifetime behind the camera, he’s not the least bit comfortable in the bright lights, and very seriously considered declining the honor. Frankly, I thought he would.

But it came to pass last weekend that our immediate family found itself assembled at a banquet in Montgomery, listening as Joe Thomas gave us the world’s perspective on our father. It was humbling for me, so I can’t imagine how it must have felt to him.

“As most of you already know, Ferrin is a man who means what he says and says what he means,” the presenter said. “Ferrin does not like being put in the spotlight. He doesn’t believe his work calls for any special accolades … He holds himself and others to a high standard, which is the reason he gets the ultimate respect from all of us, and tonight’s honor.”

The presenter talked about how he’s twice rescued his business from a devastating flood, then provided leadership in Montgomery and Washington to get a life-saving levee rebuilt.

As his children, it never occurred to us that his actions were remarkable, only what was expected.

Despite the discomfort, Daddy rose to the occasion, delivering an acceptance speech that was both humorous and humble. In good humor (at least I think he was kidding), he announced that his nominator has been removed from his pall bearer list. Then he talked about how people shouldn’t do things with an eye toward winning awards, but because they are doing the right thing.

He is one of the very lucky people in this world who truly love their work. I’m not sure we can his work “work.”

When my brother told him that last week’s ceremony really brought that point home for him, Daddy responded with a note to each of us.

“I pray that as each of you approach your 73rd birthday, you can look back as fondly as I do and look forward to the future with the same anticipation,” he wrote.

So do I, Daddy. So do I.