Birthday cake stock

Our dad “Doc Fred” represents a legacy we siblings hope to emulate. A dedicated activist and caregiver, Dad worked as a general family medical practitioner in Sheridan for 25 years, volunteering as “team” doctor for sports and at Sheridan Health Center.

Heart, mind and soul, Dad has embraced a life of service to others. His admirable character emerged naturally from his regular daily devotion to God, fervent practice of his Catholic faith into philanthropic, compassionate and generous endeavors.

Growing up during the Great Depression in a railroad boxcar home, Dad survived four WWII European campaigns. He embraced family life with Mom upon returning home, completed medical school and developed an incredibly busy practice, 24/7 house calls included. Once we didn’t see him for four days while he was delivering 14 babies.

A life dedicated to scientific truth and accuracy frames Dad’s compassionate nature toward all humanity, weaving the tapestry of his amazing life, centered on health and well-being. Past patients approach us to ask, “How is your dad?” The respect in their eyes, tone of their voices and touching ways they talk about his enormous influence in their lives says it all.

While Mom was on dialysis, Dad put public service on hold for seven years, sacrificing many hours of sleep as her caregiver. A sterling example of a life well lived, Dad continues to receive lessons graciously and respectfully, steadfastly choosing a pathway based on hope, unity and truth.

I am giggling a bit, feeling a sigh of relief and a sense of accomplishment, as I recall our weeklong celebration of Dad’s 100th birthday. Vowing to make this milestone the best possible for Dad, a salute to our special centenarian, we siblings discussed his 90th birthday gathering at our parish hall. Joyful recollections, hugs galore, countless handshakes, robust laughter, heartwarming prayers before lunch and booming voices, bellowing out the birthday song made it so special.

Yikes, reality check! The pandemic has made gathering in person impossible. Doing our part to keep Dad, family, friends and other community members safe and healthy remains our priority these days. So, what did we do to celebrate this warrior, our compassionate, remarkable dad?

In mid-March, I moved to running my business in a way that was familiar to me via college courses I teach. Why not? We can do this, I thought. I shared my idea with my siblings; we rolled up our sleeves and got to work, focusing on five different virtual ZOOM celebrations, four with family and one with Dad’s Mayo Clinic associates retirement group. That way, we included those nearby and from afar at various feasible times for busy schedules. Working hard not to overwhelm Dad, we celebrated with gusto, in an easy, fun and safe way. Our plan of action worked.

Thank you to a remarkable human being, consummate caregiver and, above all else, the best dad ever.

Author's note: This article paraphrases in part, sections from a nomination letter I wrote for a lifetime humanitarian award for Dad, which was reviewed and edited by my siblings Suzanne, Fred III, Mary and John.

Teresa (Teddy) E. Araas, a certified yoga therapist, owns local businesses Balanced Living Health & Wellbeing Consultants, LLC and Santosha Yoga. She teaches pre-professional course at Sheridan College and doctoral courses in health promotion/wellness and holds an adjunct research fellowship at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, Provo, Utah.

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