Dad's big day: Traditions celebrate family ties

SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Brittany Eberl, 12, writes her name in paint underneath her handprint. The Eberl family has been making handprint T-shirts as a Father's Day gift since 1996, when twins Brandon and Brianna, now 16, celebrated their first Father's Day with dad, Kurt Eberl.
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Kurt Eberl doesn’t have a collection of Father’s Day ties, but he does have an item of clothing added to his wardrobe every third Sunday in June.

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Brandon Eberl, 16, chose orange paint to make his handprint on this year's Father's Day T-shirt for his dad, Kurt. The finished shirt will hold the prints of all four children.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Brandon Eberl, 16, chose orange paint to make his handprint on this year's Father's Day T-shirt for his dad, Kurt. The finished shirt will hold the prints of all four children.

“Our twins were born in July 1995. The next year, we made a T-shirt that had their handprints on it, and said Best Dad Hands Down,” said his wife, Karen.

Over the years, the shirts have changed in color and in addition to the handprints of twins Brandon and Brianna, Bryan, 15, and Brittany, 12, have joined to make their marks.

At one time, all four children put both of their handprints on the shirts, but as they’ve grown, there is only enough room for one handprint per child, she said.

Each one is special, and he wears them.

The T-shirt is only one of the Father’s Day traditions in the Eberl home. The family also likes to go camping at Edisto Beach, S.C., to honor dad on his day.

Area families celebrate their patriarch in different ways. For the Alger family of Aiken, dad is king for the day, said Jane Alger.

“Dad doesn’t have to do anything all day,” she said of her husband, Mark. “We cook, serve, clean, anything he would normally help with. He’s off the hook.”

A meal is often the focal point of Father’s Day celebrations.

This year, Mickey Fitzpatrick, 16, of Augusta, will be preparing the traditional steak dinner for her dad, Tom.

“It’s always been a big meal,” said Mickey’s mom, Gail Fitzpatrick. “It’s exactly what he likes.”

Mickey is the youngest of the Fitzpatrick children. Her three older brothers now live in various parts of the country. When everyone was still living together, each member had a part in preparing the meal, but Mickey has elected to do it all by herself this year.

The Fitzpatricks haven’t always observed Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June either. Tom is retired from the Army, but during his career, he spent a year or more away from his family.

“When he came home, we did all the holidays he missed,” she said.

For Danny Lee, 50, of Beech Island, this Father’s Day will be poignant. Though family will gather to mark the holiday, they will do it without their patriarch, Arty Lee, who died Dec. 28.

Lee grew up in North Dakota, not far from the Montana line. His dad was a rancher and farmer who spent long hours tending the land and cattle.

Each year around Father’s Day, there was a rodeo, and the family participated spending several weeks preparing.

“My dad and I did team-roping,” he said. “It was a very special time. It was one of the major times during the year I got to spend with my dad.”

Over the years, despite moves to various parts of the country and different circumstances, family members would still try to get together to attend a rodeo and have a big barbecue.

This Father’s Day weekend, the family is gathering near Murfreesboro, Tenn., where his father lived for the dedication of his gravestone and a farewell rodeo.

“We’re sponsoring a riderless horse,” Lee said. “It’s a horse with a saddle on it, and my Pa’s boots in the stirrups backwards. It’s a tribute to the fallen cowboy.”


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