Nathan Wilson | Reporter
Father’s day recognizes the contributions of fathers to the family and the development of children. The following fathers were interviewed about the additional fatherhood roles they assumed in their community.
Dep. Brian Turner is a School Resource Officer (SRO) assigned to Natchitoches Jr. High and a father of two. He has been an SRO for eight years and has worked for the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office for nearly two decades. He explains that his superiors, Cpt. Wendy Lorens and Lt. Derrick Turner, foster a family environment among the SROs. “All the SROs in the program have the same mindset. We could work patrol; we could work at the jail, but we really like to work with kids, because it’s a mindset of if you can make a difference in a young person’s life that’s going to trickle on,” he says.
Turner explains why he became an SRO. “The part I really like about the SRO program is because we have an opportunity to meet with (the students), and it’s more on a personal basis. It’s not that they got in trouble. It’s what can we do to help you so that you don’t get in trouble, and in some ways it’s kind of like stepping into a father role,” he says. “I can really see that it makes a difference.”
Many students lack adequate family support Turner observes. “There are quite a few young people in our community who come from a single parent family and they really don’t have a male role model in their lives,” he says. “You make a difference in someone’s life and help some of these kids out to where they have somebody to look up to, not just as a uniform, but someone personally.”
Turner provides examples of the ways he and other SROs show the students they care. “If they want to try out for a ball team, but they don’t have a glove or some shoes, we’ll go about whatever we can to try to help them out,” he says. He describes another scenario. “A lot of the kids have never been fishing before, and I’ve talked to some of them, and they want me to take them fishing,” he says. “I’ll get with some of the coaches or some of the other people and say hey, let’s make a guy’s day out.”
Turner has helped countless students, but a couple stand out to him. “I had two of them actually become city police officers,” he says. “(One) graduated, went through the academy, is getting married and pulled up at my house in his police car, and I’m thinking this is unusual, and he gets out and says ‘I just wanted to let you know I just graduated and it’s my first day on patrol’, and I said I’m so proud to see that, so it does come back sometimes.”
“It’s kind of like you become a figure in the community, and the kids are always going to remember that,” says Turner. “I’ve got kids all the time that’ll recognize me in Wal-Mart and they’ll come say ‘Hey Officer Turner how’re you doing?’” He reflects on his role as a surrogate father for a generation of students. “If we can make a difference in a little guy’s life or a young lady’s life, that’s what it’s all about right there,” he says. “It’s kind of like a father role, but it’s anything you can do just to help them.”
Shenandoah Smith is a retired veteran of the U.S. Army and a father of three. He makes it clear he has enjoyed every step in becoming a husband, father and grandfather “(I’ve loved) being married to my wife who gave me three children, and watching them grow up, and seeing them give me grandchildren,” he says.
Smith explains that his success as a father comes from the support and guidance he received from his mother, stepfather and his wife, Linda. “My stepfather, James Avery Jr., and my momma, Clarita Avery, they brought us up in the best way that they could at the time,” he says. “My wife is strong. My wife is dedicated, and she does it the right way, and that’s how we all do things and that’s how we brought our children up to be.”
To explain his devotion to his family, Smith describes his early life. “Out of 12 years of school, I missed one day because I had a dental appointment. I loved school and that’s why I continued my education in college,” he says. “I met my wife Aug. 25, 1985, and I wanted her with me so bad I dropped out (because) I wasn’t making any money,” he says. The Army offered him a path to secure his family’s future. “When I joined the military, that just enhanced everything that I had grown up knowing and wanting to be,” he says. “I stayed in there for 20 plus years, and I gave (my children) a safe haven to grow up in and that’s what I’m proud of.”
During his time in the military, Smith began to think of his unit as an extension of his family. “I was a platoon sergeant, so I had about 35 to 40 soldiers under me that went to combat with me in Desert Storm, and I brought every last one of them back,” he says. “They were young soldiers, and the way I felt about it (was) I was their father and they were my children. I talk to some of them every once in a while, but some of them are not here anymore.” After retiring, Smith moved to Natchitoches and used his experience to train younger coworkers at the airport. “From the ground up I’d teach them how to do everything,” he says. “I was assistant airport manager.”
Now Smith is thankful for the choices he made decades ago for his family. “I have a beautiful wife. She loves me and I love her. I treasure her. I have a beautiful family and my grand-kids, so God has a plan all the time,” he says. He also reveals one of his children is a proverbial chip off the old block. “My oldest daughter, Mahareasha Nicole Smith, she’s back from Korea now. She and her husband and my two grandbabies are back at Fort Campbell, Ken. I am very proud of her. She is me. She’s not going to start something and not finish it. She also got it from her mother,” he says.
Paul Morgan is a retired teacher and the father of two. The lessons he taught his son and daughter have helped them become doctors: one in medicine and the other a university professor. “He describes his experience with fatherhood. “It elevated me to a new level of responsibility, because I enjoyed being responsible for them,” he says.
Morgan explains that while his children are independent, he still considers it his role to continue teaching them and learning from them too. “I no longer feed them and I no longer house them, but our relationship still exists. The caring and loving still exists,” he says. He makes it clear he considers being a family man as his most important role. “In any community, the most important thing is the home, environment and church in that order,” he says. “If you have a good family you can make it through anything.”
Morgan describes raising his family in much the same way as he approached teaching; he and his children would talk each day after school and he would ask them what they had learned. He explains they have continued to learn from one another as adults. “Sometimes I still tell them something that helps them grow, and sometimes they help me grow,” he says.
The most important lesson Morgan taught his children is the same one he offered his students each day. “I helped them form their philosophy of life,” he explains. “It has to be passed on from parent to offspring.” He sums up his philosophy, “If you look for the good in man, hoping to find it, you will.”
As a teacher, Morgan spent a long career teaching courses in chemistry and physics at Central High School, Natchitoches Central and the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts and was named a Natchitoches Treasure. He reflects on what made him successful as a teacher. “I loved my classes. I didn’t miss 20 days in all my years teaching because I loved teaching,” he says. He continues to teach Bible School at his church, “The philosophy that I attained growing up, I pass on,” he says.
Morgan offers a final piece of advice to those who are considering starting a family. “The greatest thing that can happen to a man is to love and be loved,” he says.