Rochelle Watson and her dad, John Heck, are helpers—going out of their way to give to others. But that’s not all they have in common. Here’s what Rochelle shared with us about her dad.
Tell us about your relationship with your dad as you grew up.
My dad worked long hours at Dana, but he would pick me up from school every day. Sometimes we’d go home, but most times he’d take me to Five Points, a local bar, and I’d drink Shirley Temples and eat French fries while I did my homework. He introduced me to a lot of colorful people. Before and after my parents divorced, we’d build stuff together and do projects outside. He never made me feel like I was in the way and would find age and size appropriate ways for me to feel helpful and included. He made some mistakes with alcohol and took unnecessary risks with his safety and sometimes mine, but he did come to all of my soccer games and showed up even when he wasn’t at his best.
What is your favorite memory of your dad from when you were younger?
My favorite memory of my dad also includes my grandfather. I was five and they put a nail and screw pouch on me and I walked along the farm as they put up a big fence for the sheep. I felt like I was being useful and they never made me feel like I was a burden. They showed me that everyone can play a part on a project.
How did your relationship with your dad change over your lifetime?
As I approached my teenage years, I fought with my mom a lot and had to forgive my dad for leaving us. It was this tumultuous time that allowed me to see my dad as a human with complex feelings, that humans can make mistakes and still be good people. Once I turned 21, dad and I could hang out in his world, and while I drank coffee and he had his beer, I could have hours of uninterrupted time with him to learn who he was as a person. It allowed me to learn and nurture a new way to have a relationship with my dad, just a couple of adults, spending time together and being friends.
How did your dad influence your life?
For as long as I can remember, I watched my father be a helper. He helped everyone. He never kept track of favors; he never collected payments or billed anyone. John Heck just helped people. He’s still helping folks at 72. He also was fantastic in emergencies; no panic or judgement. He would swoop in, assess the damage, and start working on a solution. Now I see those qualities in myself. If you can help, help. If you can’t, then don’t pass judgement on people in bad situations.
What qualities do you share with your dad?
Dad and I both hate loud and dramatic people. We both have little patience for aggressive men or folks picking on the little guy. We are quick to jump in with manual labor to fix a problem, but will help financially if we can. We enjoy a few vices, but don’t let them get in the way of our responsibilities. Showing up counts and being a hard worker is not something to be ashamed of. We respect those who contribute to society in any way possible. We like dogs more than people.
Did your dad have a favorite quote or mantra?
Dad always said that “it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you make new ones each time.” That one phrase really helped me to retain lessons, so when bad things did happen, I could analyze what I could do differently next time, without holding on to guilt or shame.