Today is my dad, Herbert C. Allison Jr.'s, birthday. He would have been 89. He was married to my mother, Jeanne, for 56 years before she died in 2008. Herb died in 2011. He was not famous. He was not rich. But he was exceptional.
He grew up in New Jersey, to parents who fought constantly. His two sisters were more than twenty years older, and his only brother, who was more than ten years older, was killed in France by a sniper as an army infantryman at the end of World War II.
When Herb was a young child, his mother divorced his alcoholic father and moved to California, where she worked as an itinerate cook for wealthy families. Her jobs never lasted more than a year, so she and young Herb were constantly on the move. By the time he graduated from high school, he had attended over twenty schools.
He tried to enlist in the army to fight in World War II, but he was too young. When he was old enough to enlist, the war was over, so he served in occupied Japan. When he returned to the states, he skipped the GI bill and college, and went straight to work. That's when his life changed.
While working for Bank of America in Fresno, he met my mother and fell in love with her and her family. Two decades earlier, her German family had escaped the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and settled in what became Germantown in Fresno. Her family was everything his was not - together, loving and supportive with many extended relatives and friends living nearby.
Herb and Jeanne married not long after their first date. Several years later, their first child was born in a botched cesarean section which caused their newborn son to have learning problems throughout his life. Five years later, I was born, and nineteen months after that my younger brother was born. With three boys in tow, my parents moved to a small town in northern California, where Herb worked as an insurance adjuster, work he continued until the day he died. Most of his career, he worked as a sole proprietor with his own company, Allison Adjusting Service. In his mid 70s, when he and Jeanne moved to the Sacramento area, he closed up shop and began working for a large insurance company, mostly from his home office.
What made Herb exceptional? He had no family life, his dad was an alcoholic, his parents divorced, he barely knew his siblings, he had no place he could call home. He grew up like a foster child, moving to a different home at least every year to live with a new family. But he identified what he didn't have and what he needed, and he found it in my mother's family - love, faith in God and stability.
With no role model, he became a devoted husband, father and able provider. My brothers and I never wanted for anything we needed, and we grew up with confidence, knowing we were loved by parents who would always be there for us. Despite having no positive family role models, he became a great role model for my brothers and me of a faithful husband, loving father and hard worker. He was always confident and content in who he was, and he never felt the need to impress anyone.
One of my favorite Bible passage is 1 Thessalonians 4:11, maybe because this is how my dad lived his life:
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
Happy birthday dad.