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Joan Knows: Reflecting on fathers

This Father’s Day, I did some reflecting on the fathers in my life and what I learned.

During the time of World War II, I was a toddler and early elementary school student. I spent a great deal of time with grandparents Jim and Grace Arteberry.

Grandpa Jim had a Victory Garden with carefully cultivated rows of cabbage, spinach, turnips, onions, rutabagas and the like.

He brought his harvest in the house to cook. His treat was to lace the cooked vegetables with his homemade hot sauce.

Grandpa Jim had been the city engineer during the construction of the Municipal Building. Later, he was an alderman on the Draft Board and an air raid warden. So I learned to love my city and be of service.

Steve and Selma Sharkin owned the Oasis tavern. They were not your typical grandparents. He lived at the tavern, and she lived in the big brick house a block away, with my family upstairs. We all would share meals at the tavern, which were prepared by Grandpa Steve.

He insisted that I watch and learn as he made homemade bread, and to hold the casing as he made sausage. Sadly, I never practiced either art – my gut did acquire his taste for herring and homemade dill pickles.

He went fishing at least once a week. The bamboo pole was for me, along with lessons on the fine points of live bait. Yes, I learned how to both clean and fry the fish.

The wisdom of playing cards was acquired as I watched him and his buddies play pinochle down in the basement. Back in the dining room, I learned my way around the cribbage board.

He was an even-tempered gentleman who treated his customers as friends and his family as precious. Generous to those in need, yet he would tell someone what he thought might be a shortcoming using direct language. I watched and considered all this.

Harold Arteberry was a super dad.

During the war he worked at a defense plant, often working double shifts. When he lost his health, he took on the dish washer domestic realm and mom did the tavern.

Thus, I learned everything from folding the laundry to loading the dish washer from him, plus the secret to a fluffy lemon meringue pie.

Dad was a championship level trap shooter. He took me with him to shooting matches, pointing out the atmosphere of good sportsmanship and respect for the guns. I went hunting with him, too. No dog, so I was the retriever.

No matter what sport, he was rigid about the rules.

We went to lots of Cubs games. In those days, a victory was scarce. No matter to Dad.

He would point out any highlights and remind me how great it was to be at Wrigley.

Dad was an alderman, too, and was a leader at the hunting and fishing club. He was stoic when things did not go well and modest about success.

All of these guys are gone now, but I think of them often and try to follow their pathways.

The grandfather in my life now is Mister Z. He loves our three grandchildren and teaches them all about animals and those other shady critters on the streets.

The girls never hesitate to get a ride, ask for a treat or join him for fun. He is their Poppy, and they think he is special.

Happy belated Father’s Day!

Joan Arteberry is a longtime resident of St. Charles. Her columns are featured in the Kane County Chronicle every other week. Write to her at

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