This coming Sunday is Father’s Day, and once again, it gives me the opportunity to think about my dad, David Ross, who died on Nov. 9, 2002 at the age of 91 years and 10 days. Dad was everybody’s rock. We all relied on him, and he always came through.
It still amazes me how somebody who grew up in a cold water flat with just a few months of college education was able to develop such a sophisticated taste for art and opera. My walls in Malibu are covered with art he purchased over the years. They give my home a warmth, and I will be happy to pass the paintings on to my children one day.
Above all, Dad was a man of principle. He did not just talk the talk — he walked the walk. Back in the 1960s, Dad owned an apartment complex outside of New Brunswick, New Jersey. I remember when he got a phone call from a very agitated super. “Oh, my God,” she said. “Thank heavens I reached you.” Dad asked her what was wrong.
“A black man tried to rent an apartment,” she explained.
“What did you tell him?” my father wanted to know.
“Of course, I told him we had no vacancies,” she went on.
“And do we?” Dad inquired.
“Yes, we have two vacancies,” the super responded.
My dad did not wait a second before he shot back, “If you ever do that again, you will be fired. Now tell me, what is his name?”
My father tracked the man down. He was an MIT graduate. Dad explained there had been a terrible mistake and in fact, there not only was a vacant unit available, but he would be pleased to rent it to him.
My dad took a financial risk. In those days it was perfectly possible that some white tenants would have moved out. Not one did, and the MIT graduate lived there for many years without incident.
In his late ’80s he wrote a letter to The Palm Beach Post expressing his conviction that our unrestrictive policy towards gun control was insane. One might not agree with his position, but it is difficult to deny that he still cared about public policy long after most people withdrew from the world around them.
It seems strange that even though I have two grown children, I don’t think of me as the father on Father’s Day. Somehow the title still belongs to my dad.