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OpinionOpEd

My dad will always be with me

Reader Katie Schultz of Smithtown is seen at

Reader Katie Schultz of Smithtown is seen at her eighth-grade graduation with her father, Charles J. Schultz, an executive with GAC International, an orthodontics company in Bohemia. Photo Credit: Schultz Family

Reader Katie Schultz lives in Smithtown.

Since 2006, the third Sunday of June has been a day like any other day to me. Since I lost my father that year, every day for me is Father's Day.

Charles J. Schultz died of cancer at age 55. I was 21 at the time. I had lost my mother five years earlier. My parents were long divorced and she was not a part of my life. Being an only child, I was suddenly alone when I lost my father.

He was my world, my home base. Charley Schultz was a Vietnam veteran from Pickerington, Ohio. Our family moved to Long Island when I was 4. My father took a job as a salesman at an orthodontic supply company. Over the years, he worked his way up to general manager, the top job at GAC International in Bohemia.

Although he earned success, his workload was endless. But at work and at home, his nickname was Captain Charley, a persona he cultivated by taking charge in compassionate ways.

Before I was born, he let some friends who were broke stay in his home until they could get back on their feet. In a similar way, when I was in high school, he let two of my girlfriends live in our house because their own families could not support them. He helped them find scholarships to college.

When I was 13, a friend and I made him a paper plaque for being our hero and taking us on fun adventures. He always kept it Scotch-taped to his closet wall. Taking it down was the worst day of my life.

In August 2005, he took a friend and me on an adventure in Wyoming. He hiked mountains, rafted in challenging whitewater, and was in picture-perfect health. No one could imagine that six months later he would be gone.

His decline was so fast that doctors couldn't help him. All I can think about is the day I watched him smile at the hospital doctor and confidently express how all he wanted was to one day walk his baby down the aisle. That will never happen.

Captain Charley -- the businessman who sometimes wore a tie with astronauts and rocketships on it, the man who was my hero -- is gone. There are no more adventures to Disney World or funny dinnertable discussions.

As I find my way in this difficult economy, especially on Long Island, where living is so expensive, I try to imagine what my father would say, and I long for conversations that will never happen. I imagine Charley Schultz smiling and laughing beside me, but he's not there. The only way to keep him alive is to become part of who he was, a great person with an open heart. I try to remember that bills, jobs and possessions never truly matter. It's about the legacy that is left behind, touching the lives of others and the moments we share with one another.

I am not alone. There are countless others who will also face a fatherless day this weekend. Although images of Charley Schultz are preserved in family photos, memories of Captain Charley will always keep him alive in my heart.

I will never have a fatherless day.

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