Remembering the Man Who Made Me a Conservative

Marty Heisey

This year marks 15 years since the death of my father. I still miss him every day. He is the reason I am a conservative. Jerrold Fain was not a complicated man. He certainly was not born a rich man. He may not have been financially wealthy, but he was rich in all the ways that count. He was the oldest of six children. He grew up In a three-room house that included all those siblings, two parents, and no indoor plumbing. He liked to tease my Mom that he thought he was marrying into a rich family because she had an indoor toilet.

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At 19, he was drafted into the Army and spent the next two years in Germany. He told my brother and me many times how he hated every minute of it, but it made a man out of him. When he came home, like many other young men newly discharged from the military, he was broke. So he went to work. He and my mother married in 1959. Their first home was a tiny apartment in South St. Louis. They bought their first house in 1963, and two years later, I came along.

A few years later, my Dad went to night school for a while. He would try to study while a curious four-year-old just wanted to keep him company. He never got his degree, but he worked hard. I never remember him being unemployed at any time. He got promotions within the companies he worked for, many times over others who did have degrees.

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He taught my brother and me that the world did not owe us a thing. If we wanted something, we were going to have to work for it. His heroes were William F. Buckley Jr. and Ronald Reagan. He marveled at Buckley's brilliance when it came to anything regarding conservatism, and he loved his "Blackford Oakes" spy novels. 

I was a teenager and just starting my working life when Ronald Reagan became president. My Dad said, in his quiet way, that he was the right man at the right time. When I brought my first paycheck stub to him and pointed to two vastly different numbers, the lower one being what I got when Uncle Sam was done with me, I got my first tax lesson. "Remember that when you vote," he would tell me, looking over his glasses. 

I am also reasonably sure that no one else's father, as they went off to work, told them to go "discover the joys of capitalism." He had that dry sense of humor that those who knew him best understood completely. "Don't be a sheep!" was also a favorite nugget of advice, so I would not do whatever everybody else was doing, whatever that might be. Translated: Don't follow the crowd. I think I mastered that one early on. He also took me to my first Tea Party way back in 2009. Little did I know that it would be the only one we would get to together.

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In the ensuing years, at times, it has been hard without him. I know that he would be silly proud of all that I have accomplished, especially graduating from college. I know he knows that I am just getting started. Because of him, I know there is nothing I can't do. It's those early lessons in conservatism that made me who I am today.

Thanks, Dad.

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