By KATHY SCHMUGGE
COLUMBIA — “I am not just Father of the Year, but Father of the Millennium,” joked the winner of the S.C. Father of the Year Award, Patrick Williams, during the award ceremony held on June 16. The award was sponsored by the office of Attorney General Charlie Condon and privately funded by BellSouth, Michelin and SCANA.
The long-time parishioner of Holy Trinity Church in Orangeburg was chosen from hundreds of South Carolina applicants as the man who most exemplified the qualities of a good father.
“A good father is the firm foundation of a strong, cohesive family. Government cannot replace or reproduce fathers. Medical science will never clone a father,” said the attorney general, who then relayed how Williams captures the very essence of fatherhood, “a DAD with a double D: dependable and devoted.”
According to Condon, also a Catholic, competition for the award was intense, but Williams’ name kept resurfacing as a committee was trying to narrow down the selection. His wife, one of his brothers and all five of his adult children submitted letters, which like pieces of a puzzle came together to present an exemplary father and remarkable human being.
His wife, who provided the cover letter for the nomination package, mentioned how life was not always easy for her husband, Pat, who endured hardship with a smile. While in high school, he supported his entire family and still managed to receive a full scholarship to Notre Dame University. His son Joel wrote with admiration, “He scored the winning touchdown to end his high school’s only championship season, while wearing taped up shoes dug out of the church poor box.”
Another son Chris spoke of a father who was involved in the lives of his children, working around the long hours he spent building his business. “We had a Toyota pickup that on any given weekend might be spilling over with the Cub Scouts, or Brownies, or a Sunday School class on its way to a camping trip at the family farm.” Chris went on to say, “The point I am trying to make is that little things matter, and my daddy knew this.”
A common thread that was woven into all the accounts of Pat’s fatherhood successes was his deep love of God and the church. Pat himself recalled the many priests whose loving presence afforded him hope and encouragement during some of the most challenging times in his life. He still keeps in contact with several of the priests. His friend, Holy Cross Father Edmund Joyce, retired vice president of Notre Dame University, came to South Carolina to celebrate the marriage of his older daughter, Mackey.
“Growing up, I cannot remember a Sunday when I was not in church,” his daughter Katie recalled. She remembered once as a small child, while traveling, they attended a Mass in Latin. “I did not understand the words, but I understood, even at 7 years old, why I was there. My dad has taught me that God comes first,” she added.
Even with five children of his own, Pat and his wife got involved in the Guardian Ad Litem program, an effort that provides an adult advocate to children in court. The family became so attached to one of the children, Tawanda Carson, now a senior at South Carolina State University, that the relationship continued into her young adulthood. Carson, called their “Godchild,” mentioned how the Williams’ played an active role in her life for more than 15 years, taking her to church and giving their love and guidance.
“My father is a very moral, incorruptible man. He taught us the virtues of living a good life without having to compromise our beliefs,” describes his son Michael. Pat’s fine example, teaching and living the faith certainly contributed to the fact that all of his children have remained strong Catholics.
Mackey thanked him for the many invaluable gifts he passed on to his family through his example, “gifts such as an unwavering faith, the importance of family, strong morals. …”
Pat’s younger brother, Greg, a member of Corpus Christi Church in Lexington, echoed many of the same sentiments of the children. “Pat and Kay brought all five children along through the church … teaching and encouraging them through the various programs and stages in their religion. … He didn’t just send his children to church — he went with them.”
During the ceremony, Condon relayed his deep respect for Pat, who personified the type of father Condon hoped to elevate as a role model. The attorney general started this award five years ago to emphasize the important role fathers play in their children’s development.
Greg Williams said it best, “The positive, good, Christian manner in which he reared his children will influence their thinking and their decisions throughout their entire lives.”
As the 2000 Father of the Year recipient, Pat was given a $10,000 check and a plaque. He already plans to use some of the money to purchase baseball gloves for poor children, understanding firsthand what such a gift means to a young child. Father James McDonagle, who was the pastor at St. Theresa Church in Springfield, bought Pat his first mitt when he was 8. “I still have that mitt,” Williams smiled.
Although grateful for the recognition and award, Williams said his greatest prize was the tender words of love written by his family. His success as a father surrounded him during the ceremony; the look of pride from his mother, Lila; the look of love from his wife; and the glowing admiration from his children and grandchildren. It was certainly a most memorable Father’s Day for a most deserving father.