Gazette readers tell inspiring tales of fatherhood

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Jake Magee
Sunday, June 15, 2014

JANESVILLE—Joel Vaughn knew he had become his father tying flies for fishing.

His 5-year-old son, Logan, asked if he could help, just as Joel had done with his father, Terry, 25 years earlier.

“He proceeded to help me wrap the thread around the hook with his face gleaming that he was helping me out,” Joel said. “Seeing the in-depth look on Logan's face as I tied bugs is the same exact thing I did to my dad.”

Joel learned from a young age to love the outdoors through his father's passion for fly-fishing. It's an active and rewarding style of fishing compared to what Joel calls “worm dunking.”

“You're fooling one of the smartest fish in the world,” he said. “You've done the tying of that fly, and you make the trout think it's a real bug.”

Joel said time spent fishing with his father taught him to value the solace and quiet of nature.

“Your mind goes to a whole different place,” he said. “You don't think of the hustle and bustle of work or arguments with someone else. It's you and the fish, and you're hunting them.”

Joel used his father's lessons to better himself and his son.

“My father taught me how to make beautiful flies and ugly ones, all of which caught nice fish and helped me in many ways throughout my life,” Joel said. “I see my father every day as I help to mold my son in the same way that he has molded me.”

He's passed those teachings on to his son, and now they fly-fish together, the perfect sport for such a rambunctious pair.

“He exudes the same impatience that I did as a kid,” Joel said. “He doesn't have the patience to sit on the stream bank.”

Joel and his father still regularly fish for trout all over Wisconsin . They prowl theRock River and Turtle Creek for bass. After multiple surgeries on his dad's neck, back and shoulder, Joel knows their fishing time is limited.

Last year, Joel started a local fishing website to teach others about fly-fishing and “preserve a legacy” for his father. Joel, his father and their friend Mike Schmidt make up the unofficial Wisconsin Fly Guys.

Besides working on the website and his day job, Joel attends Blackhawk Technical College and is majoring in business management. His dream is to open an online fly-fishing store and pass his knowledge onto others through seminars and teaching sessions, just as his father did for him.

“I hope to teach people how to fly fish in order to give to others just as my father did for me,” Joel said. “That would be the greatest thing ever.”

Joel relishes his childhood when he grew up fishing with his dad.

When he was 16, Joel and his father went fishing north of Westby in western Wisconsin. Joel went to cast his line into a shallow pool and felt it get stuck behind him.

“I thought it was stuck in a tree, so I tugged it.”

That's when he heard his father grunt.

The lure had caught Terry in the nostril like some ridiculous nose piercing. Not wanting to call it day after only just starting, Terry insisted they continue fishing.

“He wanted me to cut the line, and he fished with it in his nose all day long,” Joel said.

Joel and his father eventually went to a nearby hospital and got the lure removed.

“Fishing with my father has taught me to not only be a steward of our environment but kept me out of certain trouble any teenager could have gotten into,” he said. “This bond my father and I have will last forever and has helped me understand how to be a great father and role model for my son.”

Joel hopes the family fly-fishing legacy lives on not only through Logan but his 2-year-old daughter, Lacey, as well.

“With any luck, my daughter could become the first Wisconsin Fly Gal.”


Ryan Lambert said he realized too late he'd become his father as he sat in a jail cell facing a 15-month sentence for an alcohol-related offense.

“Just like my father, my alcohol addiction was out of control,” Lambert said. “And just like my family, I chose alcohol over my family.”

Lambert gave his daughter financial support, but realizes now that toys and clothes are no substitute for love and affection.

“Being a father is so much more than money,” Lambert wrote in a letter from the Rock County Jail. “Kids spell love 't-i-m-e' not 'c-a-s-h.'”

He has a parenting class as part of the Rock County Education and Criminal Addictions Program at the jail.

“It is really sinking in that being a father is the most important and probably hardest job I'll ever have,” he wrote.

Despite his mistakes, Lambert has hope for the future.

“It hurts to know that I have become my father, a person I swore I would never be, but it doesn't have to end there like it did with my dad,” he said.

“I choose to exercise my free will, take heed to the wake-up call given to me and change into the father my daughter rightfully deserves.”


Jason Upham knew he was his dad when he started talking like him.

Upham would catch himself spouting, “Shut that door! We're not air conditioning the whole neighborhood!” or “If you don't hold it down back there, I will pull this car over, and you'll be sorry!”

“Every time I use one of his lines, I chuckle inside because I swore that when I became a dad I would never use them,” Upham said, “but now, I am just like him.”


Warren Strelcheck realized he'd become his father when the highlight of the week for his own kids was a Saturday trip to the city dump.

After going to the landfill, he'd take his children to the hardware store, and he'd always end up buying candy bars for them while waiting in the checkout line.

The tradition now bridges three generations.

“May it live on in its fourth one!” Strelcheck said.


Mark Boeche realized he was his father in the solace of his woodshop.

Because his father grew up as an orphan during the Great Depression, he was a private and reclusive man who often retreated to his shop. Now, Boeche has a shop of his own he wishes he could share with his late father.

“Tears flowed as I longed for him to be with me, right then, to see my shop and enjoy working with tools and machines he never had,” Boeche said.

“We both would prefer the quiet retreat to the workshop as our comfort zone and mechanical man cave,” Boeche said. “The shop reflects how much I am like my father, and I couldn't be prouder.”


Trent Gerber knew he'd become his dad when he became a firefighter. He quickly found that he wanted to “mold the young and impressionable” like his father molded his friends growing up.

“I realized I wanted to continue his legacy of helping people,” Gerber said.

This desire drove Gerber to become a high school football coach, hoping to be a positive influence on the community. “I'm proud I have become my father because he is a good man,” Gerber said. “If I can become half the man and father he is to me, I will have made a difference in this world.”

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