Like father, like son”.  We’ve all heard this saying in the past, I’m sure.  In the normal scheme of things those words are often true but sometimes they miss the mark totally.  I, for one, am nothing like my father was—not as a teen or an adult.  Despite his being an every weekend abuser of alcohol for all of my growing up years, my father always earned enough to keep me and my mother, and later my younger sister,  well cared for. He was an unloving and “distant” parent, an atheist who never did learn how to communicate with me or ever express love for his family, and my mother was always my stay-at-home Mom, providing the love and attention so lacking in my father toward all of us. 

Mom wasn’t particularly religious for most of her life (until near the end), and neither of my parents did much to “train me up in the way I should go”.  It was my elderly step-grandmother, (who had adopted my abandoned father as a baby in 1894), who did her best to instill her Christian faith and values into me, with only limited success at the time.  But that’s another story.

Most of us know the words from Proverbs 22:6:  “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (KJV). Our Heavenly Father, our Creator, knew that the best way for Godly parents to raise their children would be to start that training when they were very young—i.e. put them onto the “right path” no matter what the cost—and IF that was done as God directed, the adult who comes from that child will still follow that right path.  Unfortunately that is sometimes more difficult than it sounds.  We all know examples of Godly parents who seemed to have done everything in their power to raise up their children “in the right way they should go”, only to have those kids turn into totally rotten adults.  It’s a paradox for which there isn’t always an acceptable  answer.  But every so often we come across stories that testify to the wisdom of parents who, imperfect though they may be, still manage to follow, even if imperfectly and perhaps only through God’s Providential guidance, the Biblical precept of Proverbs 22:6.  Let me share two true stories to help illustrate my point.

The first story began many years ago in the 1920’s.  Its’ cast of characters includes the infamous gangster, Al Capone, who basically owned the City of Chicago for many years during the “Alcohol Prohibition Era”, controlling its’ police, its’ courts, and its’ politicians with money generated from his illegal bootlegging, prostitution, and extortion rackets.  This monster, Capone, had a very talented and sharp Chicago business associate and lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie”, who was one of the most skilled councilors that money could buy at that time.  Divorced from his family back in St. Louis, Missouri, he was the best of the best in his  business, and his skilled legal shenanigans kept Al Capone out of prison for many years.  (Interestingly, back in the early 1970’s I worked briefly in Kentucky with an older man, a plant manager, who told me that when he was much younger he had been one of Al Capone’s drivers in Chicago, and he looked the part).

As might be expected, to show his appreciation for his skills Capone paid his partner and attorney, “Easy Eddie”, very well (they were partners in dog and horse racing tracks in the 1920’s, most all of which were run by the “mob” in those days).  Not only did Eddie earn big money from the gangster, but he also received special perks.  For example, “Easy Eddie” lived in a huge, fenced-in mansion, along with live in help and all of the modern conveniences of that time.  His estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago city block.  In that mansion, Eddie lived the high life that most people could only dream about, courtesy of Capone’s Chicago mob of gangsters.  For the majority of those years he gave little thought to the crimes and the atrocities that were going on around him, many of them brought about by his employer, Al Capone, and his band of criminals.

However, “Easy Eddie” appeared to have one soft spot in his heart.  Although divorced from his son’s mother, he loved that son more than

life itself.  Eddie’s son lived in St. Louis with his mother and two sisters, and he provided that young son (and, I assume, his young daughters), with the best of clothes and food, and as his son grew up, with the best cars to drive and an excellent military school education.  Nothing was withheld from his son.  Price was of no consideration.  Despite “Easy Eddie’s” deep involvement with organized crime throughout the 1920’s, it has been conjectured that he did his best, whenever he was with his son, to teach him, even if imperfectly,  right from wrong—to train him up in those “better ways” he should go—and not follow in his evil footsteps.  Perhaps,  down deep, “Easy Eddie” wanted his son to be a better man than he was. Perhaps it was only a sham to cover his life of crime and assuage his guilty conscience.   With all his wealth and influence, two things seemed beyond his ability to give to his son:  A good name, and a good example.

          If you know this story, or suspect who “Easy Eddie” really was, you’ll recall that eventually he made what was perhaps the most difficult decision of his life---to possibly somewhat rectify the wrongs he had perpetrated upon society.  Eventually, in 1931, he went to federal authorities and testified the truth about Al Capone and his criminal empire, particularly about Capone’s tax evasions, which did eventually land that evil gangster in federal prison.  Perhaps Eddie did this to at least partially clean his tarnished name and offer his son evidence of his scarce integrity.  Some say he did this in order to make a “deal” with the Feds in order to keep himself out of prison.  Perhaps he did make a “deal” with the feds, as some claim, in order to enhance his son’s chances to get into the U.S. Naval Academy, which he did in the early 1930’s. 

In any case, “Easy Eddie” must have known, without doubt, that his testimony against Capone’s Chicago mob would cost him everything, including his wealth and probably his life.  Yet he did it!  Tragically, in November of 1939, one week before the infamous Capone was to be released from prison, “Easy Eddie’s” life ended in a vengeful blast of large caliber gunfire on a Chicago street as he was driving his expensive car.  In his eyes he may have felt he had given his beloved son the greatest gift he could, at the highest price he would ever pay.  Perhaps it’s wrong to try to ascribe a “motive” for “Easy Eddie’s” decision in this possible “morality play”. Perhaps he truly had no conscience.  No one can say now, for all who knew the truth are long gone.

As Eddie’s lifeless body was removed from his wrecked car, police took several religious objects from his pockets, including a poem he had clipped from a magazine.  It read: “The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop…. Now is the only time you own.  Live, love, toil with a will.  Place no faith in time, for the clock may soon be still.”

The second story took place during WW 11, a conflict that produced many heroes.  One of them was Lieutenant Commander “Butch” O’Hare, a 1937 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and a trained naval fighter pilot who in 1942 was assigned to an aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Lexington, in the South Pacific.  On Feb. 20, 1942, most of the Lexington’s squadron was on a mission, providentially leaving only O’Hare and another pilot to guard the fleet of which Lexington was a part. They detected a squadron of Japanese “Betty” bombers heading directly toward the American fleet, which lacked adequate air cover.  “Butch” O’Hare made the decision to try to divert the enemy bombers from those ships he had the duty of protecting.  He and his wingman suddenly dove right into the Japanese formation---.50 caliber machine guns blazing from their wings as they charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane after another.  O’Hare’s wingman’s guns jammed, leaving Butch to weave in and out of the now broken up enemy formation, firing in short controlled bursts until all of his ammunition was expended.

In the best tradition of the U.S. military, “Butch” O’Hare continued his assault on his enemies, diving at the Japanese bombers, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of making them unfit to fly.  Finally the exasperated Japanese abandoned their attack on the American ships.  O’Hare made it back to his carrier.  When it was later developed, the film from his gun camera told the story of his valiant efforts to protect his fleet.  He had shot down 5 enemy bombers, thus becoming the U.S. Navy’s FIRST ACE of WW11, and the FIRST Naval Aviator to be presented The Congressional Medal of Honor by President Franklin Roosevelt, on April 21, 1942, with his wife, Ruth, by his side.

President Franklin Roosevelt awards the Congressional Medal of Honor, April 21, 1942, to Lt. Lohmander Boward O'Hare, Jr. Ruth O'Hare is beside her husband. - Photo credit: National Archives/Public Domain
President Franklin Roosevelt awards the Congressional Medal of Honor, April 21, 1942, to Lt. Commander Edward O'Hare, Jr. Ruth O'Hare is beside her husband. - Photo credit: National Archives/Public Domain

Sadly, in November of 1943, “Butch” O’Hare was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29.  But many people resolved that the memory of this young warrior’s gallantry would not fade away.  In 1949 the City of Chicago renamed their airport after EDWARD O’HARE, JR. as a tribute to him.  If you’re ever walking through O’Hare International Airport, as I did long ago, you can visit “Butch” O’Hare’s Memorial, which features an actual aircraft, a Grumman F4F-3, the same type he flew, along with his statue and his Medal of Honor.

So, you ask---what do these two true stories have in common?  What do they tell us about “training up a child in the way he should go”?  What do they tell us about the relationships between fathers and sons?  Surely Edward “Butch” O’Hare’s mother must have also trained up her son in the way he should go, because he gave strong evidence of that when it counted.  That goes without saying.  But from young Edward’s good character, we might infer, perhaps accurately, perhaps not,  that his mostly absentee and sin-dominated father did what he could, when he could,  to also train up his son so that in later life---at a time when it truly mattered--- like in the stress of combat and the threat to one’s existence---and to protect the lives of others--that son would become a shining beacon for all of us, and would “go” in the way he was “trained up”.



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