Good Sunday morning everyone, and Happy Father’s Day!! The nation’s first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, in the state of Washington. However, it was not until 1972, 58 years after President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day official, that the day honoring fathers became a nationwide holiday in the United States.

It was during a Mother’s Day church service on June 20, 1909, that Sonora Smart Dodd was struck with the idea of creating a special holiday to honor fathers, too. When Sonora was 16 her mother died while giving birth to her sixth child. Back then, like today, raising a family as a single parent was not an easy job and Sonora saw how hard her dad worked for their family.

So, in 1909, Sonora approached the Spokane YMCA and the Spokane Ministerial Alliance and suggested that her father’s birthday day, June 5, become a celebration day for fathers or Father’s Day. They agreed, but needed more time to prepare, so they chose June 19 instead and the first Father’s Day was celebrated.

The idea of an official day to celebrate fathers slowly spread across the United States. Retailers saw a great potential for profit for Mother’s Day but said, “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.” So little backing from retailers was given to push a celebration for fathers.

In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge recognized Father’s Day as the third Sunday in June of that year and encouraged all states to do the same. Still nothing more permanent followed.

Then again, Congress officially recognized Father’s Day in 1956 and in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson issued a proclamation calling for the third Sunday in June to be recognized as Father’s Day. Finally, in 1972 President Richard Nixon permanently established the observance of the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day in the United States.

Sonora Smart Dodd lived to see her idea come to fruition. She died in 1978 at the ripe old age of 96.

Just like a mother is regarded as the sole nurturer of a child, the father helps in the development and emotional well being of the child. A father plays the role of a guide, motivator and protector in any child’s life. Today gives us an opportunity to express our love and affection to all fathers and fatherly figures that have touched our lives.

Give. Advocate. Volunteer. Live UNited.

Sherri M. Askren is president of United Way of Danville Area, Inc., 28 W. North St., Danville, IL 61832. Phone: 442-3512