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Mom and the man                           who became my dad.

The Man Who Became My Dad

His name was Ransom Wayne Whitler. He was not my biological father, but he stepped up and became my Dad from the time I was a toddler.  He never had children of his own, but as far as he was concerned, my Mom’s kids were his kids. He’s been gone since 1987, yet I still miss him, talk about him, and reminisce about his funny stories. It’s always been my belief that when someone passes away, they live forever as long as someone remembers them. So my dad lives on for me and for my family, forever for those of us who knew him.

Momma and my Biological Father Divorced

When I was about 2-years-old, my Momma and my “real” father divorced. Momma went to work in a factory in a neighboring state, and I never saw him much after that. My older sister looked after me and made sure I learned all the manners and things a little girl should know when she’s growing up. Momma came home on weekends to bring us money and make sure everything was okay. But my life was about to change dramatically and thereby hangs the tale…the story of the man who became my Dad.

He Became Daddy-Wayne, Then Just Daddy!

Momma remarried, a man named Wayne,  and took me to live with them. I knew he wasn’t my real father, but gradually I began to call him Daddy Wayne. Eventually I dropped the Wayne part and it became just “Daddy.” His nickname for me was NancyTain or PuddinTain. I have no idea what that meant! Momma told me he used to “box in the ring” and I didn’t know the meaning of that either, but I remember his arms were very big. As I grew up, I learned that he was a professional boxer at one time in his life and that was to what Momma’s comment referred.

Up On The Mountain

He sometimes seemed like a giant to me, and he’d pick me up and hold me way up on his shoulder. I’d feel like I was on a mountain. But still, he would get down on my level and play on the floor, board games, jigsaw puzzles, etc. He let me sit on his back, comb his hair, and he’d tell stories or read to me. That was pretty entertaining to me, because none of the adults in my life had ever done anything like that. My favorite board game we played was Chinese Checkers which was played with marbles.

Mom and Dad in Chicago in the 1940s, from my family album

Mom and Dad in Chicago in the 1940s, from my family album


Daddy Read to Me

Daddy read nursery rhymes and books to me and we’d laugh over the stories. When he’d read the same storybook to me several times, he’d try to switch some of the words and I would catch him. I’d say, “No Daddy, that”s not right!” He would laugh and tell Mom what I’d said. He also read in different voices, depending on the character, which made the books extra fun. If there was a pig in the story who spoke, he’s speak as much like a pig squeaking as he could. If it was a bear, he bellowed big and gruff. If it was a Prince or Princess, he speak in genteel tones, and it was all so funny! He played the characters and I loved it!

Funny Songs, Some Made Up, Some Real

Daddy used to sing funny little songs for me. Some of them were made up I’m sure, but I found one on the computer in later years that is a real song or poem. I particularly remember “The Frog Song,” “Thompson Had An Old Grey Mule,” “Three Crows In A Hickory Tree,” “Three Little Babies Lost In The Woods” and “Ivan Skavinsky Skvar.” The latter one can be found online and I have included a video of the song on this page. Ivan is the story of two mighty kings who each thought he could outfight the other, and their battle becomes a legend. No, it wasn’t scary to me, because after all, my Daddy could protect me from anything. I discovered another song that’s real is “Thompson Had An Old Grey Mule,” which is sometimes listed as Johnson Had An Old Grey Mule, but it’s still the same song. I’m not sure any of the other ones are real. Daddy had a great imagination.

Video: Ivan Skavinsky Skavar sung by Brendan O’Dowda

My Dad Read To me

When my Dad read to me from the time I was little, it created a bond between us and it encouraged me to read on my own. Reading with my Dad is a fond memory, never to be forgotten. He loved reading the nursery rhymes because they had a rhythm, they rhymed, and they were funny. When I laughed, he would laugh with me. I’ll never forget those times, and because of his reading to me and pointing out words, I was reading Dick, Jane and Spot when I was 3 years old. He also read classic fairy tales to me; Rumpelstiltskin, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, etc.

Jigsaw Puzzles Were Fun

When I was six years old, we lived in Chicago, Illinois in a fifth-floor apartment. There weren’t many other children there or at least I never saw any. Daddy and I worked a lot of jigsaw puzzles to keep me occupied. These weren’t the kind we see now for children, they were regular jigsaw puzzles, usually of 1,000 pieces at least. Sometimes we’d work on the same one for days. He taught me to look for the edges and put the border together before filling it in with the other pieces. I remember once, while working a puzzle, I was finding pieces that fit very quickly, and he was amazed. He asked me how I did that, and I answered quite honestly that I did not know, they just looked like they fit. He said to Momma, “Esther, WE have a very smart daughter.” I felt so happy, because he said I was THEIR daughter and that meant the world to me. I felt like I belonged to him.


Younglingn 12.5″All Natural Wood Chinese Checkers with Storage Drawer and Glass Marbles Checkers Board Games for Family


Chinese Checkers and Board Games

Dad never became so aware of being a parent that he couldn’t get down on the floor and play board games with me. He loved Chinese checkers, regular Checkers, all sorts of board games. After I got old enough, he would (purposely and clumsily, I now realize) cheat so I could catch him and object, and he would laugh and laugh. He got such a kick out of my being sharp enough to know the difference. He pulled pranks on me all the time, but it was all part of learning while having fun. He never was cruel, except one time, and he was so sorry afterward. That’s the story below about “The Bad Cowboys.”

The bad cowboys hung my teddy bear!

The bad cowboys hung my teddy bear!


The Bad Cowboys Came Through Our Apartment

They hanged my teddy bear!!

When we lived in Portland, Oregon when I was four-years-old, I had a teddy bear that i just loved. One day I found it with a ribbon around its neck, hanging from the bedpost. When I asked what happened to my teddy, Daddy said, “Oh we live in the West now, and some bad cowboys came by and hung him.” He was teasing me, but when he saw that it upset me, he immediately got concerned and took the bear down, hugged me and said, “Don’t worry baby, Daddy will never let those mean cowboys hang your teddy again.” And to this day, those bad cowboys never came back again.

Daddy and I Sang Together

When I grew older I loved to sing, and Dad would pick guitar and ask me what song it was. I’d name it and he’d say, “Can you sing it?” and most of the time I could. Words of songs always meant a lot to me, and it’s still so today. He loved to pick the guitar, but he always said without the words, it’s just a tune.

Dad Was Very Young Here

We lived in Chicago, Illinois when this photo was taken at Riverview Park. He was not a tall man, so you can see he barely has his toe on the floor holding him up. It’s funny, because when I was a little girl, he seemed so huge.

This picture was taken on a set for photos in the midway of the park. He tried to look tough, but we always knew what a marshmallow he really was. If someone was in need, it always touched his heart, especially if it was a child or an old person.

Riverview Park Photo Set, Chicago, IL

Dad was very protective of his family.

Dad was very protective of his family.

Dad Was A Skeptic….

Dad was always skeptical of the motives of other people, and sometimes would tell us a certain person was not honest and to be careful around them. He was pretty good at sizing people up, and more times than not, he’d be later proven correct.

As I grew into my teen years, my dates were sharply questioned as to where we were going, what time we’d be back and such things. He didn’t like most of the boys I chose to date, because of course, none of them were good enough for me! But when I finally picked the man I married, they grew close, going fishing together and tinkering on cars. He looked on our kids as his grandkids, and never failed to help us in any way he could. He also took my sister and brothers and their children as his extended family. There was nothing to much to do for any of us.

He Asked So Little

Dad passed away in 1987 and the whole family attended his funeral. We mourned the loss of this man who loved so much and asked for so little in return, only that we allowed him to be part of our family. The man who became my Dad will always be in my heart. He was ours and we were his, never mind that there wasn’t a blood relation involved. We were the family he chose, and we in turn, chose him.