By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
In 2009, Darrell Upshaw was serving in the Navy, working as an Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Tech, when he began experiencing difficulty standing and walking.
His career in the Navy ended but the disease which deterred him from walking continued to the point now where it prohibits him from walking without falling down.
Upshaw said he knew the door of his ability to be physically mobile, something we all take for granted, was closed.
But he said God opened another door – widely – that provided the ability him to concentrate on a very important purpose in life: being a strong and viable husband and father.
“Being a good husband and father is a very important duty and responsibility,” said Upshaw who lives with his family in Newport News. “God took away my mobility. But I am here for my wife, children, and even their friends. That is my mission now.”
Upshaw, 46, and his wife Lakel have a family by merger, for he had children, and she one offspring, and together, they produced one. Also, now the Upshaws have a two-year-old grandchild along with an extended family.
June 18 is Father’s Day, and Upshaw looks forward to being showered with varying tributes of love, material gifts and a special dinner.
But the day before, he will be honored as Hampton Roads’ Father of the Year.
Since 2018, the organization, Fathers, Inc., founded by Ernest Woodson of Maryland, has organized an awards breakfast to honor its “Father of the Year” in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Prince George County, Maryland, and this year on June 17, starting at 9:30 a.m., at the Hampton Roads Convention Convention Center.
Since January, Fathers, Inc., has been soliciting nominations from families and organizations for this year’s Father of the Year award.
“Since 1987, Fathers, Inc. has actively encouraged men and fathers to recognize and accept their ordained role in fostering the viability of their children, families, and communities for the better,” said Woodson.
He said his organization and other community-based organizations with similar visions have made substantial progress to inspire absentee and nonproductive fathers, especially those in the urban/inner city population, to return to their children and nurture them toward being upright and viable men, women, and citizens.
“Fathers, Inc. believes men who understand and accept the importance of family and community and actively seek to encourage and sustain it, know that it is a responsibility and calling from the highest authority,” Woodson said.
“It is for that reason that the Father of the Year Award Program was established,” he added.
Upshaw is an offspring of a military family. His father was serving in Germany when he was born. The family moved to Ft. Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, but shortly after, his parents divorced.
So, he and his sister moved into an apartment headed by his mom.
For two months in the summer, his mother dispatched the two to the North Carolina farm of his grandfather near Fayetteville.
“My grandfather, Noah Jackson, would go to work a regular job all day and then come home to work in the fields of his farm,” recalled Upshaw. “We worked hard alongside him in the fields. He was a hardworking man who provided for his family. I watched him being a man and a father. He is my role model for being a man and father.”
Upshaw said that parenting is a complicated and demanding role that must be shared with his wife. They both have life experiences which provide a tool to their parenting tool kit. He said there a no perfect way of parenting.
Upshaw said he gives guidance to not only his children, but their friends or any one he encounters.
His ultimate goal of being a parent is to provide guidance, instruction and discipline to place a child on a strong and predictable path to stable and productive adulthood.
“You have to be an understanding and open-minded parent. A good father … parent … is able to give children guidance, because kids will make mistakes and they must learn from them” he said. “My children understand I am not their friend, I am the adult and the father.”
He continued, “Each child has a different personality. I know I have to relate to my 22-year-old differently than one of my younger children.”
“More importantly,” said Upshaw, “you must love them for who they are and what they want to be in life and not what you want. You may want them to be a doctor. But they may want to be a hairdresser.”
“I also tell them to appreciate being a child,” he said. “Do not try to grow up too fast.”
He said he and his wife are an effective parenting team.
“She is my partner and friend in life,” said Upshaw. “I met her after my last wife died. We have a friendship based on love and support. I came into this marriage with two children and they learned to love her just as much as I do.”
Lakel Upshaw nominated her husband for the honor. The reasons for doing so were the most compelling among the many other applications
Fathers, Inc. received.
“He said he did not want to be honored,” said Lakel Upshaw. “He said he was just taking care of his family, that was enough for him. But I told him he was representative of what a ‘good’ African-American father should be. So many of them are not. I just wanted to acknowledge him and all Black men who are doing their job as father. He is an excellent example.”