As many of you know, my father, Thomas Wessel, passed away 15 years ago on November 23, 1997. One thing that my mother didn't want to have happen was for us 7 kids to forget what a great man and loving father he was. Part of this is in the many memories of him that have been shared amongst us and stored forever in our minds and hearts. But my mother wanted to have us remember him in one more way...the Thomas Robert Wessel Memorial Scholarship.
For the past 15 years since his passing, my mother set up the Thomas Robert Wessel Memorial Scholarship at our high school, Warren Township High School. The scholarship is given to two graduating seniors (one boy and one girl) who have exhibited academic excellence while participating in performing arts activities and/or athletic activities. My father had an amazing passion for music and sports, two things he shared with my mother and passed along to his children.
Being so young when my father passed and when my mother initiated this scholarship (I was only 8 years old), I don't believe I fully realized the meaning of the award until now.
As I mentioned before, my father had such a strong passion for music and sports, and he did everything he could to share in these passions with us kids. He would take us to piano lessons and band practice, coach my sisters' softball teams, and attend all of our major events. These times that we got to spend with him, such as the one in the image below, were the ones we could cherish forever.
Now, being only 8 when he passed away, my mother knew that my brother Ben and I didn't have as much time with him and in essence didn't have the ability to form as many memories with him. Part of me feels this is another reason why she worked to create this scholarship in his name...to give Ben and I a chance to remember him when memories may not present themselves. For this, I cannot thank my mother enough.
Lastly, I feel this award wasn't just for us a way for us kids to remember him, but a way for the entire community he had come to call home and the community that had come to love him to remember him as well.
This year will mark the 15th year in which we will be presenting the scholarship, and it will also be the last. My oldest sister Nicki will be the one to present the scholarship. In 1997, she was the first of us to walk on to the stage to present the scholarship, and so it's only fitting that in 2012 she will be the one to present the scholarship for the final time.
People always ask me what it was like to grow up without a father since the age of 8. I never really know how to answer that question because with the memories my mother and siblings share with me, the father figure my older brother (Matt) and grandfather took on, and the yearly memory of my father through the Thomas Robert Wessel Memorial Scholarship, I feel like my father has always been there with me...and will continue to be with me.