Bill Harrington made a quiet pilgrimage to Spokane, eager to celebrate the woman he calls the mother of Father’s Day.
He left wondering if Spokane has a hard time recognizing its own place in history. Only a handful of people came to join Harrington’s two-part event, which started Saturday morning with remarks at the Spokane County Courthouse and ended with a wreath-laying at the west Spokane cemetery where Sonora Smart Dodd and her father are buried.
The 62-year Harrington, a resident of Graham, Wash., near Puyallup, organized a celebration Saturday to mark the 100th Father’s Day. That initial Father’s Day occurred in downtown Spokane in 1910, the brainchild of Spokane resident Dodd.
Dodd is credited with creating the day to recognize her own father’s role in raising six children and to give dads a day equal to Mother’s Day.
Harrington, a white-bearded, bushy-haired retiree, drove over the mountains Friday and came to the Saturday event with a coat carrying a button that said “Kids Need Fathers, Not Visitors.” He said the turnout was disappointing, but he still was glad he spearheaded the effort.
“I was waiting for more than two months to see if anyone in Spokane was going to mark the day. When no one here was doing anything, I decided to go ahead,” he said.
Both Harrington and another speaker, state Sen. James Kastama, D-Puyallup, said Father’s Day is the best time to call attention to what they say are inequities in legal and social services that tilt in favor of women and mothers in custody and divorce battles.
“Fatherhood is important,” Harrington said. “More than half of all U.S. children 18 and under will not see their father on Father’s Day,” he added.
The few on hand Saturday included Spokane residents Bev and Jerry Numbers, the guiding hands behind the 2010 Sonora Smart Dodd celebration, set to occur on Father’s Day next year.
While this weekend marks the 100th time Father’s Day is being observed, the Numberses say their event next year in Spokane will mark “the centennial” celebration of Father’s Day. They hope to attract a host of dignitaries and area leaders to share the stage for that celebration.
“I’m kind of glad Bill’s event didn’t draw 400 people today,” Jerry Numbers said after the event.
“Bill made the event too political,” he added. He also said Harrington acted too late to organize an effective celebration.
While they recognize many men have a strong position on fathers’ rights, the Numberses say their goal next year is to remain apolitical.
“Next year our event will focus more on Sonora Smart Dodd and what she did,” said Jerry Numbers, who with his wife is refurbishing the East Central neighborhood home where Dodd lived in 1909.
The Numberses both spoke during Saturday’s courthouse celebration. Both also went to Greenwood Memorial Terrace, standing close by to two large floral wreaths, one reading “The Mother of Father’s Day,” the other reading “The Father of Father’s Day.”
“We were glad to be invited, and we were glad to be there,” added Jerry Numbers. “So, if Bill used the event to call attention to his political issue, we did, too. We used the event for ourselves,” he said.