Front Porch: Beloved father’s legacy etched in stone
Lost a bit in the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Father’s Day in Spokane this June was the dedication of monuments to Sonora Smart Dodd, the official mother of Father’s Day, and to her father William Jackson Smart.
“We thought that this centennial year was the perfect time to honor both the vision of Sonora Dodd and the man for whom she created what is now a national celebration of fatherhood,” said Duane Broyles, president of the Fairmount Memorial Association. So when the planning for this year’s events got under way, Fairmount, the Spokane Police Department History Book Committee and the Spokane Law Enforcement Museum – all of whom have collaborated on creating a dozen monuments in recent years for individuals important to the region’s development – got together with the Father’s Day Centennial Committee to make this happen.
A basalt monument at Greenwood Memorial Terrace serves as the base for the tribute to Dodd, which has Dodd’s story etched on its face. It stands near her grave. Close by is a bench and newly created waterfall as a monument to Smart. It stands by his grave. Costs were borne by Fairmount Memorial Association and Spokane Wilbur Precast.
Sonora Dodd, the Spokane artist, poet, philanthropist and benefactor petitioned the Spokane Ministerial Alliance at a 1910 meeting at the Spokane YMCA to have fathers honored each June. And so began the observance of Father’s Day on the third Sunday in June, made a permanent national celebration by a proclamation by President Richard Nixon in 1972. Dodd was devoted to her father, who became both mother and father to her and her siblings when their mother died.
What isn’t well known is that Civil War veteran Smart was actually widowed and assumed the role of both parents twice. Smart’s first wife died in 1878 in Arkansas, leaving him to raise their six children. He remarried a widow, a mother of three children, a few years later. They had seven more children, one of whom was Sonora. The family moved to a farm near Wilbur, Wash., where his second wife died in 1898, leaving Smart to raise the six children still living at home.
In addition to the monuments at the cemetery, a replica of Dodd’s monument has also been placed at her Spokane home at 603 S. Arthur St., owned since 1972 by retired teacher Jerry Numbers and former City Council member Bev Numbers. The basalt for that monument was taken from the Smart farm in the Wilbur-Creston area.
“That marker is another one of the things that helps establish this home as a significant landmark for the person who founded Father’s Day,” said Jerry Numbers, who noted that people drive by daily to look at the house, take pictures and now stop to view the monument.
“People ask why I’d want a big cemetery monument in the front yard,” he said, “But we are happy for it to be a catalyst in drawing people to stop by. We are grateful and feel privileged to be living in this house.” He noted that the house, on the Spokane Register of Historic Places since 2008 and named to the national register this year, was recently declared by the National Park Service and Department of the Interior to be a national landmark.
At Greenwood, the Dodd-Smart monuments represent the largest project to date of the committee that has erected tributes to other Spokane notables.
“Spokane is fortunate enough to be the place where Father’s Day was created,” Fairmount Memorial Association’s Broyles said. “And our cemetery is fortunate enough to care for the remains of the person who created it and for her father. These memorials have been our pleasure to complete.”
Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by e-mail at upwindsailor@ comcast.net. Previous columns are available at spokesman.com/columnists.