A Tribute to My Dad

I stood at the front of class, choked up with emotion — unable to even speak. Anybody who knows a Sargent is fully aware that we’re an emotional bunch (my dad was once provided a towel from people he served with at church that was inscribed with “Gary A Sargent Crying Towel” — the towel was full-size — I rest my case).

“Sorry,” I stammered.

Sarcastically, a member of the class familiar with our family remarked, “we’ve never seen a Sargent get emotional.”

It runs in our genes. Deep emotion — often accompanied by tears — especially when we think of or talk about our family. Asked to teach a class at church, I was leading a discussion about what people’s parents taught them growing up. One of the class members had thrown the question back on me and asked me what I had learned from my parents. That’s why I stood there, so full of emotion and with so many examples, yet unable to express myself.

With Father’s Day this past weekend, I wanted to get some input from those who know him best to pay him tribute. I hope to convey in words what I couldn’t in speech.

My dad was born and raised in Salt Lake City. He spent his youth playing sports and working hard, just as many of his generation did. We still love to gather around him to learn about his childhood, his experiences, the neighborhood mischief he caused, and anything about my grandparents.

He graduated from Highland High School in Salt Lake as the student body president of its first graduating class — but he’d never tell you that. He played three sports where he may have earned all-state honors in some of those — but I’m not sure because he doesn’t talk about it. He went on to Stanford on an academic scholarship where he walked on to the baseball and football teams. He would later earn a football scholarship and become a co-captain of the team — but he’d never tell you that (I found out after an online search showed him on the roster as a co-captain).

In fact, even when you sit down with him and ask him questions, you get all the details without any of the “I did this” or “I was that.” It seems the respect he garnered from his peers is second only to his humility.

My dad (on the right) along with Coach Jack Curtice and co-captain Ed Cummings

He is my hero, but not for the directly aforementioned reasons. His accolades are awesome (from athletics to school to the Marine Corps to Law School), but he is my hero because of who he is and who he continues striving to be, day in and day out.

If you were to ask him the greatest achievement in his life, none of the above would be mentioned. Without hesitation he would say his family. Nothing brings him more joy than spending time with his wife, their 7 kids (of which I’m the caboose), 28 grandchildren, and now 3 great-grandchildren.

To give some perspective on how the family thinks of dad, I recently sent a text out to my siblings:

Hey sibs…quick favor…need you to send me your favorite story or memory of dad. Feel free to text it or email it to me when you have a minute.

Hilarity, memories, and all else ensued. Below is only one screenshot of many, but you get the idea.

He was always fun, never raised his voice at us or anyone, and his love for us was never in question. I remember many times when I probably deserved to catch his hands, but instead he was always there to correct my actions and build me up instead of tearing me down. He commanded respect without being authoritative.

I asked them one more question:

What has been the most impactful thing that dad has done for you, whether he meant it to be or not?

When I posed these questions to my mom, his wife of now 53 years, her response was (and I’m paraphrasing):

He’s kind, even-tempered, hard working, funny, and caring. He has never said anything unkind to me. He keeps me laughing. He loves the Lord and puts Him first in his life. I’ve loved the poems he writes for me every Christmas. I love that he keeps our yard looking so nice and plants a garden so we can have fresh fruits and veggies. I’m glad he enjoys cooking. I love that we have things we like to do together like golfing and going on a date once a week. I love that he takes me to the temple on a regular basis. He’s not afraid to show he has a tender side.

For me, the most impactful lesson is simply how he lives his life. I’ve not met anybody who knows my dad well that has led with anything other than great things to say about him. He has set an example that I strive to be like. He’s there if needed at the drop of a hat, always willing to provide counsel (but usually only when asked for it), and treats our mom with respect. In his life it is easily apparent that God is first, my mom a close second, and everything else falls into place.

Thanks Dad for everything. Especially the crying gene.