For a handful of Father’s Days over the past 20 years, I’ve taken my children to a small, obscure cemetery in Orland, CA. In the serenity of that remote place, I reflect on how grateful I am for my father, Varge Henry Celaya, who is buried there.
When he was in his early 20s and trying to figure out what he would do with his life, he one day scribbled on a small pad of paper: Judge Varge H. Celaya, at your service. Was he contemplating a career in law? Perhaps, but life’s demands took him on a different path. Soon, he was struggling to support a growing family. His knack for sales took him into all sorts of industries, and he ended up as a real estate broker in the tumultuous Bay Area 80s housing market. Financially, he had his ups and downs, but he put food on our table and ensured that his six children were happy, well-educated, and loved.
His life was cut short by cancer, and he died at age 49. I will turn 49 this year. I also have six children, and though I do have a career in law, it seems that he accomplished more during his life than I have in mine.
The most important thing I learned from him is the priority of family. He always put his children first—making sacrifices in his career, his standard of living, his hobbies, and even his health—all so that his children could have better than he had. Finances were always limited, but as kids we never knew that. What we did know is that there was always enough love to go around.
I try to use what I learned from him in my estate planning practice. But more importantly, I try to convey to my own children what he taught me—that each of them is the most important thing in the world to me, that their value is intrinsic and infinite, and that no matter what they do or where they go (or where I go), I will always love them.
Happy Father’s Day to all who have benefited from a father or father-figure who has blessed your life.
Anthony G. Celaya, Esq.