Incredible Dads

Category: Families & Generations, Weekly Columns

David Sallan

What do you first think of when you hear or read the word, Dad? Do you think of your own father? Or do you think of a religious or historical figure such as Moses or Jesus, George Washington or Nelson Mandella? Do fictional characters come to mind from great literature, such as Atticus Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird?” Or do examples from popular culture come to mind such as Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby), Homer Simpson, or Ward Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont)? What about any of the classic movie dads like Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) from the “National Lampoon Vacation” movies, or George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) from “It’s a Wonderful Life”?


I’ve been writing articles for for a few months. I’m now up to #17, which is The 12Most ShredTacular Reasons to Ski and Snowboard. One of the first ones I proposed to them was the 12 Most Incredible Dads. Little did I know that it would become such a daunting task as I felt the pressure to represent dads in the best light possible given I’m a dad advocate, blogger, writer, and struggling dad myself. My radio show’s motto continues to be a mantra to all my listeners and myself: Be the best dad or mom you can be. Ultimately, I realized that my list had to include historical figures, characters from fiction, the Bible, and more. I’ve reduced my original list of 12 to just ten for this re-purposed column. Herewith, and with great humility, is my list of the 10 incredible dads, in no order of rank or priority:

George Bailey

‘It’s a Wonderful Life” is a movie that continues to endure and resonate with audiences worldwide. It defies anachronism as Jimmy Stewart, under Frank Capra’s direction, portrays an everyday dad of extraordinary goodness and character. The pain in his heart and soul that leads him to consider taking his life on that freezing bridge is countermanded by the joy and love on his face at the end of the movie when he realizes the great impact he indeed had on so many lives.

David Sallan

Just as George Bailey represents the fictional every man, regular-Joe-dad, I was blessed to know one personally – my dad. He was a quiet, loving, unassuming man who endured the loss of two of his three children, loved his wife more than life itself, and modeled courage in all the little ways one can imagine. But, most of all, I remember the look on his face whenever he was with my mom. It was a look of everlasting, true love.

George Washington

Accurately credited as “the father of the United States,” the irony is the George Washington himself, had no children. In helping to create a country that broke every historical convention and ushered in modern democracy, it’s impossible not to include this fatherless great man on our list.

The TV Dad

There are more than enough examples of wonderful television dads to fill its own list, but in keeping with the theme of the every-man, there is no other TV Dad that more represents every-dad than Mr. C (Mr. Cunningham, as portrayed by Tom Bosley) in “Happy Days.”  Just the setting and concept of that seminal television series set up the expectation of idyllic times and Mr. C. became that universal dad we all could talk to. Author’s Note: I had the pleasure of producing a TV-movie way “back in the day” in which Tom Bosley was one of the stars. He was Mr. C – a complete professional and a joy to work with.

Martin Luther King

Many consider Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the father of the Civil Rights movement. I concur in the impact this man had on that tumultuous time in American history. He was assassinated at just 40 years old. Like so many great men who were either cut down or tragically died too young, his impact was far greater than the number of years he lived on God’s green earth.

Guido Orefice

Guido who? This fictional dad, created by Roberto Benigni for his movie, “Life Is Beautiful,” pulled off an impossible-to-imagine task to perfection. He protected his young son from the horrific reality of the Holocaust by pretending it was all a game. The concept defies belief, but at Benigni’s brilliant hands, Guido pulls off the impossible.


Choosing a great biblical dad is impossible. Choosing Abraham seems only appropriate in that he mirrored God’s own parental sacrifice, with Jesus, when he was willing to obey God and sacrifice his son, Issac. Of equal significance is the fact that Abraham is the eponym of the world’s greatest religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Jim Henson

Jim Henson created the world’s best babysitter with The Muppets. For that he rightfully earns a spot as an Incredible Dad since Sesame Street, of which he was an integral contributor and The Muppets have entertained children for decades. He’s another great dad whose life was cut short at just 53 when he died suddenly of a deadly strain of pneumonia.

Groucho Marx

Who the fathers of comedy were is worthy of its own 12most but Groucho is on this list for one simple reason. He was wonderfully irreverent and funny and he wrote and sang the very best and funniest Father’s Day song.  He sang it on the Dick Cavett show back in the seventies. Enjoy it here on YouTube.

Atticus Finch

Atticus Finch is the fictitious character in Harper Lee’s classic novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and was portrayed in the equally classic movie adaptation by Gregory Peck. Atticus instilled in his children his strong sense of morality and justice. When he agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a black man charged with raping a white woman, he exposes himself and his family to the anger of the white community. The moral backbone he demonstrated is the kind of courageous model every father should hope to be.

What became apparent in creating this list is that being a father is so much more than making babies. It may mean starting a revolution that father’s a country. It may mean creating characters that provide comfort and joy to little children. It may mean living a quiet, simple life with grace and dignity.

Every man on this list was great in his own fatherly way, representing the best of what a dad can and should be.

Who would you add to this list?