Dad Tips | Waukesha County News
WAUKESHA – A father figure is more than a guy grilling hot dogs and shouting bad words at the referee on the TV screen. A father serves as a role model and provides advice. For Father’s Day, The Freeman asked several Waukesha County officials to share memories of their fathers.
John Farrow, 87, is known to his five sons, including Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, as the Fixer.
“He was always a fixer and my brothers and I always commented…where we are today is because dad taught us how to do things and solve problems,” Paul Farrow said.
The skill of fixing things is something he passed on to his own children so they didn’t have to pay someone else to do it.
“Dad was always the quiet leader of the family. He worked hard and showed us what a good work ethic is, how to take care of our families,” said Paul Farrow.
John Farrow’s sense of humor is drier with a bit of sarcasm. If you ask Paul’s sons about Grandpa, they’ll bring up the stories and his affinity for a good tongue twister.
“He loves telling stories about him growing up and being in the navy. He does those tongue-twisting things that all the grandkids pick up,” Farrow said.
John Farrow brought levity and wisdom to everything the Farrow family does, Paul said.
“For me, he’s been amazing when it comes to asking for advice on being a dad, politics and how to be a supporter and things to remember,” he said.
His father told Farrow that he was not in politics just to get good legislation passed, but that you were also in power to make sure bad legislation was not passed.
Paul Farrow learned to always respect his principles and both his parents passed them on to their children.
For Father’s Day, some of the Farrow boys plan to smoke ribs and look at old photos and reminisce.
“We’re still going through old pictures and reminiscing about things that happened in the past and looking at some of them and laughing,” Paul Farrow said.
Be honest with yourself
Bill Reilly lived by certain rules that he passed on to his children.
Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly comes from a large family of nine children. The patriarch was a lawyer involved in the local government of Waukesha. He was campaign chairman for then-area congressman Glenn Davis.
“All the Reilly kids were put in the back of the station wagon to hand out literature while the adults went to bars and talked to people,” he said.
Then the children would be rewarded with a soda.
“He loved golf and also loved bringing people together on Saturday lunchtimes to bet on golf. Each team and each player bet against each other. There would also be side bets between people.
Shawn Reilly has described his father as a friend to many and very ethical.
Bill Reilly was a lawyer in private practice who represented municipalities.
When it comes to local government, Bill Reilly gave Shawn some honest advice at his first board meeting.
“Don’t fuck with the firefighters,” Bill told his son.
He understood the power of firefighters. The next morning, Shawn had to tell his dad that he actually irritated the department.
“He lived his life by certain rules such as treating people the way you would want to be treated and he was highly respected in the community,” he said.
Bill Reilly died in 2007 and his son said his father’s funeral was one of the largest in Waukesha at the time.
Bill Reilly’s fatherly advice was to be “true to yourself” and “You always have to live with yourself and do what you think is right.
He also told his children to have and be a good friend, his son said.
My father, my hero
Waukesha County Judge Laura Lau considers her father, Richard Schmidt, 85, her hero in sports and in life.
Schmidt was raised by a single mother with a younger sister. His grandmother was also part of the family unit. Schmidt grew up in Waukesha and as an adult worked as a machinist. Lau said he often worked more than one job.
“My father, at a very young age, had to take financial responsibility for his family,” she said.
At an early age, Lau was told by her father that she would be a lawyer. If Lau had succeeded, she would have been a French teacher.
“He believed that if you have a gift from God, you should seek it out,” she said.
Growing up with a single mother, Schmidt was an advocate for education.
“Even though he and my mom were lucky enough to go to college, in our family he said you have to be educated to the point where you never lose your job,” Lau said.
She recalled that her father had always wanted to “toughen her up” to deal with the curveballs life would throw at her. Lau became a single mother and her father’s advice helped her. Schmidt was also heavily involved in sports.
“He was really into the sport. Everyone in our family went to college to play a sport he taught us,” she said.
Schmidt coached Lau’s children and was nicknamed “Grandpa Coach.”
Lau’s father was also an accomplished bowler.
“My dad’s bowling prowess was incredible. He played two 300 games and also had an 825 streak, she said.
After Schmidt moved in with Lau in 2020, following his mother’s death, he was encouraged to find a new hobby. Lau if he could take carpentry or genealogy.
“He decided to take up smoking. Not cigarettes, but meat. So now we have a huge smoker set up on deck and the galley is full of smoker rubs and utensils,” she said.
Before long, he became a master smoker and the Lau/Schmidt family dinners are still served by Schmidt.