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BLOG: Ernie Zielasko, a father to Tire Business and to me

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Ernie Zielasko
(Tire Business file photo)

In honor of Father’s Day on June 21, Tire Business staffers are sharing life and business lessons they have learned from their fathers, husbands and friends.

Have you learned a valuable personal or professional lesson from a paternal figure in your life? Let Tire Business know by posting a comment on this blog, on Facebook or on our Twitter page. We’ll share them with our readers.

AKRON — Whenever I watch a sporting event or an awards program on television, inevitably someone will credit their success to the help and support his or her mother gave them. It’s more unusual for someone to mention their father.

I’m not sure why that is, but I know for my brothers and me, our Dad had a huge impact on our lives — something that continues to guide and influence us to this day.  

At my father’s funeral a decade ago, my brother spoke about how our Dad was always there for us. I knew exactly what he meant. Dad never missed one of our sporting events or other school functions, no matter how busy he was.

Like many in the tire industry, I followed in my Dad’s footsteps. He was a journalist, too, and was the founding editor and publisher of Rubber & Plastics News and the first editor and publisher of Tire Business, publications I work for today. So I know how busy he was and how difficult it must have been to break away from work when facing a deadline to attend one of his children’s events.

But Dad was always there. Sometimes I never spoke to him when running in a track or cross country meet in high school or college, but I always looked for him in the stands or sidelines to see if he was there. And he always was.

I asked him later about this and whether he ended up going back to work to complete what was left unfinished when he dashed out of the office. I already knew the answer. It was, yes. Yet it was more important to support his boys.

I follow that example to this day and will do everything I can to be present for any activity in which my daughter is involved.

Dad also believed in hard work. I remember when he co-founded Rubber & Plastics News and served as its publisher and lone editorial person. He worked day and night writing stories and editing copy to put the paper out every other week. I don’t think he took a vacation for seven years while striving to make the trade newspaper a success.

I can still see him working at our dining room table on Sunday afternoons, plucking away on his manual Royal typewriter while his beloved Cincinnati Bengals were on the television in the next room.

Dad had a philosophy that he followed, a statement written by an anonymous author. It’s not talent, or education or genius that necessarily allow someone to succeed, it said, but rather “persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”  

I have that saying framed on the wall in my office at home.

A man’s word also meant something to Dad. If he gave you his word, he honored it — no matter what.

I remember when he and my mom were moving from our childhood home to a smaller condo, and the person buying our house remarked to my Dad early in the process that a tree in our front yard was dying. Dad told him he would remove it and have a new one planted. Nothing more was said about that and it was never mentioned in the sales contract.

I helped my parents with the move and after what seemed like weeks of work, and with the moving van fully packed, I remarked, “ It looks like we’re all done.”

“Not quite,” Dad said. “I have one more thing to do. I have to take down that tree and plant a new one.”

“But Dad,” I replied. “This was not in the sales contract and the new owner had never brought it up again.

“I know,” he said. “But I gave him my word, and that’s what I still need to do.”

I don’t know a lot about my Dad’s upbringing and the many lessons and experiences that no doubt shaped and molded him into the person he became. He was a Depression-era child and, as part of the so-called Greatest Generation, served in the infantry in World War II. Like a lot of men of his generation, he didn’t share his inner-most thoughts, at least with his sons.

Instead he taught us by example about hard work, integrity, supporting one's family.

These were lessons heard loud and clear by my brothers and me, and they still ring in my ears to this day.

Dave Zielasko is Editor and VP/Publisher of Tire Business and publisher of Rubber & Plastics News. He can be reached at dzielasko@crain.com; 330-865-6131; Twitter: @TBDZ

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