By Rachel M. Anderson, Freelance Writer
(Eden Prairie, Minn.) – How did society’s most successful individuals get where they are today? Ask that question and time and time again you’ll get the same answer. They all had good role models.
A role model is a person whose behavior, character, or accomplishments acts as a beacon for others to emulate. The outward manners of a good role model are almost always subtle, humble, and benevolent in nature. They act, not for selfish reasons, but out of love. Often the most important role models in a young person’s life are parents, teachers, and community leaders. They are the ones in the best position to plant the seeds of future success in a child.
Of all the role models Nicole Hoel has encountered during her lifetime, she considers her most influential one to be her father, Terry A. Degner of Eden Prairie, Minnesota. “All of my fondest childhood memories are of my dad,” says Hoel. “I would choose to be with my dad over friends any day, and even to this day other than my husband I would choose to hang out with my dad. My children also spend a lot of time with him because he has lived a life that shows he cares and loves us by taking the time to be actively involved in our lives.”
Degner says, “Being a good role model doesn't stop with parenthood. For me it is a lifetime mission. If you continue to set a good example, it will move from your children to your children's children and beyond. I can say with pride that all three of my daughters are better role models then I was at their stage in parenting. Degner recognized the importance of being a good role model because of what he went through as a child. In his recently published memoir, My Brave Little Man (Bandi Publishing, 2011, $14.95) Degner describes what it was like to be abandoned by his birth parents when he was just four-years-old.
In an early chapter of the book he writes, “The two weeks following our induction into the Children’s Home were excruciatingly painful for me, and it must have been heartbreaking for the staff to watch. Every day, without fail, I would ask Miss Kelly, or any other matron who happened to cross paths with me, when my mom was coming.”
Degner, his sister, Jean, and their little brother, Larry, saw their mother only a handful of times during the three years they lived at The Children’s Home, an orphanage in Duluth, Minnesota. That’s because, despite promising the children they would eventually be back home with her, the reunion never happened. Larry was adopted on July 6, 1953. The author and his sister, Jean, went home with another couple eight days later.
Though he had a hard time adjusting to his new home, in his book Degner shares how he eventually came to accept and admire his adoptive parents. “There was a lot of role modeling going on for me as a young boy that over time really made a difference in my life,” says Degner, who credits his adoptive father for role modeling his love of working and his adoptive mother for being patient, kind and soft spoken. “Instead of telling someone to conduct themselves in a certain way, a role model leads and others follow not because they have to but because they want to,” says Degner, who explains that by being good role models, his adoptive parents gave him a healthy road map to follow.
“One of the greatest things about my Dad’s story” says Nicole Hoel, “is it’s a story of really bad things happening but a great thing came out of it. My dad could have been an alcoholic. He could have ended up in prison. But he made the choice to be a good person and to be a good dad and to be a good role model for my sisters and I.”
My Brave Little Man retails for $14.95 and is available for purchase at select bookstores, and via the author’s website, www.tadegner.com. Copies can also be purchased via www.BarnesandNoble.com and www.Amazon.com.
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