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Local dad is named ‘Father of the Year’
June 23, 2014

Daughter’s essay begins the process

By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

Local dad, Perry Thinesen of Cokato was named Father of the Year June 7 by the National Center for Fathering.

“It’s certainly humbling, and very exciting,” Perry said. “It’s an honor to be bestowed with this, yet, I know there are many fathers out there that are as good or better than me.”

Perry was nominated by his seventh-grade daughter, Katrina, who wrote the essay as part of her communications class, and submitted it to the NCF – one of 1,860 from Minnesota.

Each year, seventh-grade students at Dassel-Cokato Middle School go through an essay unit. One of the essays students are asked to write is “What (blank) means to me.”

Students are also told about the “What my father means to me” essay contest through NCF, and encouraged to write about their dads and submit their essays.

“There was not a question in my mind that it would be about my dad,” Katrina said of the assignment. “I thought it was really meaningful, and I wanted to honor him.”

Katrina’s essay was selected as a runner-up for the state for seventh grade, but she kept it a secret from her dad until another special day. “It was a surprise when I found out on my birthday,” he said.

Perry was interviewed by an official at the National Center for Fathering, and selected as one of 11 finalists.

The finalists were honored at a program at the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis prior to the Twins game June 7, after which the 11 were pared down to five finalists to be honored on the field prior to the game.

During the ceremony on the field, Perry was announced as Father of the Year, and got to throw out the first pitch.

“It was cool to see my dad named with that great honor; I think every child thinks their dad is the best,” Katrina said. “I think about how our family works – we know everyone is not perfect, but we have love and forgiveness.”

“I’m not perfect here,” Perry added. “My kids will be the first to tell you that I am far from perfect.”

Focus on family, faith, and work

“When Joyce (Perry’s wife) and I decided to have a large family, we decided the things that were going to be important to us were faith, family, and work,” Perry said. “When I am not at work, I am at home.”

The Thinesens have five children; Hannah, 19; Trent, 17; Grant, 14; Katrina, 13; and, Caleb, 8. All the children are active in various activities, which Perry does his best to attend.

“I have no clue how he’s able to do it,” Katrina said of her father’s ability to balance family and his job as the DC activities and community education director.

One may think that it is difficult for each individual child in a family to feel a close bond with their parents, but Perry does what he can to create that bond with each of his children.

Admitting that it is a challenge being the fourth of five children, Katrina said it is very fun at the same time.

“I don’t have as much bonds (with my parents as my older siblings), because I have not spent as much time of my life with them,” she added. “He spends just as much time with me as everyone else.”

Although it is a bit more challenging for her and her dad to find things to talk about (the boys and he have sports), she said they bond over different things.

“He’s a jokester – always making jokes and pranking people or doing something weird,” Katrina said. “That’s bonding; laughter is part of love.”

Another thing they love to do is sing ‘80s music very off-key and loudly, one of their favorites being the Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams Are Made of These.”

Katrina and her father also debate politics. Although they believe a lot of the same things, their debates are more about understanding a topic more deeply and challenging each other to think differently, Perry said.

Katrina noted she likes having these conversations with her father, saying it adds a depth to herself and what she believes. “A lot of people don’t know what to believe,” she said.

“We talk a lot about faith – it’s central to our family,” Perry added.

“Basically everything we do orbits around faith,” Katrina said.

While singular bonds are important to the Perrys, group bonds are even more important, Katrina noted.

“You can rely on one person, but if you have more than one, it’s a lot better,” she said.

His job is very demanding of his time, but Perry makes it a point to be at dinner each night with his family, he said.

“That’s one of the most important times for our family,” Katrina noted.

The family also enjoys movie nights and traveling together.

Perry noted it was important for fathers to think about what kind of legacy they want to leave – what values are important and how your children know they are supported and loved.

Both Katrina and Perry noted the goal of writing the essay was not to win, but to show they loved each other.

What my dad means to me
By Katrina Thinesen

When I think of the word Dad, I remember this word is inextricably linked with the word “love.” I remember the endless love my dad feels for me. He comforts me, protects me, and makes me laugh. I think “how hard is it to love someone?” Love is a bond so strong you would break without it. I rely on my father’s love.

We do lots of things together, we watch movies, play Uno, sing ‘80s off-key together, debate politics, and he answers my endless questions. I used to love when dad would pretend to be a horse while I sat on his back. That act had so much meaning behind it. He had to swallow his pride and get on his hands and knees for me. It wasn’t fun for him, but he did it just for the smile on my face.

When I got older, I began treating my parents like they were worthless. I was disobedient, prideful, and ignorant, but my father loved me nonetheless. Do you know how hard it is to love someone when it feels like they don’t love you back? It takes an unconditional love, and I got better as I grew from a girl to a young woman.

Dad is the protective kind that inspects every piece of clothing you wear before you leave and he tracks down any boy that lets a provocative word slip. Sometimes it’s maddening, sometimes it’s embarrassing, but he loves me enough to care about things like these and I cherish that.

I hope that in the future I can return the love my dad gives me. We love each other to death and I will never take that for granted because I know how much it takes to love people. My dad is forever a perfect example of love to me.

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