Biggest reward is being called Dad
John Hughes is in a place he thought he’d never be — a widower of two years, a veteran in the U.S. National Guard, a stepfather to three of whom two call Dad.
John has no biological children of his own. Due to an operation in his childhood, he can’t have children. But, his stepdaughters have seen him as a father figure for the past 15 years.
“He is more of a father than a stepfather to me,” Helen Leckrone, his stepdaughter said. She and her sister, Tiffany, have been involved in John’s life since he met their mother, Tammy. The third stepdaughter, Marie, is not in contact with the family.
“I met their mother on a street corner,” John said with a laugh as he sat in a chair on his front lawn. He lives on a farm west of Elsmore. They met while he was visiting his rodeo partner in Arkansas City. Tiffany and Helen did not become involved in Tammy and John’s life until they were both 18, due to issues in Tammy’s earlier life.
“Tammy never told me what happened,” John said. “I felt like it was her place to tell me when she was ready.”
But, now he is the father figure in both of their lives.
JOHN SERVED in the National Guard for 20 years. He was deployed in Germany shortly after the September 11 attacks, served in Iraq from 2005 to 2006 and then spent a year in Djibouti, Africa.
On March 17, 2010, he spoke to his wife on the phone.
“We told each other thank you for putting up with each other,” John said. “That night was supposed to be our weekly date night.”
Those were the last words he would ever say to his wife, she was killed in a car wreck that evening. He heard the news at 4 a.m. the morning of the 18th, and returned to America for the funeral on the 19th. He had a layover in Chicago during the 24-hour flight.
“The strangest thing happened, I turned on my phone and got a text from her,” John said. The text read: “I’m at mom’s, I’ll be home later.”
Then, it was just John.
“I’d never thought I would be a widower,” he said. “Tammy dealt with a lot of problems that I am dealing with, she took care of everything.”
He said he does his best to be there for his kids, though they have their rough patches. But, at the end of the day, he is there when they need him, he is still their father.
“Being a stepparent is a whole different world, you get so attached to them,” he said. “You treat them like your own; you praise them like your own kids, you scold them like your own kids.”
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