In the Spade family, the vote was unanimous. Both 12-year-old Emma Spade, who will be a seventh-grader at Verity Middle School this fall, and Emma’s 11-year-old brother Will, who attends Hagar Elementary, both thought so highly of their dad — Ponderosa Elementary School principal Matt Spade — that they both wrote essays nominating him for the Ashland Breakfast Kiwanis Club’s annual Father of the Year award, presented annually on the Tuesday before Father’s Day.
The two essays combined convinced the club to name Matt Spade Father of the Year. The only challenge was deciding which of the two essays deserved first place. In what they described as a photo finish, the judges deemed Emma’s essay about her dad as slightly better than her brother’s laudatory words on his father.
“I was surprised but happy that I won,” said Emma. “He’s a great dad.”
Her brother Will agreed. “I feel like Dad is someone who is always going to be there for me,” Will said. “He’s one of a kind.”
Needless to say, Matt Spade was elated. “What a great honor,” he said of being presented the award at Tuesday morning’s Kiwanis Club meeting. “Obviously it’s more a celebration of the essays that these two have written. I see some familiar faces in here so you know me. If they can make me look good, it had to be some tremendous writing. These little ones here are certainly the reason I get up in the morning.”
Spade’s wife, Jennifer, was proud of her husband, too. She dabbed at tears as the essays were being read to club members. “It’s nice to see how they perceive him,” Jennifer said.
“He really deserves it after all he has done for everybody in his life,” wrote Emma. “His personality has earned him the spot of the best father in the world.”
Despite the time commitment it takes to be the principal at an elementary school, Spade always makes time for his children’s activities, according to the essays.
“My dad always goes the extra mile for everything,” wrote Emma. “Whether it’s mowing the lawn or vacuuming the basement carpet, he always does his very best. He is a hard worker at his job and all of the students at his school love him. They say he is the nicest and coolest principal they’ve ever had.”
Will said he took his time writing the essay because he was pondering what exactly to say about his father.
“He will tell me things that happened to him as a kid in funny ways and when we watch ‘The Brady Bunch,’ he always talks like he’s from the ’60s. It just always makes me happy.”
Will ended his essay by saying, “I really hope that he wins because, to me, he’s not just my dad. He’s my hero.”
For his award, Spade received framed plaque of Emma’s essay, a plaque recognizing him as Father of the Year, movie and restaurant gift certificates and a copy of “Tragedy and Triumph,” a book about the 1967 Ashland state football championship.
But we are certain he would say that his greatest award was just having his children think he deserved the award.
Matt Spade was not the only winning father Tuesday. Every child who took the time to write an essay nominating his or her dad for Father of the Year has made those fathers winners in the eyes of the people who really matter in their lives — their children.