Happy Belated Fathers Day!

Sarah: We have apparently been busy and just realized that we haven’t posted in over a month! Since that time included our dad’s birthday AND Father’s Day, it seems that an appropriate first post back would be a tribute to the eponymous “Mister” of our blog. (Penned the 21st(ish) of June)


Meghan: Aaaaaaaaand over a month later, we will try this again…


Like Sarah was saying, our dad. People who know our dad would probably all describe him differently because he is part goofball and part most serious worker on the planet, as well as part sentimental and part WHO CARES.

Here is a picture of Daddy, Meghan, Granddad, and Uncle Steve deer hunting, one of our dad's favorite things in the world, which Meghan also inherited a love for.
Here is a picture of Daddy, Meghan, Granddad, and Uncle Steve deer hunting, one of our dad’s favorite things in the world, which Meghan also inherited a love for.
Also demonstrating his masterful rock-fishing skills


Sarah: PERFECT description. Looking back through old pictures, his birthday pics always involve him wearing something as a hat that’s not really a hat, and posing in a crazy fashion (i.e., with a huge ball of used duct tape stuck to his face). Unfortunately for our mom, I think that’s one trait Meghan and I both inherited from him. I remember plenty of occasions when mom wanted a “nice” picture but would end up yelling “can ANY of you just be NORMAL when the camera is on you??!!??”.



The many faces of Joe Labuda receiving gifts and hamming it up for the camera. He also doesn’t like cake (WHO doesn’t like cake??!?) and only eats banana pudding for his birthday.


Meghan: Daddy is definitely where Sarah and I get our sense of humor. In high school, our Sunday evenings revolved around us watching The Simpsons with our dad, and we would all laugh together and sing “Mr. Plow”. It was great bonding time. It still horrifies our mom that such filth was enjoyed by her husband and children, but we turned out okay, so whatever.


Sarah: Dad’s taste in comedy (The Simpsons) and sci-fi/fantasy (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter) were all very influential for me growing up. I turned into more of a nerd than Meghan, but we watched these creepy weird anime versions of The Hobbit and Return of the King together with dad so she got at least a small amount of the ingrained nerdiness, even if she hides it well sometimes.

The late 80s/early 90s were TERRIBLE for my hair!

Meghan: No, I didn’t get sucked into the nerd movie vortex quite like Sarah did, but those books, especially The Hobbit, are probably my fondest childhood memory. I still remember sitting on Daddy’s lap while he read us a paperback copy of The Hobbit before bedtime (no picture books for us…he also read us Summer of the Monkeys when I was probably 6 or 7), and his big coffee table illustrated version was an obsession of ours.


A few years ago, I taught 8th grade in a district that used The Hobbit as one of their required readings for that grade level, and I’m pretty sure I scared my students with my enthusiasm for that book. I just had such positive associations with the story. I know that our dad’s sewing the seeds of a love of reading in us at an early age is what ultimately led me to love teaching reading and being a librarian. And obviously to Sarah’s geekdom. And, as I type this, my six-year-old son is humming the Imperial March from Star Wars. Not joking. So I guess it’s hereditary.

Sarah’s First Communion, 1988-ish

Sarah: Dad is also a former firefighter and fire safety engineer by trade, so we grew up with the utmost in fire safety training. I’ll never forget the 4th of July always having dad supply a bucket of water for our sparklers to be dunked into IMMEDIATELY after use, and Meghan and I had to go collect all of the used fireworks from throughout the neighborhood each year on July 5th.


Once, I was on the phone with my mom while I was in college, and she suddenly burst out with, “Oh my, Joe Labuda is in the backyard in full bunker gear with a water hose burning the brush pile!”. FYI, when living in the country it is normal to burn your own brush, but *not* usually while wearing full firefighter gear.

Dad’s surprise 50th birthday party in our backyard in Van Vleck, TX. Good times were had by all!



Dad with cousin and siblings at his 50th

I’ve moved approximately 18 times since graduating from high school, so each time I find a new apartment I call mom to tell her about the kitchen and flooring, then she hands the phone to dad so I can tell him about the sprinkler system, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, and accessibility of fire extinguishers.

Dad at the first responders memorial at Ground Zero in NYC in 2003. Though he doesn’t work in a firehouse any more, he still feels a strong kinship with all first responders, especially firefighters.

Meghan: I still feel like I’m sinning if I burn a candle. They were always off limits in our house. I remember going to friends’ apartments in college and they would have a candle burning, and I would be so nervous because a paper 5 feet away could be ignited by a spark or something.

Family vacation with Meghan rocking a sweet fanny pack

Sarah: Burning candles has always felt like a huge act of rebellion, for sure!


Dad is also, as Meghan said at the beginning, one of the hardest working people I’ve ever known. His dad, our Granddad Labuda, was in the military in World War II and then an electrician, so dad learned from him both how to do electrical work as well as how to be CHEAP. He jokingly refers to himself as a “cheap Czech” because of his unwillingness to pay anyone for something he thinks he can do or make himself.

Dad’s squad at his 50th

Meghan: When our Granddad moved out of the house he’d lived in 50+ years, we (Sarah, Daddy, Roye, and I) helped clean out his garage, which was FULL of odds and ends that Granddad couldn’t part with because they might be useful some day, such as 14 fan belts in various conditions hanging from the rafters, as well as a cast iron bathtub that almost killed Daddy and Roye. Our dad doesn’t necessarily have a fan belt problem (yet), but he definitely inherited the inability to throw things away. Yippee.


I guess I can’t really complain too much, because I do see some of the cheap Czech-ness in me; I follow our dad’s method of driving a vehicle until it literally falls apart, and then continuing to drive it until you have to pay someone to take it from you because no car is worth the money you have to pay a dealership and it’s all a scam, damnit. (Side note: Last week, one of the windows in my car, which has never been able to roll down due to the gremlins in my door, randomly fell down while I was driving the boys home from a friends’ house. The 100-degree air blasting in the car was glorious. Roye literally took off the door panel and rigged my window to stay up using a rope I made from aluminum foil. Us for the win. For now, at least.)

On the beach in Florida on spring break vacation in high school

Sarah: After being Dad’s “assistant” for all sorts of fun projects growing up, I was able to breeze through my Ag classes in high school. I knew how to use power tools, how to stick my arm up through a hole in the sheetrock in a wall while someone (dad) fed down wires while putting in a new outlet, and plenty of other home-improvement projects that involved our free child labor to complete. Once, Meghan and I had to stand in the bed of dad’s truck in the garage holding the garage door opener track over our heads up to the ceiling while dad installed it. That one ended in tears, but no injuries (that I recall, at least).


Meghan: It’s funny. Dad’s such a safety freak, but his cheapness definitely wins in most cases. Such as the lawnmower of our youth…


Sarah: Ah, that darned lawnmower…


I will start by fully admitting my fault and that I deserved the punishment I was dealt. I had always been a hyperactive kid and after breaking 2 clarinet mouthpieces in my sophomore year of high school because I was twirling my clarinet like a baton, my parents made me mow the lawn all summer to pay them back.


Not with the nice riding lawnmower, though. With the push lawnmower that was older than me, only had 2 wheels that touched the ground, and had an engine that could only be turned off by REACHING INTO THE RUNNING MOTOR and disconnecting the spark plugs, which he had helpfully labeled. So that goes with dad’s cheap side.


To account for safety, though, he made me wear safety goggles, ear plugs, and closed-toed shoes while maneuvering this beast around the yard. And remember how we grew up “in the country”? Since we lived in one of very few “neighborhoods” in our area, ALL of my friends drove by all summer and were able to witness me *safely* mowing the lawn with an ancient, decrepit lawnmower. For a 16 year old girl, there could be little better form of public humiliation.

The “picture trees” in our front yard, under which I spent that fateful summer mowing. And apparently we didn’t require shoes but Mom and Dad did?

Meghan: Aww, memories.


Back to our dad’s work ethic, though. He has not only taught but SHOWN Sarah and me what it means to work and help people.


Sarah: Even when it panicked and/or terrified our mom. Like when he picked up hitchhikers, or would stop to change flat tires for people on the side of the road.


Meghan: He’s the type who can’t tell anyone no (Sarah and I inherited that one, too), and he’s served on school boards and many church committees, organized fundraisers, etc. all while being dedicated to his demanding engineering career and keeping his family his first priority.


Sarah: We are SO lucky to have him as our loving, funny, generous, nerdy, stubborn, cheap, AMAZING dad!
We love you, Daddy!!

The Labuda Family circa 1985

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