STEPHEN HEMELT — A parent’s quest for lasting gifts

Published 12:12 am Saturday, December 18, 2021

Parents across Port Arthur and Mid County are in the home stretch right now, securing all the gifts they can in order to make Christmas as magical as possible for their children.

It’s a process that doesn’t end just because children grow up. That’s easier for me to realize as a 41-year-old lucky enough to have a 68-year-old father who routinely provides wonderful gifts for his children and grandchildren.

He sets the bar high; and it’s a wonderful legacy to pass on.

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Our situation has changed greatly in a year, as it was this time 12 months ago that my grandfather (my dad’s dad) died.

My dad looked up to no other person more in his life, and my own special bond was forged with my grandfather because of the two years I spent living at his house in the middle of high school.

In the weeks and months after my grandfather’s death, my dad focused on the tasks bestowed to him, mainly serving as the executor of his father’s will while also navigating the emotional times he and his siblings were each feeling.

In times of stress, he would tell me how much he missed talking and visiting his dad, something previously done on a daily basis. They lived around the corner from each other in houses they helped each other build.

He missed talking to his dad about the every day stresses of life and the joys of new grandchildren exploits.

I can only imagine how perfect it must have looked to see those two “old” retired gentlemen discuss the day’s news or the possibilities of tomorrow while mutually admiring each other, but never actually saying “I love you.”

My dad talked about losing his trusted confidant, the person he most looked up to and relied on.

I was even a little jealous of the way my dad spoke about his dad, because as a son, I yearn for him to feel the same about me. Measuring up to our fathers is a near constant for many sons. We seem to be no different.

So it was a month ago that dad visited us in Texas from his home north of New Orleans.

He had something for me. A lot of somethings, in fact, filled in an old cigar box that indicated the 50 cigars originally packed inside were to be sold for a price between 4 and 6 cents. It was my grandfather’s.

My dad and his siblings, in polite approaches, went through their parents’ estate and picked the items most meaningful to them. In that process my dad received what he wanted most.

He brought some of those items to me, things I didn’t ask for but things he wanted me to have. Included is the gold watch my grandfather wore everyday and the wallet he kept on him until he passed.

It’s truly amazing when you receive a gift you didn’t know you wanted and quickly realize you now can’t live without.

It was a year ago we lost our family patriarch, 91-year-old Leo Hemelt Sr., the man my father most admired. And as another Christmas draws near, my dad has done it again.

He took what meant the most to him and turned it into a gift that allowed me to keep my grandpa close, for this holiday and many to come.

That’s why I admire my father the most and remain driven to provide the same for my children.

I love you, dad. Merry Christmas.


Stephen Hemelt is the president of Port Arthur Newsmedia, which publishes and The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at or 409-721-2445.