Duane Christopher talks about growing up with his dad, Matt Christopher, author of dozens of sports novels for children.
Matt Christopher was my dad, so he was always a common man in my eyes. I realize now, though, that he was a common man who affected many people’s lives and will continue to for generations to come.
Dad was very committed to his work. He loved writing and his world revolved around it. He told others to do what they loved, and if they worked hard and made a living at it, then that was the best case. That was their calling.
Dad was a man of great faith in God. I am sure there were times when his faith may have wavered; we all have doubts at some point. But he was blessed with many gifts and shared them. He was very giving; he gave to his children and church very generously.
Dad was also very charitable to the community and was honored with many awards for his volunteerism. He was a president of the Lion’s Club, but also wrote the newsletter, typed it manually on Carbon paper, and had it printed. Now that I’m an adult, I appreciate all that Dad did beyond his work. His depth of his service would not have been possible if he weren’t self-employed. Personally, I’ve always had an inner motivation to give back my time and talents to the community, and I wonder if a major influence in this was Dad’s example.
But above all, Dad was a family man. I loved when we would wrestle on the living room floor; I would try to take Dad down but, of course, couldn’t. I also have fond memories of playing catch with a baseball in the side yard; we would do that often during the summers. Dad used to play with my two older brothers, but then when they went off to college or work, I got my turn. In my high school and early college years, when we lived on Owasco Lake, we used to go out on our boat and go fishing. Those days were few and way too short, and we knew they wouldn’t last forever. We had other things to do, and other places to go, but, we cherished those few we floated across the lake, with just the setting sun and breeze in our faces. Afterward, when we couldn’t distinguish our house lights from all the others, we would get lost. These are memories that bring tears to my eyes.
We hear almost weekly how much people love Dad’s books and how happy they are that they are still available. Teachers will say that if it weren’t for Matt Christopher books, boys would not be reading—or something close to that. I was at a dinner party for work recently and when I was introduced as Matt Christopher’s son to several teachers, and they were very impressed. In fact, they were more interested in his legacy than my work. Well, that made me feel like: “Wow, these teachers really know Dad’s literature and know it’s made an impact on children’s lives.” That is the greatest tribute to a man who loved to write. I wonder if he knew how he affected so many young minds for so many years. We hope he’ll continue to do so for many, many years to come.