Siblings' regard for their dad inspires author to share their story

If you haven't come up with an idea for a Father's Day present yet, you could borrow an idea from Barbara Bialke Bishop, Park Rapids Class of 1977. Author-broadcaster Tim Russert did and he has been promoting Barbara's idea and his latest book ac...

If you haven't come up with an idea for a Father's Day present yet, you could borrow an idea from Barbara Bialke Bishop, Park Rapids Class of 1977.

Author-broadcaster Tim Russert did and he has been promoting Barbara's idea and his latest book across the country.

Two years ago, Russert of MSNBC's "Meet the Press" and the Washington Bureau political correspondent for NBC, wrote a bestseller called "Big Russ and Me" about the lessons he learned from his father.

People started writing to him about their own fathers. Russert received nearly 60,000 letters and e-mails and read them all.

Called "Wisdom of Our Fathers," the second book is a collection of letters from daughters and sons published May 23. It is currently on top of bestseller lists across the country.


And those readers are becoming acquainted with the Bialke family.

In the introduction to "Wisdom of Our Fathers," Russert wrote:

"There is one contribution in particular that I want to mention. H.J. "Dutch" Bialke, who died in 2005, was a credit analyst in the small town of Park Rapids, Minnesota, about 200 miles north of Minneapolis, where he and his wife raised eight children who adored their father. In 2001, on the occasion of his 75th birthday, his children put together a booklet in which each of them listed 75 reasons why they loved him."

Barbara sent her submission to Russert two months after her father died March 17, 2005, at age 79. He had lived in Park Rapids for more than 40 years and raised eight children here along with his wife, Elaine, who still lives here.

Barbara's submission was the booklet titled, "Seventy-five Reasons Why I Love My Dad."

"It contained 75 reasons from each one of us why we love him for a total of 600 reasons," she said. Like the e-mails and letters that inspired his second book, Russert read them all.

According to Barbara, not only did Russert tell about the submission in the introduction to his book, he has talked about her father and the gift from his children on national television programs including "Larry King Live," an interview with Tom Brokaw, an interview on "Hardball" with Chris Matthews on MSNBC and Thursday on "The View" on ABC.

Russert also was telling the story in college commencement addresses, Barbara said.


"He says the blank dedication page in the front of his book, titled 'About Dad...' was inspired by our submission," Barbara said.

After the book was published, Barbara, her sister Claudia and brother Dave flew to Chicago to meet Russert at a book signing downtown. "He met us personally beforehand and could not have been nicer to us," she said. "He said he read all 600 reasons and loved them. He again said we inspired the dedication page and tells this story at every book signing."

Another sister, Mary Ann, met Russert at a book signing in San Francisco.

Barbara recalls that when the Bialke children presented their "Seventy-five Reasons" to their dad, "he was speechless for the first time in his life. He was absolutely overwhelmed."

When the children asked him which ones were the best ones, he replied through tears, "The ones I didn't think you remembered."

Barbara said her dad never picked a favorite among the 600 reasons, but said he was especially touched by the ones that were repeated over and over.

"He cherished this booklet the rest of his life, and during his last days, he asked our mother to read them to him each night until he fell asleep.

"Our father always knew we loved him, but yet it was so important to tell him why," Barbara says. "We are so thankful we gave him this gift before it was too late. We were able to fully express our gratitude for all the love, hard work and guidance he gave to raise us eight children."


Barbara compiled an update on each of her siblings and chose one of the "reasons" each loved their dad.

Mary Ann Cruz, Class of '68, newspaper columnist, lives with her husband, Chuck, in San Francisco. "I love you because you raised me in a house always filled with lots of babies, a series of felines, a dog and tons of laughter and fun."

Claudia Debner, Class of '69, publications consultant, lives with her husband, Denny, in Eagan. They have five children. "I love you because no matter how much work you had on your desk or how long your list of projects was, I can't ever remember a time when you said you were too busy to talk to me when I needed you."

Kate Karger, Class of '72, senior travel manager, lives with her husband, Harve, in Maple Grove. "I love you because you taught me that the best part of fishing isn't catching fish. It is enjoying nature, soaking up the sunrises, listening to the loons and just feeling at peace. I love all the hours we have spent fishing in the 'Dutch's Duchess,' talking and enjoying each other's company. Those moments I will treasure forever."

John Bialke, Class of '74, civil engineer, lives with his wife, Sheri, in Harrogate, England. They have two children. "I love the way you used to take us for a ride without telling us where we were going. I never knew whether we were going to Dairy Queen or going to rake leaves at St. Peter's Church."

Barbara Bishop, Class of '77, civil engineer, lives with her husband, Doug, and three children in South Bend, IN. "I love that you are charitable and taught us to be at an early age. I still remember putting an empty envelope in the offering plate after spending all my allowance on candy. I was terrified all week that someone from church was going to call you about the empty envelope marked 5 cents. I was never short again."

Bill Bialke, Class of '79, aerospace engineer, lives with his wife, Anne, and three children in Ithaca, NY. "I love you because you taught me the importance of a good credit rating."

Lt. Col. Joe Bialke, Class of '80, US Air Force Judge Advocate General, lives with his wife, Kathy, and three children in Birmingham, AL. "I love you because I saw a tear in your eye when you pinned on my Eagle Scout Medal."


Dave Bialke, Class of '84, attorney, lives with his wife, Dorothy, and two children in Maple Grove, but spends weekends at their cabin on Lake Belle Taine. "I love you because you never seemed to understand the economic benefits of having fewer than eight children."

Russert wrote he could see why the Bialke children's gift was the best their father ever received and credits Barbara with the idea as one not only for Father's Day but for Valentine's Day, a golden wedding anniversary, notable birthdays and Mother's Day.

"I can't imagine a more meaningful gift," Russert concludes.

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