I am a fortunate person who had the benefit of having a wonderful father who was in my life until I was 14. Although I have spent a lot of time wondering why I was unfortunate to have lost my dad unexpectedly when both he and I were too young for his untimely passing, I can sometimes adopt the perspective that, unlike many people I know, 14 years with a great dad is truly remarkable. My dad, Park T. Pigott, Sr., was not only a hero to me; he was a hero to many people. He spent countless hours coaching young men in baseball; he donated considerable time to charitable causes, such as The American Legion; he was always ready to lend a helping hand to anyone who needed him; and he always found time for me. Depending on who you ask (or your perspective), I was either “an accident” or “a gift from God,” in that I was born to parents who were in their 40s and who already had what most people would consider a perfect family, two handsome and talented sons. I was Daddy’s girl from the start. I can still feel the excitement I experienced every day when he arrived home from work. Regardless of what I was doing or where I was, I always came home just a little before he was due to arrive, so that I could run, as fast as possible, to greet him. He must have had many other things to do, but he never acted like it. He made me feel like I was the most important person in his life, not to mention the entire universe. Watching him make speeches to large audiences gave me the self confidence to do the same thing. Dad also told me many important things, including to be myself, and if other people don’t like me just the way I am, not to worry. We had interesting conversations every evening at dinner time, including political discussions and other current events; during these discussions, I was encouraged to share my opinions, even if they differed from his. When we went on family trips across the United States, Mexico, and Canada, I was always the navigator. I still enjoy map reading, a skill I learned from my dad. (And I rarely get lost!) During our long road trips, Dad ensured all of us had equal time to listen to the music of our choice. My vote for rock and roll music carried equal weight to my dad’s choice of country and western music or my mom’s selection of classical or gospel music. I was never treated by my dad as a child, or with anything less than dignity and respect. I was never shamed, rarely scolded, and certainly not slapped, spanked, or made to feel badly. Since my dad passed away, countless people have shared their stories with me about how my dad helped them, changed their life, or made them who they are today. Few people I have ever met have had as many positive things to say about their fathers as I can say about mine. My dad, to me, was, and still remains, my biggest hero.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Park Pigott, Sr., but I’ve heard so many stories, from a variety of sources, so I have come to understand his status as personal hero for Melissa, and her family, and a local hero in Ft. Myers. I mean, there is a baseball stadium named for him, so he obviously impacted many people. He is a legend to those whom he impacted. Many of those were baseball players at various levels, from children to professional players on the Pirates and Royals teams. Over the years I have heard people reminisce about their experiences growing up and the influence Park Pigott had on them. And, I’ve been impressed with his environmental foresight as parks director in encouraging Lee County and the State of Florida to preserve land and create parks on land that surely would otherwise have been developed, including Cayo Costa and Koreshan State Parks. Having been born in the early 1900s and growing up in the wilds of Ft. Myers surely influenced his life, especially given the experiences he had with other Ft. Myers legends, the Edisons. Perhaps Thomas Edison’s work with plants helped form Park Pigott’s understanding of the importance of the natural environment, though I’ll never know. But, what is clear is that Park Pigott saw sports, parks, and recreational activities as more than just fun. They were a learning tool, and a teaching tool. And, as Melissa mentioned, family vacations were often to national parks and landmarks. Probably this was part of his drive to create parks in SW Florida. But, he also used his interest in photography and movie making to document these travels, and then, using these images and movies to share with family, friends, and others, to educate them on these wonderful natural treasures, well before television brought these images home. And, he documented the development of Lee County, creating a record and archive of different times, before growth explosions that forever changed the area. We have recently revisited some of these images, utilizing modern technology to digitize slide film, and it has been like a step back in time to see some of these places. I certainly would have related well to him as a photographer, and seeing his archive reminds me of the power of images. Heroes come in many shapes and sizes, and while is easy to see why her Dad was Melissa’s hero, it is even more amazing to see how his influence was felt by so many, even those of us who will never know him.
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