By JoAnn DeCesaris Wellington

My father was the type of person you couldn’t miss when he walked in a room. It wasn’t that he was a big “talker” but rather when he did speak it was something you wanted to hear.

Geaton A. DeCesaris, Jr. was kind, smart, generous beyond words and most of all, loving. He was a strict, tough dad, but he would smother us in so much love that we always felt safe.

Some of my favorite memories of my father are trips he would take my sisters and I on, like rides in the car to his job sites and Sunday morning breakfast before church. He never took anything for granted, always soaking up every moment and memory. Whenever he was with us he would always say “what a treat!”

When my father was diagnosed with lung cancer, he turned to prayer, which was always the center of his life. We gathered friends and family to pray together to give him strength during a challenging time. His positive attitude, spirit and drive inspired all of us.  When doctors gave him just a couple of months to live, he would say “someone has to be that 1% and it will be me.” We were fortunate to have my father four years longer than anyone would have thought and we made the most of every moment we had together.

I am now a mother of two beautiful babies and three amazing step-children. My daughter is named after my mother and my son after my father. My baby boy has a big name to live up to. I pray that he is like my father with his drive for life, work, family and faith.

Prior to his diagnosis, my father had started a family foundation. Once he was diagnosed and learned more about lung cancer, he directed the foundation’s efforts to cancer research and treatment. Since my father’s passing, my mother, sisters and I are still the board members of the family foundation. We have been fortunate to find organizations like Lung Cancer Alliance whose hard work and dedication contribute to the great strides being made in lung cancer research and treatment.

Sunday, July 23 is National Parents’ Day, a day to honor and thank our parents. Each day is Parents’ Day for me. My father is always with me, whether it be in the smile of a stranger or the embrace of my children.