March 1 2018 08:00 AM

This is a message of gratitude to my late father on his birthday.

The last photo I have of my three children with their grandfather in March 2016. He died May 1 of the same year.

My dad and me pose for a quick photo at the Hoard's Dairyman farm in October 2011.

Dear Dad: Happy birthday to a father I have always admired and looked up to. I have many good memories with you in it. From days of playing a game of pick up in the front yard, to racing you with the tractor in the back 40, to waiting up with Mary for you to get done milking so we could get jelly beans. Aw, those were the days.

I was so blessed to have you for a father. You grew up poor, but always had a strong soul and knew you would build a better life. You did just that. You joined the Marines, graduated from Oregon State University (as did I), and dairied for nearly 40 years.

My dad milking cows in the early 80's with our one employee, Kenny.

Through all your successes, you are most proud of your personal ones. You married Mom, an admiral’s daughter, more than five decades ago. Together, you two had six children and 16 grandchildren. You raised us strictly: to behave well, to work hard, to strive for our dreams, to be honest and loyal, and to laugh. We all did just that.

You told me many moons ago that you saw me driving taxicab in a large city or writing for Hoard's Dairyman. I know your smile stretches wide every month, when my Around the Kitchen Table column comes out. You are well known throughout the country. Your stories have been told and your lessons have been shared. People feel like they know you, as if you were their father or their friend. Your character, big smile, and soul stretch for miles on end.

My daughter Cassie with her grandfather on my childhood dairy farm in February 2007.

Life makes its uncertain twists and turns. You and Mom know that better than most. Through it all, you have been able to hold your head high and persevere. Watching your strength and spirit has shaped me for the better. It has allowed me to face my own uncertainties and struggles with the same character and humility—and I for one am most grateful.

So here is saluting you, Robert Morris Davidson, a man who I am blessed and honored to call both my father and my life coach. Today, we celebrate you by moving heifers as a family unit and coming inside to enjoy a warm batch of chocolate chip cookies and a cold glass of milk. You are loved so very much and missed each and every day. Happy 78th birthday in Heaven, Dad.



Karen Bohnert

Karen Bohnert is a second generation dairy farmer, born and raised on her family dairy in Oregon and moved east after graduating from Oregon State University. Karen and her husband work in partnership with family, and they along with their three children live and work on the family's 500 Jersey cow dairy in East Moline, Ill. Karen's pride and love for dairy could fill a barn, and she actively promotes dairy anyway she can.