“He is never ever, ever greedy or selfish. He is never unkind to any one. My dad is a kind, loving, gentle person. You can always count on my dad. That is why I know he is the best dad in the universe.”
That’s just part of what Jena told the Conroe Courier in a heartfelt letter that convinced its editors in June to name TDCJ correctional officer D.J. Stalinsky the newspaper’s Father of the Year for 2007. On Father’s Day, the paper ran a two-page feature on Stalinsky with color pictures of him at home in Conroe with his loving family, including a beaming Jena.
“She was excited. She let everybody know that the Courier was coming to interview her,” Stalinsky said.
Stalinsky, a security officer at the Holliday Transfer Facility in Huntsville the past 27 months, didn’t know about his selection or even that he’d been nominated for Father of the Year honors until the newspaper called him to set up the interview and photo shoot. At the time, Jena and her six-year-old sister, Holly, were staying with their grandmother off and on while Stalinsky and his wife, Suzie, prepared for the birth of their third daughter, Heather. The girls’ grandmother, a Courier reader, mentioned to Jena one day that the paper was sponsoring a Father of the Year contest.
“It was between her and her grandma,” Stalinsky said. “I asked her what made her do it. She said, ‘Well, you’re the best, daddy.’”
Stalinsky, 42, is the father of four children. He and his wife’s first child, Joshua, is now 20 and working in Louisiana. Before Heather was born in May, he said he made a conscious effort to spend more quality time with Jena and Holly so they wouldn’t be jealous of the new arrival.
“With the baby coming, I’d made an extra effort to spend time with her and Holly, trying to make them feel special,” he said.
“Even though I have a new sister my Daddy still gives all of his family members attention so there’s nothing to be jealous of,” Jena wrote in her letter to the newspaper. She went on to say how her dad always finds time to take her and Holly to their ball games and never fails to add to the collection plate at church on Sunday.
“It was touching,” Stalinsky said about his daughter’s letter. “You don’t think that you might touch lives like that. And I didn’t realize that she saw what she saw. But now I know. Kids see everything, things you might take for granted or think they wouldn’t notice. They really see what’s going on.”
Ironically, Stalinsky said when he and Suzie married he never thought they’d have four kids. But before he knew it and before he was really ready - Joshua was on the way.
“I was kind of scared,” he said. “But once he got here, it was like, ‘Wow!’ I couldn’t imagine life without kids, now.”
Stalinsky grew up in Conroe and says he raises his children much like his parents raised him and his siblings.
“Mostly, the parenting comes from my mother,” he said. “She was the one who never missed a ball game we played. She’s the one who went the extra mile for us. I just do what I do. I don’t even have to stop and think. It just comes natural.”
Stalinsky’s plans on retiring from the agency as his father-in-law did. In the meantime, he’ll enjoy watching his children grow.
“I think it’s being there for your kids, helping them grow and teaching them right from wrong,” he said about being a father. “It’s just loving them and enjoying them every minute you can because before you know it, they’re gone. I’m very lucky. I’m the luckiest guy alive.”