'He was always there for you': TODAY anchors share memories, lessons from Dad
After shining a spotlight all week on other fabulous “modern dads,” TODAY anchors opened up Friday about their own fathers and shared stories about the impact they had on their lives. Here’s a look at the dads who made our TODAY anchors who they are today, and the lessons they passed down to their children:
“The thing I most admire about my dad was his integrity and loyalty,” Savannah said about her father, Charlie Guthrie, who passed away when she was 16. “I always still hear his voice in my head: ‘Do the right thing even if you don't think anybody else is watching.'”
Savannah called her dad’s death devastating.
"I grew up with a father I adored, and we all revolved around him. And when he passed away it was life-shattering," she said. "The way I look back at it is there was life before my dad passed away and life after. I hope and wish somehow he could know that he's as important today as he ever was.”
Mario Morales Jr., is “the most knowledgeable person I know,” Natalie said. “I always say if I ever ended up on one of those millionaire shows, he would be my lifeline.”
"The best words of advice my dad taught me: You'll get through those hard times. Life is about picking yourself up and continuing on and being stronger for all those little hits and misses along the way."
Natalie said her dad had a near-fatal stroke just three months before her wedding. He was 51 at the time.
“They weren't sure if he was going to make it,” she said. “But I remember at that time when I found out really thinking about how important it is that we say everything to our parents, and make sure that they know how much they have meant to us and how much we are who we are because of them.”
Albert Lincoln Roker was a “bigger-than-life character” who appeared "a little gruff on the outside, but you really didn't have to go very far underneath to find this big mush ball.”
Al recalled a fishing trip he and his father took in the Bahamas, where he was filming some special Food Network programs. He described the trip as bittersweet, because his father died from lung cancer six months later.
“And to look at him you'd have no idea that anything was wrong,” he said.
Al said his father embraced life as fully as he embraced people. He recalled how one Thursday afternoon, his dad came home and declared to his family, “We’re going to Montreal.”
He “just decided we're going to go to Expo '67. We didn't have tickets. We didn't have reservations. We had nothing. We had a new station wagon, and my father bundles us all up. Nobody does that. But my dad did it,” he said. “We’re singing songs on the radio and my mom had made chicken and sandwiches. It was one of the greatest times in my life.”
Carson’s father, James Thomas Daly, died when he was five, but he said he feels blessed that he got a second father, whom he also called "Dad" when his mom got remarried a few years later to a Dick Caruso.
Carson said one of the things he most admires about his stepfather is his work ethic.
“I remember hearing his dress shoes hit our wood floor in Santa Monica as he would be leaving to work at about 5:00 in the morning. Every day, I would wake up and go, ‘Wow, there's Dad, going to work,’” Carson said. His father didn't return until 6:30 at night.
"But family meant everything to him and he worked hard to provide for us.”
J. Robert Lauer nearly always said “yes” to a game of catch with his son.
"My dad was the most reliable man ... I'd ever met. No matter what was happening in your life, how big or how little your needs were, he was always there for you," Matt recalled. "I must have had 500,000 baseball catches with my dad. And we had some of our best talks, father-son talks, during those little catches.”
Matt saw his father a little less once his parents divorced when he was 8 years old.
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“I saw him on weekends and a couple of weeks every summer. I remember him with incredible fondness and love. But I also remember him as being someone I wish I could've been around more often,” he said.
Matt said his father, who died just a few months after he started anchoring for TODAY, nurtured his love for golf.
“I would go play golf with my dad on weekends. It wasn't about learning the game. It wasn't about the score,” he said. “It was about four and a half hours alone with my dad.”
More than anything else, Bill Geist is a funny man, according to his son Willie. He’s also kind, humble and the type of dad who completely left his work behind him once he came home each night.
“The first thing he would do is say, ‘I’m going to put on my home clothes,’ and once the home clothes were on, he was with us,” Willie recalled.
Willie said his dad also is a considerate person whose ability to respect everyone around him is a trait he hopes to pass along to his own children.
“Whether it’s the president of the United State, the guy delivering your pizza or whoever it is you come across in the day, treat them equally, and I’ve watched my dad do that,” he said.
Clarence Newton Sr. may not have been Tamron Hall’s biological father, but very early in her life he “took in two children who were not his own and loved us with every breath that he could take," she said.
Tamron said her father played a huge role in fostering her love for journalism.
“My dad said, ‘If the door says, ‘Do not enter,’ if there’s something wrong happening on the other side, go in that door,’ which helped me as a young reporter,” she said.
Tamron said the last time her dad saw her on television, it was one of her earlier appearances on TODAY.
“He was in the hospital and he said he heard my voice and he woke up and he’s like, ‘There’s my girl.’”