A Father’s Day tribute

Four families share what they love about their dads


Southsider Danny Green describes an early childhood of poverty, living with his single mother and four sisters.

When he was 13, his mother remarried and the family relocated from Michigan to Columbus, Ind., where Danny’s stepfather went to work for Cummins Engine Plant.

“It saved my life,” Danny said of the move. “We only saw one side of life in Michigan, and it was the bad side.”

In Columbus, Danny was surprised to see that Black people had air conditioning in the summer, warm homes in the winter and enough food to keep everybody’s belly full.

Jobs and career opportunities were available to everyone.

“I saw Black people make goals,” he said with a grin.

After high school graduation, he went to work for the City of Columbus.

Eighteen years later, Danny started driving Bartholomew County school buses.

Now he drives for Franklin Township.

Driving a school bus allows opportunities to talk with students about real-life choices.

Back row: Christian, 23; Brandys, 38; Brayln, 29; Jeasun, 39; Brittany, 36; and Parker, 21.
Front row: Seth, 34; Keairra, 15; and Danni, 27. (Not pictured: Anna Marie, age 1) (Submitted photo)

This busy guy with a soft spot for kids also plays several instruments and sings in a church choir. These talents might have been in his DNA since Danny is the nephew of Al Green, one of the country’s most famous R&B artists.

Danny is also a minister and operates a cleaning business with Tessa, his wife of 10 years.

He also has 10 kids, five boys and five girls, ranging from little 1-year-old Anna Marie to age 40.

All of her adult life, Tessa was unable to conceive and believed she would never have a biological child.

She and Danny were not only shocked but thrilled when she became pregnant.

“We have our little miracle baby,” Danny said. “What’s one more?”

Their large family, which includes 15 grandchildren and one on the way, is a busy but fun crowd filled with lots of laughter.

“I have fun with all my kids,” Danny said. “You’ll never get that time back again.”

Danny’s oldest son, Jason, lives in Florida.

Other than the baby, Danny’s second youngest daughter, Keairra, 16, is the only one still living at home.

“You really have to pay attention to your kids and know how to work with them differently, for their own uniqueness,” he said of fatherhood. “Finding out what it takes to help each one succeed, finding that balance without being overbearing, that’s important.”


When other kids on the playground made fun of Dakkota Parkinson’s younger brother, the feisty 8-year-old joined her brother on the play equipment and perfectly copied his behavior.

It was a protective move toward “Jakey,” as she still calls him, the little brother she didn’t understand.

And it was an act of love.

Dakkota was too young to fully grasp the meaning of autism.

She also didn’t know words like advocacy and empathy, but from very young ages, she and her other siblings naturally acted on those skills.

Childhood with Jake sometimes felt unfair.

When Dakkota and Joshua, Jake’s twin, couldn’t participate in some activities because the environment might not be good for Jake, or plans were canceled because Jake wasn’t having a good day, she got upset, like any other child would.

“I’m ashamed to say I was a little jealous,” Dakkota added.

The Parkinson family is one of more than 200,000 families each year with a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Because autism impacts the nervous system, communication and social interaction impairments are vastly different and unique to each person’s diagnosis.

It is presented as a spectrum to reflect individual abilities and needs.

“Jake scripts lines from Disney movies and repeats questions,” said his dad, Ron Parkinson of the Southside.

However, Jake cannot verbalize frustration or physical ailments, like a stomachache or headache.

Guessing the “trigger” for his meltdowns is often a mystery.

“One of the hardest things is when my brother is upset but we can’t figure out what the reason is for the outburst,” said Dakkota, now 23. “Sometimes it’s simple. But most of the time, it’s not.”

Next month, Jake and Joshua celebrate their 22nd birthday.

Like Dakkota, Joshua and their older siblings, Ashlee and Amanda also focus on building their futures.

But the soft spot for Jake is always there for all of them.

After more than two decades of being Jake’s dad, Ron Parkinson understands a lot about his son.

“Jake is all about routine,” he said. “He loves to swim. But when we can’t swim for nine months, it takes some prompting to get him to swim again.”

Encouraging Jake, being positive and carefully observing moments when he is getting upset help to understand his needs.

“Again, it’s all about routine,” Ron said. “When Jake does have a meltdown, I try to redirect him and keep my words to a minimum.”

A daily routine helps Jake to feel calm.

Breakfast is the same, four bite-size cupcakes and five donut holes.

When Jake suddenly preferred corn dogs, chips and French fries after months of eating nothing but bacon cheeseburgers and breakfast sandwiches, Ron quickly made the menu change.

A corndog, chips and French fries.

Every day.

Southsider Ron Parkinson with his son Jacob. (Photo by Sherri Coner)

No one understands why, but Jake also feels anxious when riding in a vehicle.

To ensure his son’s safety for the duration of a ride, Ron invested in a Buckle Boss seat belt guard on Amazon, which prevents Jake from unbuckling the seatbelt.

Most of the time, Jake is an early riser … as in 4 a.m.

“Every once in a while, he stays in bed until maybe 5:30 a.m.,” Ron said with a laugh. “And I’m in my bed thinking, ‘Thank you, Lord.’”

Though Ron devotes many hours to Jake’s well-being, he is equally devoted to his other children, all hard-working adults.

Oldest daughter Ashlee, 40, is a single mother of three and a prominent Indianapolis realtor.

Daughter Amanda Matula, 25, is a stay-at-home mom with a 4-year-old son.

Dakkota is a pharmacy technician living in Bedford, Ind.

“And Joshua, Jake’s twin, is successful in his line of work and always strives to be at his best potential,” Ron said with a smile. “My daughters are both great mothers, too.”

Everyone in the Parkinson family adjusts and readjusts to Jake’s idiosyncrasies.

Jake takes three baths daily.

Every TV in the house must be on the same channel.

Jake repeatedly writes down all 73 Thomas the Train characters, in exactly the same way.

Comparing one page to the next of his writing might lead someone to assume that Jake traced the list, from one page to another.

But none of it is traced.

Instead, it is meticulous.

In the Parkinson household, patience is equally as important as a daily routine.

“When you think you’re out of patience, just dig a little deeper,” Ron said.

This young man who loves artwork and movies and water has taught his family a lot about the mysterious world of autism.

He has also taught them a lot about unconditional love.

“When he randomly comes to give me a simple hug, it’s not like any other hug from someone,” Dakkota said. “It’s a hug that, as soon as your arms link, you just smile from ear to ear, with pure joy. At that moment, all Jakey wants is a hug from me.”

Ron agreed.

“Jake’s hugs are sincere and heartwarming,” he said.


For 15 years, Haley Miller and Todd Ireland were close friends.

When their paths occasionally crossed, they comfortably laughed and talked.

Then Haley, an only child, faced her mother’s serious and eventually fatal illness.

That’s when Todd, her longtime friend, unexpectedly showed up at the hospital.

“I’ve loved Todd as a friend for a long time,” Haley said. “But the moment I knew it was meant to be was when he dropped everything to be there with me. No questions asked. He swooped in like that prince on the white stallion that you read about in fairy tales.”

They added dating to their friendship and eventually introduced their children to one another.

Eighteen months later, they were married.

That ceremony took place last March on St. Patrick’s Day, to honor Todd’s last name.

Todd’s son Bennett Ireland, 7, was the ring bearer.

Haley’s daughter Emily Miller, 8, was the flower girl and her son, Jacob, 10, walked his mom down the aisle.

Southsiders Jacob Miller, 10; Todd and Haley Ireland; Emily Miller, 8; and Bennett Ireland, 7, have happily blended their families.(Submitted photo)

Some dads lounge in front of the TV, but not this dad.

“He’s funny and makes me laugh and he’s really nice,” Jacob said. “And he taught me how to fix my PlayStation. He teaches me soccer stuff.”

According to Bennett, the youngest of the crew, adding two siblings to his life is working out pretty well. There’s always someone to play with, fuss with and laugh with.

Goodnight hugs from daddy rank high on Bennett’s list.

Dad teaching him the ropes about riding his bike was also a favorite.

When Todd isn’t roughhousing with the boys, his attention is on Emily.

“He gives me tickles,” she said. “I can’t even count how many he gave me. He’s taught me lots, just a lot he shows me, bunches.

Her new husband adds a lot of joy to the home, Haley said.

“Todd is truly 100 percent my best friend. He is just there for me and our children,” she said.

For Todd’s first Father’s Day as a married man with three kids under their Southside roof instead of only Bennett, Haley wanted to make sure his huge heart was celebrated.

“He is amazing,” she said of Todd’s daddy role. “He is hands-on, active, involved. He truly loves and cares for his son and his bonus kids. We are truly a team and it’s amazing.”


Five children, two dogs, a couple of fish, one hamster, a rooster, a few chickens and a dad who happily stays engaged.

According to Southsider Melissa Northrop, her husband, Charles is very deserving of his “Superman” nickname.

When the couple welcomed triplets, Zoey, Liam and Myles 12 years ago, Charles very naturally stepped into fatherhood and the sleep deprivation that came along with it.

He became the family rock.

“He carries the weight of our family on his shoulders and does so without complaining,” Melissa said. “He works hard so I can stay home and homeschool our children.”

Fifteen months after the triplets were born, Maizey came along, and then 9-year-old Matilda.

“He likes to play with us,” Zoey said. “And he taught me how to shoot my bow and arrow.”

Any time she feels bored, this oldest daughter seeks out her dad’s attention.

“I tell him about what happened during the day,” Zoey said.

Making music is another way Charles stays connected to his children.

“He plays guitar, piano and drums,” Liam said. “And he helps me with piano and drums.”

Miles strums guitar with dad.

“Sometimes he takes us antiquing,” Miles said. “He calls it treasure hunting. It’s still fun, though.”

Southside family, Melissa and Charles Northrop with their five children, Myles, 12, Liam, 12, Maizey, 11, Zoey, 12 and Matilda, 9. (Submitted photo)

Their family plays video games like Goldeneye and board games.

“They all love playing nerf gun battles throughout the house,” Melissa said. “I think one of his favorite days was when the kids first learned how to play rummy and we spent almost six hours playing rummy in our living room, laughing and joking.”

“He works from home a lot,” Maizey said. “He likes to go to Denny’s.”

Charles also takes the kids hunting and fishing.

Matilda notices when Dad does something spectacular.

“One time he caught two fish on one hook,” Matilda said. “And they were both pretty good-sized fish.”

Their dad says things like, “You kids are so blessed. You have a cush life,” Maizey said.

“Even when he’s not home, he calls us to say prayers,” Miles said.

“It is the same prayer his dad said with him every night when he was a little boy,” Melissa said.

Miles has Tourette’s Syndrome in common with dad.

“He had it when he was a kid and he knows what it’s like,” Miles said. “He’s kind and funny and nice.”

“And he makes a lot of bad jokes,” Maizey added with a laugh.