For centuries, nations around the world have set aside a customary day to honor fatherhood. A traditional Catholic holiday, Father’s Day has been recognized in some way dating back to the Middle Ages. Father’s Day traditionally took place on March 19, the date the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of St. Joseph. In the United States, some celebrations in the early twentieth century led many to believe their town had created the holiday. However, the efforts of Sonora Smart Dodd really spurred on the ongoing tradition of honoring fathers on June 5—her father’s birthday. It was he who raised Sonora and her siblings on his own.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be until 58 years later, in 1972, that an official day—the third Sunday in June—would be adopted. Although intended as a day of celebration, the following examines ten unimaginable events that turned Father’s Day into an agonizing memory of profound sorrow.
10 “Float Don’t Fight”
On Father’s day 2018, Austin and Ali Joy were in Atlantic Beach with their twin daughters for a weekend getaway. As the family enjoyed a brisk dip in the ocean, a rip current came sweeping in. Within moments, the twins had been dragged further out by the forceful tide. Ali and Austin immediately swam in pursuit of their daughters, only to get caught up in the rip current themselves. Several Marines who happened to be surfing nearby witnessed the family in distress from a distance.
Unable to swiftly reach them, the Marines shouted orders to “float on their backs.” Minutes that seemed like hours would pass before the men were able to reach the Joys, bringing all but one ashore. Sadly, Austin would never emerge from the water. Since that fateful Father’s day, Ali has made it her mission to use her family’s tragedy to save lives. Launching her “Float Don’t Fight” campaign, Ali has spread awareness about how one can survive a rip current with one simple message: conserve your energy and float. “Do not struggle against the current. You will wear yourself out.”
9 Parking Spot
William Fernandez encountered David Hall for the first time in January 2018 while parking his car on a residential street. Hall—known for arguing with neighbors about parking—immediately became incensed that Fernandez, 33, took his “spot.” A heated exchange ensued for several minutes before both parties went their own way. For Hall, however, their feud was far from over.
Stewing with anger for five months, Hall exacted his revenge in the early morning hours of June 17, Father’s Day. While crossing paths yet again, Hall 47 drew his gun and began firing. With Fernandez fleeing on foot, Hall gave chase, shooting as he ran. Despite being shot in the chest, Fernandez ran two blocks before he collapsed and died mere hours before spending a quiet Father’s Day with his four children, who had made gifts for their dad. After three weeks of being on the run, Hall was finally captured and charged with murder in a Brooklyn criminal court. In February 2020, he was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years to life.
8 Cheesecake Aficionado
In June 2019, Milwaukee police were called to the home of an unresponsive five-year-old boy. Upon entering the residence, it was abundantly clear to officers that the child was dead. His father, Travis Stackhouse, had just returned from a bar after a night of boozing with friends. Initially, Stockdale told authorities that his son had fallen down the stairs earlier in the day, a version his 6-year-old son would soon challenge. Confiding in officers, the boy claimed that his father had struck his brother hours before, prompting police to arrest the father of five.
Matters only got worse for Stackhouse when the medical examiner’s office reported the child had suffered a torn adrenal gland, bruised kidneys, and a ruptured stomach, evidence of blunt force trauma. Eventually, the 30-year-old dad confessed to “punching” his son after discovering that the boy had eaten a slice of cheesecake he had received for Father’s Day. Pleading guilty to second-degree homicide, child abuse, and child neglect, Stackhouse was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
7 Final Outing
Brian Calhoun had one request for his dad, William, on Father’s Day in 2006: To spend the entire day together as father and son. After a memorable afternoon at the movies followed by dinner, the two returned to their Long Island home when the unthinkable occurred. As William, 59, rested on the sofa watching television, a car came crashing into the living room. Frantically rummaging through the rubble, Brian, 25, found his father pinned between the couch and the kitchen wall. “Looking at him, I knew he was going to die. I wanted to speak to him before he died,” Brian said. “I knelt down in front of him. I let him know how much I loved him. I let him know he doesn’t need to worry and that I’ll take care of my little brother. I kissed him on the forehead, and then he was gone.”
The driver of the car, 28-year-old Richard Mair, was fleeing from police at 145kph (90mph) after being spotted in a drug deal in a neighboring town. Mair was subsequently found guilty of DWI and causing a death while fleeing police and sentenced to 7 to 14 years in prison. Sadly, William—a Vietnam veteran—was planning on retiring in just six months after 40 yers on the job.
6 Savage Butchery
Officers responding to a 911 dispatch could never have prepared for the bloodbath they were about to encounter on Father’s Day in 2018. After arriving at the scene, police were met by frantic neighbors helplessly standing in the street as deafening screams of horror echoed from a Utah residence. Inside was 44-year-old Abe Martinez, who had recently been paroled from federal prison and was now holding his grandparents hostage at knifepoint.
According to officers, Abe had some type of “score to settle” with his grandparents, unbeknown to them. At one point during the standoff, the crazed parolee began slicing and dicing his grandmother Rose before demonstrating his butchery skills on his grandfather. Amid the mayhem, SWAT officers managed to gain a clear view of the attack through a window, allowing them to seize the opportunity to open fire. With Abe’s bullet-riddled body lying dead on the floor, police stormed the residence where they found the grandfather, 71, clinging to life. As for Rose Martinez, 89, she, unfortunately, was pronounced dead at the scene. To date, it remains unknown to authorities what sparked the slaughter.
6 June 17, 2001
Three months before the attacks on 9/11, New York witnessed the tragic deaths of firefighters John Downing, 40, Brian Fahey, 46, and Harry Ford, 50. On that fateful Father’s Day in June, two troubled youths accidentally started a fire in a hardware store that spread into the cellar creating a “chemically-fed” building-buckling explosion. The blast catapulted firefighters out into the street while fiery rubble rained down on Ford and Downing, burying them alive.
At the same time, Fahey was sucked down from the first floor into the cellar, never to be seen alive again. Within seconds, eight children had become fatherless on a day meant to be spent and celebrated with their dads. Returning to the site years later, firefighter Richie Schmidt—who was off duty when he raced to the fire—reflected on that dreadful day stating, “I just have a real empty feeling. This was as bad as it could get. We never thought it could get any worse—but it did. So many guys who were here that day didn’t get through ‘The Eleventh.’”
4 Robert Farquharson
On September 4, 2005, passerby Shane Atkinson came across Robert Farquharson dripping wet beside the highway in Winchelsea, Australia. Farquharson, 37, was spending Father’s Day with his sons—Jai, 10; Tyler, 7; and Bailey, 2—when their car suddenly veered across oncoming lanes, crashing through a fence and into a pond. Upon Atkinson inquiring about the children, Farquharson—who claimed to have blacked out during a coughing fit—refused to return to the pond or even call the police. Instead, he went to the home of his estranged wife, Cindy Gambino, telling her, “I’ve had an accident. I couldn’t get the kids. They’re in the water. It’s too late.”
The following day, divers retrieved the boys’ bodies 7.6 meters (25 feet) below the surface. Investigators immediately became suspicious, questioning how a father could abandon his sons and fail to call for help. Their big break came when Farquharson’s friend, Greg King, came forward with damning testimony. Recounting a conversation the two had months prior, Farquharson was bitter that Gambino had moved on with another man and was determined to “pay her back big time.”
According to King, Farquharson went on to detail plans he had about a watery “accident” on Father’s day, explaining, “And then every Father’s Day she would suffer for the rest of her life.” King’s testimony ultimately sealed Farquharson’s fate leading to a sentence of life imprisonment.
3 Milperra Massacre
On September 2, 1984, rival biker gangs—the Bandidos and the Comancheros—encountered one another in the parking lot of the Viking Tavern in Milperra, Australia. Within minutes, the family barbecue-market day turned into a battleground. From wielding baseball bats and chains to guns being fired in all directions, screaming bystanders dove for cover behind cars and walls.
Caught in the crossfire was a 14-year-old girl selling raffle tickets; she was shot in the head by the blast of a shotgun. Only adding to the gruesome scene was a biker who had his arm chopped off with a machete. In the end, more than 100 police from 19 divisions—including the Tactical Response Group, the Special Weapons, and Operations team—responded to the chaos ending the Father’s Day barbecue bloodbath. Of the dozens injured, seven people would lay dead amid the carnage, with more than 30 men arrested and at least 500 witnesses present and willing to testify.
2 The Flynn Family
Repeatedly posing a “great danger to others” while driving drunk, David Logan had managed to evade any consequences for years. Fate, however, caught up to the 48-year-old boozer in the most horrifying way imaginable. Doing what he knew best on Father’s Day, June 21, 2020, an inebriated Logan was speeding through the streets of Abbey Road at around 80.5kph (50mph) before jumping the curb and crashing head-on into Josh Flynn, 37, and his children Coby-Jay, 15, and Skylar, 12. The family, including their dog, was pronounced dead at the scene.
At trial, witnesses stated Logan showed no remorse as the Flynns’ lifeless bodies lay on the road beside him. Instead, his only concern was finding his phone while telling bystanders to “F**k off.” At first, Logan pleaded innocent, claiming a coughing fit had led him to blackout. However, he changed his plea to guilty once faced with the evidence against him. As a result, he was sentenced the following year to 10 years and 10 months in prison.
As for the one left behind, wife and mother Emma Flynn bravely fought through tears while reading her statement at Logan’s trial; “It’s not fair. It is too much for me to handle. I would give anything to have my old life back… My husband, my kids, my dog were brutally ripped away from me by the actions of David Logan.”
1 Father’s Day Bank Massacre
On the morning of June 16, 1991, United Bank security guard William McCollum was ambushed by a gunman disguised in a hat and sunglasses. After being forced into a service elevator, McCollum and the perpetrator rode two stories down, where the unarmed guard was killed execution-style. The gunman then proceeded to make his way into the guard room, surprising and executing guards Todd Wilson, Philip Mankoff, and Scott McCarthy. After ransacking the Denver bank vault, the killer made off with $197,080 and disappeared.
Believing all along that it was an inside job, investigators zeroed in on James King. King, a former police officer and security guard at United Bank, had shaved off his mustache following the robbery-homicide and admitted to disposing of his .38-caliber police service revolver. To top it all off, five tellers who saw the gunman identified King as the killer. Despite all the evidence described as “circumstantial,” King was acquitted the following year. He forever lived a hermit’s existence, dying with dementia in June 2013. To date, King remains the only suspect in the cold case.