Words of Wisdom From My Dad, Jay Lehman

Editor’s Note: In memory of our founder Jay Lehman (1929 – 2020), we are rerunning a touching article his son, Galen, wrote for Father’s Day a couple of years ago.  This is in honor of Jay’s birthday, April 21, when he would have turned 92.  Rest in peace, Jay.  We miss you.

In so many ways, our fathers are our first teachers. Often, they’re our most important teachers throughout our lifetimes. My dad, Jay Lehman, has been teaching me my whole life, first as a parent, and then as the only boss I’ve ever had. (I started sweeping floors at Lehman’s at age 15!) 

My dad has taught me to love nature. Here he is planting hundreds of hardwood seedlings around our office and warehouse building.

Many of Jay’s sayings are beloved and used often in our family. Here are ten of them. His wit and wisdom are treasures to us.

  1. Do what needs to be done.
  2. Nobody works harder than a farmer.
  3. Lead by example … don’t tell people how to act. Show people how to act.
  4. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day.
  5. You make a better door than a window (when someone’s blocking his view of something).
  6. You can call me anything. Just don’t call me late for dinner.
  7. Good manners are important. Keep one foot on the floor when reaching across the table.
  8. Money doesn’t grow on trees. I know, I have planted lots of trees.
  9. Pass the pie, please.
  10. To whom much is given, much is expected.


One of the great father/son traditions in our family is making homemade ice cream together. After a few generations of practice, we Lehman men consider ourselves “homemade ice cream connoisseurs.” A couple years back my dad, myself and my son Matthew got together at our offices and warehouse to share this delicious tradition with our employees. Here’s how that went:

Another great tradition my dad and I have enjoyed together is planting trees around our homes and properties. In fact, we’ve lost track of how many tens of thousands of hardwoods we’ve planted over the past few decades. My guess is somewhere around 50,000 and probably more than 40 acres.

200 years ago, when the first settlers arrived here, the land was covered with hardwood trees. It is said that you could walk from one side of Ohio to the other without seeing the sky.

For one thing, most of the trees back then were chestnuts. Some of the beams in the oldest parts of our store, reconstructed from barns and cabins dating to the early 1800’s, are made of chestnut. A few lonely chestnut trees still stand near our our Kidron store. Somehow, they survived the blight that nearly wiped out the American Chestnut back in the 1950’s.

We’ve planted nearly all hardwoods. We like to mix walnut, oak, cherry and sugar maple. This should allow a sustainable harvest of quality hardwood over the next 100 years (if the caretakers who follow me after I’m gone avoid wasteful clear-cutting and treat my Dad’s legacy with respect).

I suppose Dad and I are just trying to put things back the way we found them. Now this “hobby” has been passed down to my son Matthew as well – and hopefully, to future generations!

Dad enjoys driving his Model T in local parades. Here he lets a little one “take the wheel.”

Originally published in June 2017.

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