Carl Fuentes Is A Happy Father

The Dallas Morning News
June 17, 2001


This One’s A Model of Fatherhood

Happy Father’s Day! And what better way to celebrate than talking about a Happy Father?

Boy, is Carl Fuentes a happy father. And it’s thanks to many of you.

Carl is also an extraordinarily faithful father. And it’s thanks to … well, I’m not sure what. It’s certainly not his own upbringing.

Today, I’m glad to bring an upbeat update on Carl and his darling daughter, Shannon. But on this Father’s Day I’m most pleased to bring a reminder that great fathers can come from even the most fractured of families.

Gift of a lifetime

Back in April, I wrote about Carl and the incredible stresses he was facing as the single father of a severely disabled child.

Shannon, who turned 2 last Sunday, suffered complications at birth that left her blind, paralyzed and profoundly brain damaged. But she’s the cutest blond, blue-eyed cherub you ever saw.

Last year, her mother moved away and took up with someone new. But Carl has been the most faithful of fathers, caring for Shannon even when it took him to the brink of poverty and exhaustion.

That’s when many generous readers entered the picture. By the time all your donations came in, Carl had received just over $50,000!

Carl is still agog. “I can’t believe it. It’s awesome,” he said.

“I’m using it carefully,” he quickly added. His old rattletrap truck has been replaced by a newer used one. The bills are all paid up, and a good bit of the money is safely tucked away.

Best of all, Shannon is thriving. When I last visited, she had just undergone a tracheotomy to help her breathe. It has made a big difference. She has gained weight and is more alert.

I’ll tell you, when she smiles at the sound of her daddy’s voice, it will melt your heart.

Rough start

But the thing I didn’t have room to mention in that last column was Carl’s background. His example as a steadfast dad is all the more remarkable because he never knew his own father. On top of that, he grew up in a bizarre, abusive religious group.

In short, Carl is supposed to be one of the victims of the fatherless society we talk about. Instead, he’s a role model of responsible fatherhood.

Carl was only a year old when his father left, never to return. “I have no idea what the man even looks like,” he said.

Soon his mother joined a strange, cultlike church in Arkansas called the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation. Many of you remember the weirdness that went on after Susan died. First her body was on display for months as followers prayed for her resurrection. Later, the body disappeared and was hidden for years while Tony was in prison for tax evasion.

There were allegations of child abuse in the group, and Carl said he can attest that was true. “I took some terrible beatings,” he said.

He ran away at 15 and became a ward of the state, bouncing from one foster home to another. For that, he blames himself. “I had an attitude,” he said. “A real bad attitude.”

He credits his turnaround to a foster mother who refused to quit loving him. When he mentions “Mom,” he means the late Linda Palmer. “She didn’t get scared away by a hoodlum of a kid.”

Carl scoffs at any notion that he’s a role model sort of father. He said he simply tries to be the kind of father he would have wanted.

“I just take care of my kid,” he said. “I’m not the All-American Dad, by any stretch.”

Well, he gets my vote for All-World Dad. And you win in the category of world’s best, most generous readers.

In: 2000-2007

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