Rockwall YMCA recognizes Father of the Year

No matter how you choose to celebrate Father’s Day, you can thank a woman named Sonora Louise Smart Dodd for the tradition.

Father’s Day history begins with this resident of Spokane,Washington. She was the oldest of six children who were raised by their father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, after their mother died during childbirth. Listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909, Sonora made up her mind to establish a day to honor fathers.

With support from the Spokane Ministerial Association and the YMCA, the first Father’s Day was celebrated in Spokane on June 19, 1910 — a couple of weeks after Sonora’s father’s birthday. On that day, young members of the YMCA went to church wearing roses: a red rose to honor a living father, and a white rose to honor a deceased one.

Bart Miller and family. Photo by Bill Carter Photography.

In honor of Father’s Day the Rockwall Family YMCA selects a Father of the Year.

This year the honor is being given to Bart Miller, a board member for the Rockwall YMCA.  I spoke with Bart to find out more about his connection to the YMCA and what being a father means to him.  Bart and his wife of 20 years, Sandi, have three children Wyatt (15), Grant (13), and Josie (10).  Bart grew up in Rockwall and has been at the YMCA since he was little.  He played football in second grade, took swim lessons and participated in Indian Guides with his dad and even his grandpa would go on YMCA campouts with them.

He went to college and in the service and returned back to Rockwall in 1999 when he completed dental school.  In 2001 a neighbor of Bart’s asked him to serve on the YMCA board.  Bart has been very involved in the YMCA in many capacities. His wife, Sandi, says he has coached at least 15 youth YMCA teams over the past years. Both of their boys were involved in basketball, football, and soccer and their daughter in volleyball.  As they got older they now use the weight room, the basketball court or the volleyball and racquetball courts and Bart continues to use the Y as a way to play with and connect with his family.  You can often find him working out with his kids.

Sandi describes Bart as an extremely kind and humble man, and I saw that shine through in him as I interviewed him and we both did our best to pretend we weren’t getting teared up as he talked about the love he has for his family.

“Even when you are tired at the end of the day and the kids want you to go out and play or shoot hoops – remember, five years later they may not be asking anymore, so be there in the moment…” – Bart Miller

I asked Bart what it means to him to be a dad. He gives the credit to his family for the father that he is, to his wife Sandi for being a great partner, wife and mother; and he adds that he couldn’t be the parent that he is without her.  He also gives great honor to his parents saying his mother was great, never got upset and although she may talk your ear off, she was a great peacemaker and a kind person.  His father, Frank Miller, helped start the Rockwall YMCA.  What Bart most wants to emulate that he learned from his father was that he would always tell his children that he loved them- while they were sitting watching tv or any random moment.  His father made sure that his children always knew they were loved and that they were great kids.  Bart tries to do that with his own children, remembering that even when you are tired at the end of the day and the kids want you to go out and play or shoot hoops with them, remember, five years later they may not be asking anymore so be there in the moment.

As a father Bart wants to make sure his children are confident to do anything, for them to always know that they are loved and accepted and that they are safe to try and fail, and that they always have value in all moments.

I was able to speak with Bart’s son Grant as well.  I asked him what he wants people to know about his dad and he told me that he is always there to help him out and told me about something that he was recently building in the barn.  He didn’t remember what the object was, but what he did remember was how it felt having his dad there with him.  He said he put about 48 hours of work into building whatever it was and that his dad was there by his side helping him the whole time and it meant a lot to him.

He told me he would describe his dad as just being a great dad, always in a good mood, always there for me… “He’s the best dad there is.”  He told me that he remembers a couple of weeks ago he was out mowing outside of his dad’s office.  About half an hour after he left from mowing, someone ran into the sign outside of Bart’s office and what struck Grant the most was that his dad didn’t care about the sign, but was upset that it could have happened while he was still out there.  My favorite quote from Bart’s son was, “He really does like me!” 

Liz Jones is the Membership and Wellness Director at the Rockwall County YMCA.

Liz Jones is the Membership and Wellness Director at Rockwall Family YMCA.  She is a writer, certified yoga instructor, and wellness coach.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and Strategic Management, with a graduate certificate in Ethics and Leadership.  Her undergraduate studies included communication, business, writing, art, fitness, and dance. 

She is trained in Reiki, Guided Imagery, and various healing methods. She has also trained in Shotokan karate and other forms of martial arts and self-defense.  Her background includes non-profit management and working with various at-risk populations, women’s empowerment workshops, and mentoring programs. 

Connect with Liz Jones at  or 972-772-9622.

Special thanks to Bill Carter Photography for the wonderful photo of Bart Miller and his family. Visit Bill Carter Photography online at