by David Sisler
Jesse Koenig, Jr. is dead. Jesse Koenig, Sr. has been charged with manslaughter.
As a reward for doing well in kindergarten at the Stanton-Weirsdale Elementary school in Ocala, FL, Jesse and Sue Koenig took Jesse Jr. to the beach. Jesse Sr. was drunk when he started giving his son a "swimming lesson." Holding the boy underwater to teach him to hold his breath, Jesse ignored his son's frequent pleas to stop. Family members and onlookers pleaded with him to stop. The "swimming lesson" went on as Jesse Jr.'s lips turned blue, as he spit out water, and as he begged his father to let him get out of the water. Sue Koenig's screams at her husband were ignored. After submerging the boy for ten to fifteen seconds at a time, and keeping it up for over an hour, Jesse stopped.
The family returned to their home where Jesse Jr. began hacking and wheezing. His face turned purple and he became lethargic. His father thought he was "faking." His mother had to go to the neighbor's house to call the rescue squad.
The police have charged no one else with the six-year-old boy's murder, but from interviews they have already conducted, there are a number of potential "accessories before the fact."
Nancy L. Othon, staff writer for the Star-Banner reported strangers at the beach and patrons at a nearby bar watched as Jesse Koenig grabbed the back of his son's shirt and held him under water. A woman on a near-by dock yelled, "Let him get his breath." Several customers complained to the bartender that Koenig was mistreating his child. Other than his mother, only Jesse Jr.'s uncle tried to stop the torture, and apparently, only one time. No one called the police.
A neighbor commented that she "wasn't surprised by the tragedy" because Jesse Koenig, Sr. was frequently drunk and she "feared something might happen. I guess I should have spoken up over what I saw."
Witnesses watched in comfort as a father drowned his son, and with heartless indifference, made no move to stop him.
The same day that I read about the murder of Jesse Koenig, Jr., I also found two other father-related articles. The first is a letter to "Daddy," written by a woman identified only as "Cathy." The second was a "wanted" poster. The copy I read listed no author's name.
"Thanks for the boxing matches in the living room after dinner. Thanks for being strong enough to withstand the flailing arms of children at play but stronger still to pretend we'd really beaten you.
"Thanks for working hard but always liking to have me around. There's never been a time when you weren't glad to see me.
"Thanks for letting me plant the rows of beans — and letting me believe they came up better when I planted them.
"Thanks for going out in the prickly cold of the pine forest and cutting us down our Christmas tree. Thanks for taking us with you and for making real your boast that it was the most beautiful Christmas tree in all the world.
"Thanks for using your imagination and never laughing at us for using ours.
Thanks for the freedom from pressure — born of your unconditional acceptance.
"Thanks for making straight paths with your own feet so that when it came time for me to make my own choices, I was already headed in the right direction.
"Thanks for hearing me when I cried "Daddy" in the night. Thanks even more for getting up.
"Thanks for letting me go but still claiming me as your little girl.
"Every girl has a father. Not many have Daddies. I do. Thanks for having me in your life.
"Your little girl, Cathy "
And the wanted poster, with a few personal changes.
"Immediate openings for an honorable job, with long hours. No time off, must be willing to work all hours, including the middle of the night, week-ends, holidays, and vacations.
"Requires survival traits: strength and patience, imagination, humor, and flexibility, intelligence and understanding, and above all, a good heart.
"Receive on-the-job training, with no pay.
"There will be unpredictable surprises and rewards — like joy, love, pain, fun, and many difficulties.
"Should be willing to look to the Heavenly Father for all assistance.
"Want a challenge? Be a Dad!"
To all fathers everywhere, who understand that being a father is more than a biological function, who joyfully take on the job of being a Dad, and who do it well, Happy Father's Day!
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 6/20/98
Copyright 1998 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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