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Hollidaysburg dad brings patience, flexibility to role | News, Sports, Jobs




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Kerry Feathers (center) works on a puzzle with his sons, Brandon, 11, (left) and Ben, 14, at their home in Hollidaysburg.
MIrror photo by Cati Keith

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Lori Feathers says it takes a pretty amazing individual to be a father and she credits her husband, Kerry, with being such a person.

The couple’s oldest son, Ben, 14, has autism and their youngest, Brandon, 11, does not, she said, which means Kerry has to navigate two different worlds, oftentimes at the same time.

“You’re walking in a neurotypical world and special needs world,” she said.

When Kerry goes to a Curve game with his family, he focuses on explaining the game to Brandon, while knowing he might have to calm Ben at any moment if he has a meltdown.

Finding a way to juggle family life is something Kerry excels at, Lori said.

“He is able to balance the roles of husband, father and a son to his mother,” she said.

“I don’t think anyone else could do it better,” Lori added.

The couple married in 2005, having met on a date — Lori’s date with another guy, who brought Kerry along as Lori’s friend’s date. But it was Lori, from Claysburg, and Kerry, from Hollidaysburg, who ended up making a connection.

They settled in Hollidaysburg, with Kerry a general machinist at Small Tube Products in Duncansville and Lori a CT scan technician at UPMC Altoona.

When Ben was a baby, everything seemed normal, Kerry said. Then, their world was turned upside down when Ben had a seizure when he was about 2 years old.

As the couple were adjusting to a new normal, Brandon entered the world.

It’s a busy life between work and taking care of the boys, the couple said.

And despite Father’s Day being celebrated just once a year, it is a daily job, Kerry said, where patience is truly a virtue, along with flexibility.

Throughout his journey as a father, Kerry said he has learned a lot and has found that each day is different, particularly with a special needs child.

“You never know with Ben, if he is having an exceptional day, at any moment, something might set him off where we have to cut our trip or activity short,” Kerry said.

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Kerry and Lori try to split time with the kids, so both get special bonding time individually and as a group.

For instance, there are days where Lori might spend time with Ben while Kerry will spend time with Brandon.

“Sometimes, we just have to separate so they can each have time with us and make their own memories,” Lori said.

If Kerry has something to do at his mother’s house in Duncansville, he might take Ben or Brandon with him for the afternoon.

They’re no different than other siblings, the couple said.

“They need their time apart so they are not at each other’s throats,” Kerry said.

They also prioritize activities with their children’s interest in mind. At a recent Curve game, Lori said Ben had reached his limit, so she took him out of the ballpark while Kerry and Brandon watched the rest of the game.

Regardless of what the family is doing, the couple expect good behavior from their sons, but understand there are some things that Ben cannot control.

“We try to just go about life like we normally would,” Kerry said, though they have learned to plan ahead and tell the boys ahead of time what they are going to be doing.

Because his sons like their routines, Kerry said they try to not stray too far from what they planned.

“We try to do things as normally as possible … sometimes it goes without a hitch and other times you might have to adjust on the fly,” he said, and he’s learned that is OK.

Swimming, playing wiffle ball and games, completing puzzles and taking trips to DelGrosso’s Park and Curve games are among the many activities the boys and their dad enjoy.

Ben said he likes Curve games with his dad, while Brandon said, “They are the best parents I ever had. My dad takes me places I want to go and plays wiffle ball with me.”

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Since becoming a father, Kerry said he has developed interests influenced by his sons — something he admits is a surprise.

While Kerry is a sports fan, neither of his sons show as much interest. That meant he had to find other ways to connect.

“You get involved and adapt to what they like,” he said. “It has been a learning curve, but you do what you can for your kids.”

For instance, Kerry never played chess before Brandon became involved through a club at school.

“I had zero interest in learning about it until he wanted to get into it,” Kerry said.

Then Kerry discovered chess was an intellectual, thinking game and became hooked.

“I never would have gotten into something like that if it was not for him,” Kerry said.

On the other hand, Ben enjoys puzzles, so Kerry spends time with him putting the pieces together.

“I love when my dad does puzzles with me,” Ben said.

Kerry’s job is to get all the pieces and separate them face up. He also makes the border and Ben fills in the picture.

Kerry said he spends some time with friends but has put much of his personal hobbies aside to dedicate more time to his kids.

“You have to balance family time with work and everything,” he said.

One of those family times was a 2017 cruise to the Bahamas, sailing out of New York.

“That is my favorite family vacation,” Kerry said. “We all had fun, and there was a lot to do.”

That was a “beginner” cruise, Kerry said, to see how they all liked it. After finding out how much fun it was, they are hoping to take another.

“There’s so much to do on a cruise, and now that they’re older, I think it will be even better,” he said.

As the couple continue to navigate life as the boys get older, they said having a good support team has been important.

Kerry’s mom and Lori’s parents watch the boys when needed and “they fill in admirably,” the couple said.

“We could have never raised them the way we did without their help,” Kerry said.

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Having a good sense of humor is also paramount, Lori said.

“We still have a lot of fun, we still joke constantly,” she said.

Their strengths compliment each other, too, they said.

“If I’m more of a stressed-out type of person, he is more cool, calm and collected,” Lori said.

Uncertainty of what the future holds for Ben is a concern, Kerry said, but notes that Ben is getting better as he gets older.

“Anybody that works with him says eventually he might be able to live on his own and have a semi-normal lifestyle,” he said. “I would love for Ben to be a functioning adult.”

Kerry said Brandon gets good grades, loves animals and can do whatever he puts his mind to.

“He definitely has interests that are unique,” he said.

While this weekend is Father’s Day, it is just another day for fathers everywhere, Kerry said, though his boys might make breakfast for him before they all head out the door to the pool or some other family activity.

Every day is an adventure, and the couple have advice for others facing family challenges.

They work to instill in their boys good values and love and they try to set a good example for their sons.

“Don’t set any expectations, because you never know what is going to happen and how your children are going to be,” Lori said.

Lori said Kerry was pretty proud of his sons when he went to the junior high art show where they had artwork on display.

“They both had pieces in the show,” Lori said, but Kerry barely got the chance to look at anything “because every time he turned around, there was another person telling us about our boys and how much they love them.”

Mirror Staff Writer Cati Keith can be reached at 814-946-7535.





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