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John Deas and sons Carson (7) and Gunther (4). (Photo by Greg Pallante)
Posted: Wednesday June 6, 2012, 2:42 PM
By Kara Mayer Robinson

What's more fun than having a great dad? Being one! These dads are so thrilled with their daddy jobs that we think their kids are some of the luckiest ones around.


Mark Ruffolo

Hands-on Dad to Michael (12), Matthew (10), Mitchell (6), Mark (3) and Mary (9)

Upper Saddle River dad Mark Ruffolo has five kids. That's right, five. And four of them are boys. But as his wife, Maria, knows, he would happily have five more. Nothing makes Ruffolo happier than showing the fellas how to make their way in the world. Whether it's teaching them essential life lessons – like how to interact with adults, talk to girls or do the right thing on the basketball court – or developing skills like blowing autumn leaves and maneuvering a tractor around the lawn (in this family, yard work is a family affair), he's onboard. And the boys are right behind him.

Ruffolo works hard as a full-time attorney, but he does everything possible to be a hands-on dad, starting with daily morning duty.

"I do 95 percent of the morning stuff with the boys," he says. "If I'm not up by seven o'clock, they're up next to the bed saying, 'Daddy, we're hungry!'"

He makes a full breakfast (homemade waffles, omelets or pancakes) for each kid, helps them get dressed, checks to see if their clothes match, makes their lunches and then sees them off on the bus.

But that's not all. This dad also runs triathlons with his oldest son, Michael. And he coaches lacrosse, football and basketball for younger son Matthew's teams. Plus he helps with homework.

Even with all that on his plate, Ruffolo is never too tired to instill important life lessons, a value he inherited from his own father.

"My dad was always great with me in that sense of teaching what's right and what's wrong," he says, noting that he'll stop anything to show a child he needs to tweak his behavior in order to do the right thing. What can be more important than that?


John Deas
Check this out! Dad to Carson (7) and Gunther (4)

This dad may be firmly planted in the suburbs, but he's constantly showing his little guys all the glorious things the big wide world has to offer.

Originally from Scotland, Deas is passionate about sharing his heritage with his boys. The whole family travels to Scotland every other summer to visit his many cousins and extended family. During the visits, he takes Carson and Gunther on all the adventures he remembers doing as a kid, like hiking cliff walks, touring fisheries, and learning the lingo and traditions of the Scots.

On their last visit, Deas brought little Gunther to a Day Out with Thomas the Train in Brechin, Scotland. "He was thrilled to be among his favorite train characters in their actual stations," Deas recalls. "And the fact that Sir Topham Hatt actually spoke in a thick Scottish brogue made it all the more exciting."

Deas led older son, Carson, to a different adventure – wading in tidal pools in front of the family's seaside rental to collect crabs, jellyfish and shrimp. Speaking of which, Deas has a coral-reef fish tank at home in Ramsey that the boys help him maintain. In fact, 7-year-old Carson's interest and patience have earned him his very own fish tank, which he proudly cares for (with the help of dad, of course).

That exploration of fish and sea life has sparked a major interest in the great outdoors, which translates into summer days spent digging up worms and going fishing or boating. Other favorite "just the men" adventures include construction projects involving bird houses, LEGO bricks or swing sets. Just right for a trio of adventure-loving fellas!


Mike O'Keefe
Buddy Dad to Patrick (14)

Patrick and I are both a little geeky," Ramsey dad Mike O'Keefe says with a smile. Fortunately for father and son, that means they have plenty of interests to share, from computer programming – they've spent countless hours together programming Patrick's website – to bonding over sci-fi classics like The Twilight Zone and Star Trek.

They don't have quite as much together time as they used to – O'Keefe is recently divorced and shares custody with his ex-wife – but they make the best of it. O'Keefe is happy to partner up with Patrick for anything and everything from making dinner together to fixing things to riding bikes.

"Spending time with Patrick has always been meaningful to me," he says. "No matter what we're doing, I usually enjoy it."

O'Keefe says his favorite thing about being a dad is learning from his son. He believes he was put on this planet for one very specific reason: to become the best possible father to Patrick. "And it makes me feel good to know that as I learn, I get better at my job every day," he says.

Life might not be as simple as O'Keefe would like – he juggles managing a family business with being a single dad – but he is supremely grateful for his dad role. Patrick always comes first, which feels good to O'Keefe. Plus, he says, "We make a great team." What more can a man – or his son – ask for?


Sinclair Davis

Newbie Dad to Sinclair Jr. (10 months)

This Teaneck dad might be a newbie, but he's off to a super-strong start. Diaper duty? Check. Night shift? Check. In fact, for the first month or so of baby Sinclair's life, it was just Dad who took care of those things so new mom Stacey could catch up on some much-needed rest. And it's not like Davis didn't need the rest himself – he's a full-time doctoral student in psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University and works as a part-time aide for a child with severe autism.

Busy as he might be, Davis seems to be a natural at doing it all. He sings to the baby, cares for him and showers him with kisses. When he has major exams to study for, he incorporates his little guy into the process by reading school papers aloud or reciting important information in a playful, rhyme-like tone.

Maybe even more impressive (especially to the moms reading this) is how much effort this dad puts into taking care of baby Sinclair's mom. "He makes me happy constantly," Stacey says. Davis tells her how beautiful she is, takes on the dirty work that makes her cringe (like clipping the baby's nails) and gets up with Sinclair Jr. at night when he knows she has had a rough day.

"I think it's important to keep Stacey happy, because I love her," Davis explains. "The happier she is, the happier she will be as a mother and wife and in all aspects of her life." Now that's a dad we can all stand behind!

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