CITRUS COUNTY CHRONICLE ARTICLE

With love from Daddy’s girl
By Nancy Kennedy

Daddy's girl, Rebekah Gregory with her father, David

Rebekah Lloyd jokes with her father, David Gregory, in the front yard of Gregory’s home as he arrived home from his job at the property appraiser’s office Wednesday evening in Homosassa. /CATHY KAPULKA/Chronicle

Even though she has to bend down to kiss her dad, Rebekah Lloyd said that in her eyes, he’s 8 feet tall.

After an especially difficult two years for her father, David Gregory, the former Miss Teen Citrus and Miss Citrus wants to take this Father’s Day to honor the man she calls Daddy.

“My dad is such an inspiration to me,” she said from her dad’s house in Homosassa. The 57-year-old Gregory adopted Lloyd and her two brothers, Zachary and James, when he met and married their mother. Lloyd was just a baby, and Gregory is the only father she has ever known.

“It doesn’t take DNA to make a dad,” she said.

“What’s most amazing to me about my dad — he was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a brittle bone disease. He’s in an electric wheelchair now, but he doesn’t let that stop him,” she said. “He has had over 100 broken bones and had to have steel rods put in his legs when he was a teenager; he has pain, and it hasn’t been easy for him. What’s most amazing is that the bone thing isn’t even an issue with him — he even walked me down the aisle at my wedding in 2004.”

Except for the joy of an only daughter’s wedding, 2004 was an especially difficult year for Gregory. A week after the wedding, his mother died, and then four months after that, his brother-in-law, who was his best friend, also died. Then his wife was diagnosed with heart disease and had two stints put in her heart.

Meanwhile, he was still walking, but started using a motorized scooter. However, he didn’t have a wheelchair-accessible van with a drive-up ramp like he has now. So, to transfer the scooter onto the rack on the back of his car, he had to prop himself against the car and “drive” the scooter using his hands onto the rack, secure the gate behind it, then slowly make his way into the car. When he got to work, he had to reverse the process, then do it again when he got home.

Currently, Gregory works at the Property Appraiser’s office in Crystal River. Prior to that he had various jobs: he operated Liberty Stagecoach delivery service, managed a Wilson’s Leather store in a mall in New Port Richey, operated boats at the Marine Science Center, worked at a bank, was a substitute teacher and a garage mechanic.

“He always worked,” Lloyd said. “I had dreams of being a model, and he drove me all over Tampa and Orlando to modeling things. I’d say, ‘Oh, Daddy — it’s only $500!’ and he’d say, ‘We can’t afford that, but you’re still beautiful, Honey.’”

Also in 2004, Gregory developed chest pains and discovered that he needed heart bypass and valve replacement surgery, which is serious enough for someone with normal bones. For him, the risks were multiplied.

On the morning of his surgery, Gregory’s children, his wife and her family and his dad all came to the hospital. “We all kissed him as he went into surgery; it was that risky,” Lloyd said.

But he recovered and returned to work 10 weeks later.

“I never looked at (the bone disease) as a hindrance; I just overcame anything I could,” Gregory said. He always told his kids: “Never let go of your goals and dreams.”

He also said he’s proud of his daughter and his two sons. Proud that they are accomplished and that they did it all on their own. Zachary, a sergeant in the Army, is in Iraq, he’s due back in Dec; James is a corrections guard in Bushnell; Lloyd put herself through college at USF using money she received from entering local scholarship pageants.

It was an exceptionally proud moment when Gregory walked his daughter down the aisle, with the help of his Irish shillelagh walking stick.

“I treasure the dance we had at the wedding,” he said. They danced to “Daddy’s Hands,” a country song that Lloyd used to sing to her daddy when she was little.

“I wasn’t allowed to drive until my senior year of high school, and I didn’t date until I was 16. When I wanted to go out with friends, my dad got in the car and they had to drive around the block so he could test out their driving capabilities,” she said.

“At the time I thought, ‘You’re so strict; it’s not fair,’ but now that I’m 27 … and have two stepdaughters of my own, I know now why he did it. I know exactly where Daddy was coming from, and I’m better for it.”

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Posted on 5,29,Monday, in citrus county, citrus county chronicle, david gregory and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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