Oklahoma City, OK – If you asked people who Arthur Lawrence Rolfes was, they would all give you a different story. An elephant tamer. A gourmet cook. A horse trainer. The real Billy the Kid. A poet. A salesman. A teacher of all subjects. A fixer of all that was broken. The best storyteller of all time. A superhero. Art was none of these things, or maybe he was all of them. What he was, was my dad.
My dad was born Arthur Neree Sylvestre on Leap Year, 1944 in Queens, New York to Neree Sylvestre and Dorothea Brown. He shared bits and pieces of his early memories living in the cold flats of New York and the hardships he endured living there with his older sister and two younger brothers. In 1950, he was put up for adoption along with his two younger brothers. They were adopted together after being featured in a Newsweek article about older children that needed homes. A childless couple in St. Louis, Missouri who saw that article, adopted these boys and my dad was now to have a new home in St. Louis, Missouri and a new name. The name I always knew him by, Arthur Lawrence Rolfes.
Art graduated from high school, went onto St. Mary’s University in Texas for a year and then enlisted in the United States Air Force. While stationed in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and hanging out at the local bowling alley, he met my mom, Mary Ellen Houle. They were married in early 1965 and later that year welcomed my brother Todd. I know my dad enjoyed his time in the Air Force and the places it took him, but he would eventually decide to leave the service. My parents settled back in Grand Forks with my dad working at the mill. My dad would become extremely close to my grandfather during this time. He could keep you forever telling stories about the shenanigans they would get into. In 1968, my parents welcomed my brother Troy. Soon my dad felt that Oklahoma City was where his family should be. The four of them moved down there and I was to follow in 1973. Blessing my dad with his only daughter!
The 80’s found my dad single and starting his own business, ARA (Art Rolfes and Associates). His endeavor was successful with him later joining another successful business in Oklahoma City. Along with overseeing the business, he successfully was given the custody of his three children and then also adopted my brother best friend, Dean and his brother Joe. He was not quite done with having sons. In 1993, he welcomed Toby.
As he got older, he downsized his business. He would sometimes get the assistance from the “old crew” from the ARA days, but it was mostly just him and Toby. He loved having Toby work next to him and showing him all he knew. He talked endlessly of how proud he was of Toby, the amazing work Toby did and having him take over the business he started.
Work and family was pretty much my dad’s life, but he got older, he sought to find what happened to his birth parents and sister. He was eventually reunited with his older sister and this brought him immense happiness. He was also able to connect with a very special first cousin in New York that gave us so many gifts from his early years.
My dad was amazing and wonderful, and he was the best dad to me. I think of what he taught me, and he taught me the best of the best things. My dad taught how me to fix things and not the physical things, that people would assume because of what he did for a living. My dad taught me to give everything you got, especially to someone you love. He taught me how to overcome the worst of life hardships and still be able to survive and love. He taught me how to be the best parent and how to be an independent woman. He taught me how his hug could fix almost everything. He taught me discipline. He taught me courage. He taught me generosity. He taught me forgiveness and he taught me love. He gave me so much love because his love for his children was immeasurable and will be forever missed by this daughter.
Art is survived by his sons, Todd Rolfes, Troy Rolfes, Toby Rolfes, Oklahoma City, OK; Dean Shabbouei, Joe Shabbouei, California; daughter Tina Dalton, Minneapolis, MN, grandchildren; Kandice Tarpley, Amber Rolfes, Joseph Fansher, Trevor Cespedes, Jordan Cespedes, and Natalie Rolfes; brother Tom Rolfes.
In lieu of everything; go bet on a horse or play a slot machine for him – he would have liked that.