By Claudia Mathis
Tom McQueen, marriage and family therapist and president of the American Family Foundation, wanted his grandson to have something tangible to remember the wisdom he gained from the mistakes he made and the miracles that shaped his life.
“I made Ethan a promise in my heart that I would become the very best grandfather I was capable of becoming,” said McQueen. “I am committed to sharing with him the lessons that have shaped my journey here on earth with the hope that he will someday find the insights meaningful in his own life.”
McQueen’s new book, Letters to Ethan: A Grandfather’s Legacy of Life and Love, was published in November 2010. It is a collection of 33 letters that he wrote to his young grandson sharing lessons on life’s highs and lows, ranging from love and friendship to conflict and death.
McQueen’s emotionally-charged letters offer parents and grandparents powerful life lessons that their children and grandchildren can use as guideposts for their growth and development.
“My purpose in writing the book was not to say, ‘Ethan, this is what I did to manage my life and I think you need to follow my advice,’” said McQueen. “No, I wanted him to understand that there will be many joys as well as obstacles in his path throughout the years and that it’s important to use one’s intellect, emotions and will to get the most out of those joys and obstacles, to learn and grow as a result of experiencing them.”
McQueen resides in Palm Harbor, Fla. with his wife Dottie. He enjoys spending time with his son Joe, daughter-in-law Alison and his grandchildren Kaelynn and Ethan. In addition to volunteering as president of the American Family Foundation in Palm Harbor, McQueen hosts free workshops entitled “Faith, Family and Miracles” for churches. As an award-winning author, he speaks at conferences, seminars and special events across the country. McQueen counsels others as a personal coach and has shared his expertise in relationship consulting with Fortune 500 companies on performance, process and profit improvement.
A native of Utica, McQueen attended Sacred Heart Church in Utica. His mother currently attends St. Paul’s Church in Whitesboro.
He graduated from St. Hyacinth College and Seminary in Granby, Mass. before receiving his master’s in divinity from Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, N.Y.
McQueen worked as a licensed marriage and family therapist for 25 years. As a result of his work with families and youth, he was personally invited to the White House Conference on Youth by President Richard Nixon in 1970, the youngest person to ever receive such an invitation. In 1990, the mayor of Pensacola, Fla. asked McQueen to lead the city in creating a statement of core values after the city was decimated by abortion clinic bombings.
As president of the American Family Foundation, McQueen has helped launch the Legacy Nation campaign, which began last November. This program affords parents and grandparents an opportunity to upload their own legacy letters to their children and grandchildren on the campaign website, www.legacynationusa.com. “My hope is that Legacy Nation will become a hope and a help for people who read my book, Letters to Ethan, and that they will join us in restoring a sense of faith, hope and love in the lives of our children and grandchildren,” said McQueen.
Letters to Ethan has been nominated for the National Indie Book Excellence Awards and recently was named a winner of the Angel Awards by the Excellence in Media Foundation. The Angel Award honors works of outstanding moral, ethical or social impact.
McQueen will appear on television’s Lifetime channel on the Balancing Act show on April 12 at 7 a.m.
McQueen said that the book was written in a span of nine months. “I was never at a loss for words,” he said. “I prayed a lot and asked for God’s help.”
The letters begin with what McQueen said was the most important lesson that he had ever learned. “Whatever effort you put into knowing, engaging and uplifting people throughout your life,” he wrote, “it will come back to you a hundredfold in the quality of your personal and professional relationships.”
In the remainder of the book, McQueen offers wisdom and insight on how to deal with the issues of faith, greed, integrity, emotions, conflict, love, death and forgiveness, among others.
As a therapist, McQueen counseled individuals after they had lost a parent or other loved one. What impressed him the most was that his clients said that they wished their relatives had left them a note or letter telling them how they felt about them or giving them some advice about life.
“When I thought about their feelings, I saw the merit in writing legacy letters to my son on his birthday each year from the time he was born,” said McQueen. “In those letters I recounted some of the experiences we had during the year and how much I loved him and appreciated him more as each day passed.”
At his son Joe’s wedding three years ago, McQueen gave him the letters as part of his wedding gift. “He was surprised and shocked,” recalled McQueen. “I think it forged a much stronger bond between us. It’s a moment that we’ll never forget.”
“We live in an era where technology has taken us away from relationships and family,” said McQueen. “My goal with Letters to Ethan and Legacy Nation is to encourage people to return to spending time with their families and developing those relationships,” said McQueen.