Lessons from Dad and Dolly

On Jan. 19, two amazing humans were born. At first glance they may appear vastly different.

  • One of them I know very well and one I have only waved to from a distance.
  • One is simple and quiet while the other is all bling and making her presence known.
  • One is only recognized and celebrated in his home and community, but the other is loved locally AND is an international superstar.

As dissimilar as they are, both have taught me some of the same amazing life lessons. These two incredible people are Dolly Parton and my dad. In celebration of Jan. 19 this weekend, here are some of the profound lessons I have learned from them both.


The first lesson is to have a strong faith in God. I saw this in Dad in everything he did. His character, his actions, his words, his service, his leadership and his parenting were all influenced by his strong faith.  Dolly has also been known to speak about her faith. Her grandfather was a preacher and singing at church as a little girl was a pivotal part of her upbringing. Dolly is quoted as saying, “God is in everything I do and all my work glorifies him.” This statement is true of my dad as well.

Work Hard

Dad always encouraged me and my brother to try our hardest in everything we do. No matter how small or large the task was, he lovingly encouraged us to give it our all. My Dad has modeled this in everything he has done from work to service projects to how he loves my mom and has parented his children. Dolly exemplifies this with her life. She famously talks about her humble beginnings in the Smoky Mountains with nothing, and with hard work and perseverance, she went on to be successful at so many different things.


Dad has a saying, “If you start something, you need to finish it.”

Dolly has a saying, “If you don’t like the road you are walking, pave another one.”

Both are strong words of advice on not being a quitter. I saw this in my dad every day growing up. As a little girl, I thought my dad could do anything. He can, but the reason is not always because he is extremely talented. It’s because sometimes he tried and failed, and then tried again until he figured it out. I have heard multiple interviews with Dolly where she tells stories of hard times and failures, but she never quit. Both have shown me to never give up when times are tough and that success comes from the tenacious spirit of sticking with it.

Love for the Smokies

Both Dad and Dolly have taught me a great love of the Smoky Mountains. I have always lived closed to the Smokies. My dad has hiked Mt. LeConte yearly since I was about 5, and well more than 35 times. We went hiking and exploring in the mountains during every school break when I was growing up. It is a love and passion that I am now getting to teach my little boy as we try to get to the mountains every chance we get. Dolly sings and speaks about her “Tennessee Mountain Home” on a regular basis. She makes the mountains a highlight of so many things, including Wildwood Grove in Dollywood.

Insider Tip

Spend some time in Dolly’s Tennessee Mountain Home located in Rivertown Junction and in the Chasing Rainbows Museum in Adventures in Imagination, to see more about her life in the Smoky Mountains. Spend time hiking and driving through the national park to fall in love with the beauty like Dolly, my Dad and I have.


Dolly Parton and my dad love to give and serve. Dad has always been the first one to step in to help: whether it is to fix something, wash the dishes, carry things to the car, or visit someone in the hospital. Part of his legacy includes the way he serves and loves others so well. Meanwhile, Dolly developed a program called Imagination Library in 1995 that was originally to serve the county where she was born and raised. The program, which is a book-gifting program for children birth through 5-years-old, now serves children all over the world. Dolly also raised money and gave it through her My People Fund to those who lost everything in the Sevier County wildfires. And finally, Dolly has a scholarship and financial program with middle and high schools in Sevier County to encourage graduation rates and post high school education.

“If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then you are an excellent leader.” -Dolly Parton.

This quote embodies what Dad has done in my life and what Dolly has done both locally in her hometown and around the world. Both have encouraged me to love, to dream, to learn, to work hard, to not give up and to them both I am incredibly thankful.

To my dad, I hope I have expressed how grateful I am for you and all of the things you have taught me.

To Dolly, thank you for how well you lead and love from your place in the spotlight.

Happy Birthday to you both!

By | 2020-01-17T18:37:19+00:00 January 17th, 2020|Dolly Parton|0 Comments

About the Author:

Heather Wright (Dollywood Insider 2018-2021) was born in Florida but raised in the mountains of East Tennessee. She is a wife and new homeschool mom. Heather’s family is always up for an adventure and exploring the Great Smoky Mountains is their favorite place to go! Heather and her family live on a farm just outside of the Smokies. When she isn’t busy homeschooling, doing boy mom things, serving her community or exploring the area she calls home, she is busy working on her business The Smoky Mountain Mom (www.thesmokymountainmom). Heather feels most at home when visiting Dollywood and is passionate about sharing this amazing place with you!
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