Dad, You’re Still My Valentine

February 13, 2013

Guest Blogger Debbie Marriott Harrison

Maine 1972
Me and my dad in Maine 1972

While my dad's busy with his book tour, I decided to hijack his blog in retaliation for his comments about what "tough interviewers" my brother, David, and I are.

Let’s turn the tables and talk about one of the questions I get asked the most … What was it like to grow up with “Mr. Marriott”? Did you ever see him? The answer to the second question is "yes" and reflects what a great dad he really is.

My mother would say that he was never around. But my dad did a great thing, which was to take all of his vacation time when we had our school breaks to be with us. My parents never left us, just to be by themselves, unless my mom went with him on a business trip. We started a lot of traditions based on our school holidays. For Christmas every year, we would go to Acapulco, Mexico, where our first international hotel was opened. It was wonderful! And when I was about 14, my dad let me drive the rented Volkswagen Thing all over town … and it was even stick shift! That was the highlight of the trip for me!

People ask us what our favorite hotel is, and we always say Camelback Inn in Arizona, which was our first resort. I spent my 10th birthday there and have gone back every March since. My dad and I have our birthdays five days apart, so we would always celebrate there with my brothers and grandparents. Camelback holds a lot of special memories for us. We would swim all day, and I would dance with my dad and grandpa at night to a band in the restaurant.  Dad doesn’t like to dance, but he suffered through it for me.  We also went to a lot of movies, and you could hear his great laugh all over the theater.

Bill Marriott and his boat 2008
Dad makes some waves during our 2008 vacation
Every summer, we would spend a month at the lake with all of our family and extended family. It was where I really got know my grandparents. My dad would terrify me when he would take me for rides in his speed boat at over 100 mph on the lake. My father loves fast boats and fast cars! He instilled in me a love for being on the water, although I do go slower in my kayak and sail boat. He spent hours teaching us how to water ski as well.  We are both happiest when we’re on the water.

Dad brought his work home every night. We had dinner at precisely 6:15, and then he would go to his study and work. The door was always open, and he would help all of us with our homework. He taught me how to write and how to memorize pages of vocabulary words. He was also good at math, which I wasn’t.

Dad was a huge tease, and in high school he would wait by the back door for me to come home from my dates. He would appear in a flannel pajama top, boxers, black knee socks, and a night shade pushed up on his forehead. He was quite the sight, and he scared the boys off every time – a tactic every dad of a teenage daughter should use! 

Bill Marriott and Debbie Harrison at Cornell2
We share a laugh during a recent visit to Cornell
My dad loves history and is a real patriot. On weekends he would take us downtown to museums, to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, and to some of the Civil War battlefields.  He instilled in all of us a love of history and of country.

During this Valentine’s week, I would like to say that I have the best dad a girl could have.  I love him with all of my heart. He was my best friend growing up and continues to be one of the most important people in my life.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Dad!

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great memories, reminds me of memories i had with mom my back in the day. thank you for sharing

Thank you so much for your delightful story an special memories shared that have held deep withing your heart and that will continue to grow each and every day for many years to come.
I have been with marriott for 12 years and I just love reading all these wonderful blogs.

I am a single parent and foster parent an I sure hope my children will look up to me just as much.



You have the best dad in the world anyone would love to have.
I feel so lucky just by knowing him.

Thank you for sharing your story. How inspiring!

Thank you for sharing this side of Mr Marriott with all of us. Wow, :)

What great memories. Thank you for sharing them

What a lovely memory to share. I have such respect for your family and what you represent. It has been my pleasure to work for the Marriott for 26 years!
Barb Carranza

Debbie, thank you for sharing this wonderful story about your father and his impact on you. Your story brings to light a movie my Daughter and I enjoy to watching called "Courageous:Honor begins at Home" ( It has taught me to cherish my daughter daily and that as a Father I must always be willing to grow and sometimes change in order to support her as she grows from a girl to a women. I hope you will take the time to go that extra mile with your children as Mr. Marriott.

Thank you for sharing your story. I'm a pround Marriott associate and this makes me even more.

Marriott family is simply... a Great Family!

I'm glad to hear that you have a great family. My parents are just like your. They are so busy yet they still can manage to give time for us too. Parents are best gift God has given to all of us. So we should cherish them until the end. Thank you for this post. I was really reminded of the sacrifices my parents had made just to give what we wanted.

In early 80's after migrating to the USA growing up from a hospitality background in the islands I was drawn to your grandfather’s story. I remember when I landed my first Marriott property Front Desk job and learned about the family how amazed I was. From that beginning I worked my way and years later visited your dad's office on a tour which was for me the highlight of my career and finally meeting him in person in San Antonio. The reason behind this success was hard work and family, I was blessed to hear your brother speak at one of our conferences and again it was all about family and never about business. The key to success is having a strong family that is supportive and while I may be a little jealous from losing my dad at 11 years old I live his presence through others, like yourself who take the time to share. My dad was a hotel manager in the islands and I followed in his footsteps but my best memories were those spent with him walking the property and being very entertaining to the guest. He's also my favorite Valentine and this past Valentine Day was the 38th anniversary of his passing ironically. God bless you and your family and a sincere thanks for just being who you all are warm, generous and caring. Grandpa and Grandma did a great job.

Hello Marriott Team,

Great story about the Marriott family. I try to stay at your properties whenever I can...

I captured and noted some praise for your advertising and branding work here:

Please share and spread the word. Keep up the great work.

Dan Naden

What a Beautiful story and a loving dad.

This story is so touching , you are so blessed to have such a wonderful and succsesful dad.I just can imagine even having a father in my life . I was brought up by my mother she is my special valentine.

Thank you very much for sharing some of the times you spent with your Dad. The Camelback Inn is one of my favorite places, but it has been five or six years since I have been there.

Debbie - Thank you for giving us a glimpse into the personal life of you and your family. Your family has been such an inspiration to so many of us - and we are proud to be part of the Marriott family.

I just want to say, I feel ths same way about my father. I guess he was my best friend, and he taught me a lot about history, living in Appalachia, hunting arrowheads and Civil War
relics. We found a couple of cannon balls, and things he called
corn grinders, along with a "whimmy-diddle" to grind smoke. We
donated this to Mt. Vernon. Fathers, even founding fathers, are
right at the top of popularity lists or should be.

What a wonderful blog to read on Valentine's day! You are more than welcome to come to Pensacola, FL and visit our National Naval Aviation Museum and the National Flight Academy. We will love to have you and your father as our guests.
Happy Valentine's day!

That was a very nice blog. I love my dad very much too and your story reminds me of my father. So I'd like to wish both our fathers and yourself a very happy Valentine's day!

This is very a nice blog for a dad of worldly means. Even in your wealth, you seem to be well grounded and appreciative of family vacations and being a family. You don't seem to be a spoiled brat which is good. It's nice to hear a dad like yours to try to spend time for his kids in helping out on homework and being their for important dinner meals no matter how busy their schedule is. He truly measures up to that word, FATHER. I think yours is an American dream. Best wishes.

Great love story! Enjoyed reading it this Valentines Day

Love does cournt and very much so.

Keep enjoying the time shared.

I'm 83 and have a wonderful daughter that I worked with for a number of years, too. No doubt, there's a special relationship. Debbie you've touched all of our hearts this Valentine's Day.

Every girl should be so lucky to spend quality time with their father (and you even work together). Give your dad a big hug. He is so adorable.

Very touching story. Wish you had a photo of your dad at the backdoor in boxers and knee socks. Thank you so much for sharing.

Debbie - Thank you for giving us a glimpse into the personal life of you and your family. Your family has been such an inspiration to so many of us - and we are proud to be part of the Marriott family.

This is such a nice story. It's good to hear that even though Mr Marriott was busy building this Marriott empire he still took time to be a regular old Dad to his kids, which is so much more important. Thanks for sharing!