NKU student finds her father after 20 years of his absence

Go to Italy and Hawaii, change someone’s life, finish grad school, get married, own a house, and meet her biological father.

Those are all goals one Northern Kentucky University student wishes to accomplish — her bucket list. She’s getting closer to knocking off the last item on the list, meeting her biological father.

“It’s always been something that I’ve always wanted to do,” said NKU junior marketing major Tina Hoesl.

Tina is also the public relations director for the NKU Activities Programming Board. She helped bring Jonnie Penn and Dave Lingwood from the MTV show “The Buried Life” to campus Nov. 3. Her bucket list was inspired by The Buried Life crew, and she thanks them for the inspiration, or “having the balls,” to get in touch with her father.

Her father, Billy, has been a jockey and horse trainer all his adult life. The lifestyle called for trips around the country, never staying in one place for long. As a result, Billy learned he fathered many children with multiple women he encountered along his wild cross-country ventures. When Tina’s mother, Jean, told Billy that she was pregnant he denied it, thinking he wasn’t the father.

Even though he was never there for her, Tina holds no resentment towards him.

“He’s 47 and still rides horses,” Hoesl said. “I don’t think he wants to settle down with his family and give up his dream of doing that.”

Tina hasn’t been without a father figure for the last 20 years, though. Her stepfather, Phil Jackson, entered the picture when Billy walked out on her mother. By her stepfather, Hoesl gained two sisters that are “her best friends” and has experienced a normal life without her biological father.
“I think everyone should know their biological parents, no matter what the situation,” Hoesl said.

Her stepfather asked Tina if she wanted to take Jackson as her last name. She declined and chose to keep her mother’s maiden name. When Billy asked if Tina wanted to take his name, she again declined, wanting to keep her mother’s maiden name until marriage.

“I thought it would be so terrible to do that my stepdad,” Tina said. “I’m not going to change my name to either of those because I feel like that is me choosing who my dad is.”

Through Facebook, Tina was able to contact her Billy. She messaged him with a summary of her life, admitting that it was her dream to meet him. A few weeks of waiting, Billy called Tina and they have been exchanging phone calls every day since.

Tina is excited to meet her father, but her mother is skeptical of her daughter meeting him. The only communication her mother had with Billy was when she pressed to get child support. Her mother did wished to drive with Tina to meet him.

“I told her, ‘I don’t think you should go because I’m going to walk in the door with the woman he didn’t want to have a baby with behind me,” Hoesl said. “I think she is upset that she now has to share me with him.”

Billy lives in California, training and riding horses, but his family is in Tennessee. Because of the commitments to school and her job, Tina wishes he would move closer and get out of the horse training. That is all Tina wants; to build the relationship she never had with her biological father. Juggling classes and a job makes rebuilding the relationship difficult for her, she feels living near him is the only way to do so.

To Tina, meeting her biological father is the most important item on her bucket list; and in her eyes, it should be as important to anyone else who doesn’t know their biological parents.

“They are a part of you and you are a part of them. That relationship you have with them cannot be made with anyone else,” Hoesl said.
In the short two weeks she has spoken with Billy, connections have been made that were never made with her stepfather. Their relationship is a work in progress, but Tina calls her stepfather “Dad” and her biological father by his first name.

When parents leave, the question often asked is “why?” The topic of why he wasn’t there for her hasn’t been discussed during any of their phone and Facebook conversations yet, but Tina is waiting to confront him with the question over NKU’s Christmas break. “I’m going to cry. A lot,” Tina said.