Son’s signature tribute to Dad

Keeping dearly departed heart attack victim's memory alive with personalized T-shirts, ball caps


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I’m not sure how far back the tradition dates — the one where soldiers and sailors tattooed hearts on their hairy arms.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/07/2016 (2325 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

I’m not sure how far back the tradition dates — the one where soldiers and sailors tattooed hearts on their hairy arms.

With “Mom” in the centre.

But last weekend at a neighbourhood barbeque, I chanced to see something that reminded me of that iconic look and sentiment. Except the tribute was embroidered on a baseball hat — without the heart — and it honoured a father. Although “dad” wasn’t the word tucked discretely, and stylishly, black-on-black, on a  ball cap. And that by itself is not what got my attention.

Custodio Caetano Reis

It was that clean, basic black look.

And the swirl of what appeared to be the signature of some hot new line of designer product. But it’s not a famous designer label, at least not yet. It’s simply a son’s tip of the cap, so to speak, to his late father.

“My father passed about a year ago,” Pedro Reis would tell me later.

His dad, Custodio Caetano Reis, was vacationing in Cuba when he had a fatal heart attack. The father of three — two boys and a girl — was 65. As a handsome young man in Portugal he had been in the army, but when Custodio arrived in Canada he, like many of his countrymen, became a construction worker.

“He was a very liked, very loved person. Very popular,” Pedro said. “People to this day still tell me stories about him.”

Around the construction site, Custodio always wore a baseball cap with the family’s last name on the front.

“Reis,” it read.

“He was very proud of his last name.”

And of what it means in Portuguese — kings.

‘I never want people to stop talking about him. I want people to always remember him. And I want his name to always stay alive’– Pedro Reis of his father, Custodio Caetano Reis 

When he decided to salute his father, the baseball hat wasn’t what Pedro created first.

Instead, Pedro designed two T-shirts with his father’s photo as a young soldier on the pocket. One was for Pedro, and one was for his younger brother, Marc. They were delivered on Remembrance Day. It was only after his sister, Debby, and others in the family admired the T-shirts and wanted more that Pedro decided to make a couple of caps, too.

Which is when the idea of having a tag with a logo struck him. Not being a professional designer — Pedro is operations manager at Birchwood BMW — the 32-year-old struggled initally with what font to use. Until he came up with the obvious answer.

His father’s signature.

Abbreviated to read Rei — for “king.”

When people — friends of the family mostly — saw the hats and the “Rei” signature, that’s what hooked them.

“The next thing you knew, it spread really quickly. Everybody wanted one because he was so loved and so fun and funny and such a positive person.”

The fact the balls caps look so classy, cool and different helped their popularity, of course. By Christmas, he had more stock, and he was giving the hats and shirts as presents.

ZACHARY PRONG / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Pedro Reis has been selling hats and t-shirts adorned with his father's signature and photos out of the back of his trunk. He plans on expanding his business in the near future. July 20, 2016.

But seven months later, Pedro still doesn’t have a website devoted to the budding Rei line, although Wednesday he did create an Instagram page.

“I wanted it to be popular one day. I want people who don’t even know my dad to wear them. And that’s kind of what’s happening right now.”

Even without a marketing strategy, much less a place to buy a Rei ball cap or shirt.

So, I asked him, how does someone buy one of your hats?

That’s the tricky part, Pedro said. He always has some with him, but… “People have to know somebody who knows somebody.”

Pedro likes that, though, and the way it’s going. 

“You know I have people calling me, giving me contacts with their friends and family that really like the hats. I kind of like that. That people have to come and talk to me and ask about it. Which is kind of cool.”

In the end, I wondered what he thinks his dad would think of the Rei hat and the shirts with his photo on the pocket.

“He would be so proud. My dad was always extremely proud of all three of us. So I’m kind of returning the favour. Showing how proud I am of him. I know he would be so happy. I know he can see what’s going on. This is for him. That’s what this is all about.”

ZACHARY PRONG / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Pedro Reis decided to keep the memory of his father alive by using part of his signature — ‘Rei,’ which means king in Portuguese — on hats he gave to family members and friends as gifts.

“That’s the other thing,” Pedro added. “It’s my way of keeping him alive.”

Which reminded Pedro of something someone once told him: as long as someone is talking about you — remembering you — you never really die. 

“I never want people to stop talking about him. I want people to always remember him. And I want his name to always stay alive.”

So, all together now, hats on for the father, and hats off to the son. If you can find one, of course.


Updated on Thursday, July 21, 2016 8:44 AM CDT: Adds photos, adds link

Updated on Thursday, July 21, 2016 11:32 AM CDT: Corrects age of father.

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