By Sherri Coner
While attending fire school in 2002, Felisha Morris made friends with a guy named Zach Morris.
He went on to become a firefighter.
When Felisha unexpectedly learned that she was pregnant, she left the program to prepare for motherhood.
After enjoying 15 years of casual friendship, life unexpectedly turned in a new direction for the buddies.
They had both gone through divorces, caught up with one another again and occasionally got together as friends.
But then an unexpected puckering changed everything.
“He kissed me and said, ‘Gosh, will you marry me?” Felisha said of that first kiss, followed quickly by a marriage proposal. “Honestly, it just happened.”
Four years later, they married and became a blended family with six children, ages 11 to 19.
“He already had two kids of his own,” Felisha said. “Zach willingly took on my four daughters without any hesitation. He has always treated them like gold.”
Always a hard worker, Zach has worked at Bargersville Fire Department since 2005.
On the side, he flips houses.
When Felisha isn’t chauffeuring their kids to one activity and then another, she operates a photography business.
Last year, these community-minded lovebirds launched a nonprofit called Fire Angels to support families whose homes have been damaged or completely lost to fire.
“We get to the scene as soon as we can,” Felisha said. “We make sure the family has basic things they need until their home insurance kicks in.”
Somehow, Zach also squeezes in time to act as the fire department liaison for Fire Angels.
“He is so exhausted, but he has never made any of us feel like a burden. He never shows how tired he is, either,” Felisha said. “He always makes time for our family.”
Now that Conner, 17, the only son in the house, has a project on wheels, he and Dad spend quite a bit of time under the truck hood.
Other times, they grab the clubs and head for the greens.
“Zach also likes to work in the garden with all the kids,” Felisha said. “And he’s also an amazing cook.”
Being outnumbered by the opposite sex can get on a guy’s nerves, you know.
“They’re really talkative,” Conner said of his sisters.
Have five sisters taught him anything about women?
“They can be loud and hyper,” Conner said.
Being featured as an awesome dad is a surprise thank you for Zach, from the family that loves him, Felisha said.
Not just any daddy sings “Little Bunny Foo Foo” in a rock-n-roll style.
But 6-year-old Luca Szostak is proud to have one who does exactly that.
When dad, Damian Szostak, isn’t rockin’ out about that infamous bunny, he is impressing daughter, Leo, 4, with quieter moments, especially at bedtime.
“After we read books and say prayers, we do trivia questions about the oceans and states,” Leo said.
With his older siblings interpreting for him, 2-year-old Frankie shared that playing Legos with Daddy is his favorite activity.
Based solely on the smiles and giggles erupting from 8-month-old Gavin, we will safely assume that he is constantly entertained by the antics of Daddy and Mommy, Lindsay Szostak as well as his three older siblings.
Committed to providing their children with outdoor adventures, Lindsay said that welcoming four children into the world has never changed how she and Damian spend free time.
“All of our children have gone camping in the mountains before their first birthday and started hiking as toddlers,” she said. “Our belief is that challenging them physically and mentally outdoors has made them much more adaptable and resilient.”
Life for this Center Grove family is always busy.
Schedules can be very demanding.
But Lindsay’s husband of 10 years never deviates from his primary focus.
“He always prioritizes our children in an exceptional way,” she said of Damian. “Our kids have complete confidence in the fact that our family is the most important thing to him in the world.”
Known for being a mellow kind of guy, family and friends are often shocked when Lindsay identifies her husband as the family disciplinarian.
“A staple dad phrase you’ll hear Damian say when facing a challenge is, ‘What’s my blood type?’ which is, of course, B positive,” she said. “He encourages our children to be adaptable, grateful and selfless, fostering their own B positive mindset.”
Finding a balance between normal child development mixed with each child’s personality is not an easy task, especially when discipline is part of that equation.
“I admire Damian’s ability to consistently discipline misbehavior, especially when our 2-year-old, Frankie, puts it to the test hourly,” Lindsay said.