When a man is a great father, it outshines every other accomplishment in his life.

You’ve seen the phrase on a mug, or on a T-shirt, countless times: “Best Dad Ever.”

It’s a simple phrase, three short words, yet it carries incredible, almost unthinkable power. Consider how formidable each of those words is on its own. “Best”—that means none is better, not a single one. “Dad”—well, every person has a father who helped give them life. “Ever”—that’s a time frame that stretches all the way back through eternity.

So when someone calls their father the best dad ever, what they’re saying is: “It is my considered opinion that, of all the 100 billion people who have ever been born to parents across the planet Earth, my dad is the greatest example of fatherhood that can be found in the entire history of humankind.”

What sort of dad inspires that kind of love, admiration and respect in his kids? As it turns out, a man’s obituary—where his adult children have the final chance to express their perspective on what their father was like—might just be the best place to answer that question.

A search through Legacy.com’s historic archive of death notices turned up quite a few obituaries that described their subjects as the “best dad ever.” Here’s a sampling of what exactly those lives looked like:

“Robert Arnold Wahl (Bob)… will be remembered as the ‘Best Dad Ever’ (with apologies to those who think your Dad held that title). He was smart, funny, loving, and generous. He was the Dad who drove the boat while the kids water-skied. He was the Dad who cleaned the fish we caught, or kept the fire going while we ice skated. He was the Dad who ‘smelled a mushroom’ to alert us that one was in the vicinity so we could ‘find it.’ Even though he hated to travel out of town, he was the Dad who took us on long car trips (to both coasts) so that we could see and appreciate our country. He was also the one who stopped at Howard Johnsons in the evening where Mom had a sensible meal and the rest of us had strawberry shortcake and banana splits.”

“John Anthony Davis… was an intellectual redneck. He was at home discussing the merits of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" as he was showing off his latest catch… John was the best dad ever.  Thanks to him, Kennedy can fish and hunt and play soccer and tennis and swim.  John instilled in Kennedy his love of reading and writing, along with his grit.  He helped her get ready in the mornings; her outfits might not always have matched, but he was her best hairstylist. He always was, and always will always be, right here cheering her on.”

“Dr. Nigel H. Clark… never met an historic point of interest he didn't like or could drive by. (Cue groans from the back of the station wagon.) Dad was gentle and erudite, a teacher, a renaissance man in love with a well-turned phrase, Mahler's 5th and a well-cut jib. His gentle temperament was ill suited for punishing naughty children, of which there were four. He much preferred telling them custom-designed head stories and falling asleep beside them... In his company, we felt special, cherished and loved. Dad was brave, mending his family heartbroken by the death of much loved son and brother Geoffrey. Dad was the mythical Pied Piper, a magnetic personality with a lightness of being and a generosity of spirit who made us believe in the possibilities. Legendary for his fine haberdashery, his cottage kitchen surgery, his mischievous black humor, and his curated dog-and-pony shows; short on the ponies, long on the Labradors in costume. A life well lived and loved. Best. Dad. Ever.”

“Javier Cifuentes… was the greatest friend anyone could ever have... He volunteered in the community, both in Dallas and Fort Worth, to help the underprivileged. He was the best dad ever not only to his own children, but to others as well. Most everything revolved around the kitchen table, where family and friends met to enjoy food and fellowship. Javier was a man who never met a stranger.”

“Chester Arthur (“Art”) Blevins… was, quite simply, the best dad ever… He taught us how to play mumbley-peg, to whistle, to sing crazy, nonsense songs, he built us stilts, took us camping and later "trailering," and played Souza songs on his accordion while we marched all over the house... His niceness also extended to our grandmother, Julia Bailey, who we visited almost every other Sunday for the better part of 20 years, helping her take care of her 10-acre farm.  We knew to our very core that he and mom loved us—we didn't think about it, talk about it, try to understand or analyze it, we just knew that was the natural way that life should be.”