I'll try my best to answer it. All I can do is replay snippets of conversations that I heard, or remembered from more than 50 years ago, as I spin this tale. I invite my brothers to join in and add anything further that they might know.
By the late 1950s, Dad had already shown a predilection for professional antsyness. He'd resigned his position as a teacher at Fountain High High School (near Bethlehem, PA) to join the American Red Cross.
|Dad in his church office, probably working on a sermon...|
That was an exciting time for me. It meant a weekend visit to Washington, DC, as Dad took care of some clerical business while at the same time giving me a real dose of American history. I was about 8 or 9 years old and saw all the sights — the White House, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial. It was great stuff.
Dad shortly thereafter got stationed to Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, NH. More history. John Paul Jones lived in that town for a while. New England foliage. The ocean. B-52s and F-100s. Woo hoo.
But all that lasted less than a year. Dad was afraid he'd eventually end up being stationed in some remote outpost, like Guam, where he wouldn't be able to bring his family (as the story goes). So he quit and went back to teaching high school — this time, in East Hartford, CT.
We stayed two years. Somewhere in this span, Dad was wrestling with another decision he was about to make — whether or not to enter the ministry.
I have it in the back of my mind somewhere that Dad had often considered the ministry during his life up to this point. Plus, I think Charlotte might have been a factor in that, too. Dad was her only child, and the ministry would be so ... so ... well, so virtuous (as if teaching was not).
I do remember him telling me that he "heard a calling" to become a minister, which made me wonder if he actually heard voices. I never investigated that with him and I'm really not sure he actually heard anything. But I think it's more likely that he felt something.
I don't know if there was anything that pushed him into his ultimate decision — I wasn't privy to his conversations with Charlotte, or with Mom, or with God, that might have led to his decision (Kim remembers hearing from somewhere that Nana actually wanted him to be a doctor) — but it was back to Bethlehem for three years of seminary at Moravian College.
After receiving his Divinity degree — he loved to impress us with his limited knowledge of Hebrew — he was assigned his first church. This one was in Coopersburg, PA, just south of Allentown. It was a neat little church whose congregation was sharply divided about the direction the church should take.
Ah, yes. Church politics. I'm not sure that was a course offered in seminary, but I think the experience had Dad thoroughly disillusioned. So after a year or so, it was back to teaching high school English at Palisades in Bucks County, PA.
So we moved again, this time to a place called Perkasie, about an hour out of Philadelphia. That is, until Dad heard the calling yet again. I wasn't kidding about his professional antsyness.
By this time, I'm in college and not at home very much. I remember moving yet again, this time to Center Valley, PA, although I don't know why. It was the last time I lived with my folks before I moved to North Carolina. That was 40 years ago.
In the meantime, Dad reentered the ministry (hotly pursued by his church demons, I guess), first taking a Moravian church in Dover, OH, for several years, and then following that with a church in Sister Bay, WI, not far from Green Bay. This somewhat explains why I am a closet Packers fan.
Dad seemed happiest in Wisconsin. As far as I know, he loved his church, he loved his congregation, and he loved his location. He played golf whenever seasonal, and then used snow skis to get from here to there in the heavy winters.
I'd love to say that Dad could have lived out his life in Wisconsin, but not the way I had in mind. One day he called us to say he had prostate cancer that somehow got into his bones. It was lethal. He died when he was only 58 years old. He is buried in the church cemetery there.
So the rest of MY life with him is through memories. Based on what I knew of him, he was a great teacher, full of life and personality. He was a great counselor through his work with the Red Cross, dealing with military personnel incarcerated in the Portsmouth Naval Prison or perhaps struggling with PTSD. He was a great pastor, not just delivering meaningful sermons, but dropping everything to visit someone in need of his services.
He was a pretty good friend, too, still offering guidance and counseling to his three sons, of whom he was quite proud. He told me that one time.
And so, today, I simply say thanks, Dad. Thanks for the life you lived.