Dad’s unit was being trained to be part of the amphibious invasions of the Pacific islands, but especially of the home islands of Japan. However their training was interrupted by events in Europe. He was sent to the European Theater where he fought against the Nazis until they finally surrendered in May 1945. He was then sent all the way out to the Pacific Theater in preparation for the final invasion. Fortunately, Japan surrendered before that invasion took place, so Dad was sent to Japan to be part of the Occupation Forces.
Dad believed in Jesus from the time he was young. But when I was about 12 he and Mom dedicated themselves to live with Jesus as their Lord. They came into a whole new kind of relationship with Jesus, and the change was visible to me. They wanted to make a difference for Jesus, and so, because no one else seemed to be doing much with college students in Bakersfield, that’s where they focused their efforts. They began a ministry to college students by inviting four of Dad’s former students over to their house on a Sunday night to “talk about God.” What ensued went beyond what anyone could have imagined. A few years down the road as many as 200 students were showing up on Sunday nights. Over the next 15 plus years they led hundreds, perhaps thousands, of young people to faith in Jesus Christ. Dozens of young people from that ministry became missionaries and pastors who would go on to impact thousands of lives all over the world.
Dad would eventually retire from teaching, and he and Mom moved to North San Diego County to be near their young grandchildren. Though in less dramatic and visible ways Dad continued to faithfully serve Jesus with all his heart until he succumbed to cancer in July of 1997.
Dad did a lot of impressive things. He was a model example of what Tom Brokaw called the greatest generation. He survived the Depression. He was a combat veteran of World War II, even participated in the relief of a small Nazi concentration camp. He graduated from college, later earned a Master’s Degree and actually was close to having enough credits to earn a Ph. D. He chose not to pursue that because he wanted to spend more time with his family and in his ministry. He was a much appreciated teacher for many years. He was faithfully married for 50 years, and he raised two sons who follow Jesus as their Lord.
But for me he was Dad. He and Mom gave Jerry and me all the love we could ever have wanted or needed. They somehow trained us to be successful in our endeavors, but more importantly, to be godly people of integrity and humility who follow Jesus. I remember Dad as always encouraging, always funny, but most of all as a man of humility who loved Jesus with all his heart. He loved his family fiercely. Dad would do anything for his family. My junior year in college, even though they could not afford it, dad shocked me by giving me a car for Christmas when I thought that was simply impossible. Nine years later as I was about to get married and no longer needed the car because Laurie had a better one, he sold that car (an Opel, if you can believe it), and used the money to help us have a honeymoon in Hawaii. I remember a time when Laurie and I really wanted a stereo system but couldn’t afford it. Dad again surprised us by giving us one for Christmas, when, again, he really couldn’t afford it. He couldn’t help himself. If his kids needed something, he just had to help. I cherish a picture we have of him tenderly holding little Joel, the son whose death broke all of our hearts. We still have stored an amazing doll house that Dad built for his beloved granddaughter, Carissa. Perhaps someday Carissa will pass it along to her own daughter.
It is Father’s Day this Sunday. I can’t give my Dad a gift or a card, nor can I be with him. But I can honor him again. He was a great Dad. He was a great man. My children loved him, but they have only fading memories of him. I hope they never forget how blessed they were to have him as a grandfather. Their children will never know him. But though they will never know him they will be greatly blessed because of the legacy he left. They will probably not know what a wonderful man he was, but they will be loved and will be given a rich spiritual heritage in large part because of who Dad was and what he did. I wish they could have known him. I miss you, Dad. I love you.