|We call this the 'Norman Rockwell' photo, Dad holding me with Grandma Bartel and Aunt Lola helping and looking on|
|During the thumb-sucking days|
We celebrated his memorial yesterday with things that were part of the man we knew him to be: rousing hymns and a capella men's quartet music and storytelling and scripture. Pastor Anita had a meditation that so well wove the chosen scripture, Psalm 103, in and through the man she and we knew him to be. So many people came, ate with us, and joined us for a lovely hymn sing, accompanied by the incomparable Donna Stucky. It was a wonderful day.
|The last hot dog roast at our rural home, roasting hot dogs over the fire made of our broken up pool table.|
|Last family photo at the country place.|
This morning we will attempt to share who Dad was. Words can't really do that. Every time someone has written something about our family it has seemed that somehow our lives are smaller on paper than they are in the actual living. With that in view, we'll try to do our best to give you a glimpse into Dad.
As a side note, our comments are printed and will be available as you leave the sanctuary this morning, but for now, let's just remember Dad together, all in the same breath.
Dad could cut corn from the cob faster than anyone else in the family. People find it hard to believe that our family used single edge razor blades to remove the corn from the cob. Dad held his with a vice grip.
He cut corn the way he did everything, with energy and stamina. After he retired, Dad decided to stop the creek east of our house from creeping towards the shed by lining the banks of the creek with something permanent. He found a source for old concrete removed from roads and bought a concrete saw. He cut the concrete into rectangular blocks, lifted them to the back of his truck, and brought them home where he laid them into a beautiful retaining wall that stretches 150-200 feet and ranges from 3 feet tall in some spots to over 8 feet high in others. Then he carefully back filled topsoil right up to the wall so that he could mow with a wheel of the mower on the wall, preventing the need to string trim that area.
|Building the retaining wall|
|Enjoying the finished results|
Dad committed his life to God sometime in his youth and was baptized in the North Star Mennonite Church, where his father was one of the lay pastors. Dad had an older sister who had a reputation for sometimes being bossy and opinionated. My siblings and I can remember hearing relatives lovingly joke about her eccentricities, and when that would happen, Dad would agree that yes, she was bossy sometimes. Then he would add that when he realized he wanted to become a committed Christian, he looked for someone who knew what that meant. It was easy for him to see that Aunt Leona was a person who could help him and she was the one who prayed with him.
|Dad's family at our parents' wedding. Back row; Leila, Wilmer, Grandpa Bartel, Leona, Etta holding Jan, and Peter (Etta's husband) with Ken|
Front row: Verna (Wilmer's wife), Grandma Bartel, Dad and Mom, Myrial
|Mom's family from left to right; LaWanda and Emerson, Marge and Marvin, Dad and Mom, Grandpa and Grandma Schmidt, Bob, Dorothy, Lola|
November 7, 1953
Mom was desperately homesick, but also a brave trooper. However, when the first livestock was sold and no money was forthcoming, the intentions of the older farmer had to be clarified. The living wage would come from the sales of cattle that were born after Dad moved to the farm, meaning that for two years Dad and Mom would have no income.
Dad did the 1-W service as part of avoiding military service, but volunteering his labor was a constant value to him. He participated in many Mennonite Disaster Service projects both nearby and far away. When Bev was in college, Annette in high school, Larry was eight and Randy was five, Dad was given a three month sabbatical because of his years of employment at Prairie View. He chose to spend half of it doing voluntary service, so our whole family moved to Wichita for six weeks to work with housing repair. Three of Bev's children had the privilege of being co-participants with Dad on multi-generational work trips. He also served as he could here at home, showing up for church work days and serving on numerous committees and boards in the community and at church. His last job at church was as a part of the Caring Fund Committee. He reluctantly resigned from that job when his memory losses affected his ability to manage the checkbook.
Dad's employment experiences include working at the Co-op in North Newton, more than 25 years working at Prairie View as business manager, and then selling VALIC investments until his retirement. Dad loved working with numbers and kept records of everything so his jobs suited him well. Dad never had much patience with sales people who were pushy, so sometimes we wondered how he repeatedly won awards for his high rate of sales at VALIC. One day a satisfied customer explained the technique that was working so well. "He is just such a great guy! He was so honest that people felt bad not buying from him." Another client said, "He was always so kind and caring and understood our values, helping us to make financial decisions accordingly. I don't generally like working with finances but I always felt very comfortable when he was advising us."
|weighing the largest potato from that immense harvest|
|the wood pile|
Dad also enjoyed play. In their early married years Mom and Dad enjoyed playing tennis and having picnics in the park with their young children. Every summer included a trip, nearly always to Canada, but often with side trips to national parks and monuments. Sometimes we camped, pulling a pop up camper and fixing our own meals. Twice we managed to get nearly all children and grandchildren to Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp together for family camp and Dad enjoyed hiking the hardest trails each day. Dad took up skiing with Larry and Randy and made as many as ten to twelve trips to Colorado. Dad attended our games and musical performances, and more recently, the sports and music of his grand- and great grandchildren.
Faith continued to be primary for Dad from the time he asked Leona to pray with him until his death. It was the inspiration for his service, and for his loyalty to the church through all the sweet times as well as the difficult times. Dad served many terms on the Board of Deacons including years when difficult schisms developed around issues we were facing. I don't remember Dad speaking often at those tense congregational meetings, but when he spoke, it was gently, sometimes with tears, as he tried to lead us to more unity in our faith.
One thing we all learned from Dad was a refusal to submit to bitterness and rancor. Even in difficult times or times of conflict, Dad refused to speak ill of anyone and tried to keep good relationships with those with whom he disagreed. He was an example to us of how to live with integrity in difficult times.
In recent years there were two trips that have deep meaning to all of us. The first was a trip to Canada to be present for the memorial service for Dad's older brother, Erwin. We knew that Dad was beginning to show signs of memory loss and three of the children and four grandchildren accompanied Dad and Mom for the trip. Dad had become more quiet in recent years and we wanted to visit the places of his youth with him before the memories were forgotten. As we drove, Dad enjoyed the ride but said little while we chattered and joked across the miles. Upon arrival at the church for the memorial, Dad got out of our van and led us into the church, hand extended, greeting the friends from his past by name and engaging them in conversation. We spent time with family and with friends, visited past homes, job sites, and the home church. Dad's gift for telling stories was back in full force as he regaled us with one after another from his childhood and youth. Seeing the sites at the same time as hearing the stories gave us glimpses into the life and times that molded and shaped him. We continued to ask questions and receive answers on the long drive home on this trip of cherished memories.
|visiting at the church|
|near the barn on the farm where Dad grew up|
|a car the same model as one Dad drove|
|with the son of Dad's favorite boss in Drake at the farm where he worked before meeting Mom|
The second trip was a weekend stay at the Bluestem cabin at Camp Mennoscah for Dad and Mom's 60th Anniversary. Twenty-one of us, including children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were able to join Dad and Mom for all or part of the weekend of games, walks, slide shows, and sharing cooking and cleanup fun together.
|some of us around the table at Bluestem|
Throughout this last week, Larry has repeated a phrase that sums up how each of us feels. Dad was an amazing man.
What we've read still does not fully capture who he was, and there are parts of him that you know that we are not aware of. We hope that you will be able to share your stories of him with us during the sharing downstairs, and that you will also join us in singing hymns together as he loved to do.
|Larry took this photo about a week before Dad left us.|