Twenty-five years ago today, the Lord honored my dad with a pretty remarkable sendoff.
My father was raised in a Catholic home, but had a “born again” experience when I was a freshman in high school. He became a passionate student of the Bible, and for many years helped lead the Christian Businessmen’s Bible Study in our hometown of Boardman, Ohio together with Dr. Charles McGowan, his personal physician who had been instrumental in leading him to Christ. He served faithfully on the Board of the Rescue Mission, a ministry serving the homeless in Youngstown. He’d been invited to serve as a national speaker for CBMC near the end of his life, but health problems left him unable to travel.
While my dad was a teacher for many years, his primary career was as a broadcaster. He had a classic, deep voice for radio, and was an early rock and roll DJ in the late ’50s. He later went on to start the telecommunications department at Youngstown State University, launching a public radio (WYSU) and television station (WNEO/WEAO). After he retired, his last job was working for the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, helping to grow a cable television station started to reach people in his area who couldn’t get to church.
Throughout his life, he was actively involved in the ethnic Catholic church where he was baptized. One of his passions was teaching the Bible to his fellow Roman Catholics. He developed and led a popular study in a nearby Catholic church in which participants covered the entire Bible.
A woman who was active in my father’s Bible Study had died, and her family had asked him to deliver the eulogy at her funeral. Per my mother’s account, my dad finished the eulogy, looked down at her, stepped down from the pulpit and died at that very moment of a massive heart attack, right at the foot of the altar, in front of the cross. How could you ask for a better finish to your life than to be sharing God’s word in front of God’s people in the middle of God’s house?
His outlook on life was pretty much summed up in Philippians 1:21-23…
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
He made quite an impression on my wife not too long after we’d been married when he was excited about having a heart attack because to him it meant he was getting closer to meeting Jesus. He wanted to meet Paul next, because he had a laundry list of questions he hoped to get clarified about the Epistles.
The way he lived over the last twenty years of his life made a big impression on me and my family. My sister served on staff for a period of time in her Catholic parish in a role we evangelicals would describe as an Executive Pastor. She continues to serve as a eucharistic minister while caring for her daughter (my niece) with disabilities. My only two regrets about his passing at a relatively young age (69) were that my two daughters never had a chance to meet him, and that he didn’t get to be a part of this ministry. My dad was a tech nerd way before his time, and he would’ve done a great job heading up our media team. He’d be impressed by the 200,000+ views of the videos from last year’s Inclusion Fusion Live, and pleased by the ways in which technology is being used to spread the Gospel.
My motivation for getting together with others to start this ministry seventeen years ago came from an appreciation of the spiritual legacy my dad passed down to us. I saw that all too often that wasn’t happening for far too many families coming to a child psychiatry practice like mine. My dad may have taught thousands of kids in school and started three different broadcast stations, but his lasting legacy is a result of his faithfulness in being a good witness for Jesus and pointing people to Jesus whenever he had the opportunity.
I think the way he’d want to be remembered today is for folks who knew him to enjoy a little breakfast (his favorite meal), spend some time in the Bible and to be intentional in passing on their faith in Jesus.
Well done, good and faithful servant!
Inclusion Fusion Live (#IFL2020) is the largest disability ministry conference in the United States. Pastors, ministry leaders, families and caregivers from throughout the U.S. and beyond will gather in Cleveland on April 24-25 to share encouragement and ideas for welcoming and serving individuals with disabilities and their families. Ministry intensives offer in-depth training on special needs ministry, mental health ministry and trauma. Choose a MINISTRY TRACK or a FAMILY TRACK to select from over 50 workshops representing ministry-focused and family-focused topics. Either ticket will give you access to all main stage presentations including our featured speakers, numerous quick takes (TED Talk-style presentations), and worship. Early bird pricing is available. To learn more or to register, click here.