I scrolled past this picture in my photos today. The moment brought back sweet memories of this faithful group of men who met every Thursday morning for bible study. This picture was taken about twenty years ago (early 2000’s). Since then, thirteen of these nineteen men have gone on ahead of me to heaven. I was privileged to officiate their funerals.
Some of these guys started the Thursday morning meeting several years before I arrived. Most of them were there every single week, rain or shine. We studied just about every book of the bible, prayed for just about everyone, broke in a few pastoral interns (vicars), and ate more than a few mediocre breakfasts at Perkins, a restaurant that would be torn down to make room for the Chick-fil-A.
This group includes two men who helped start the church, a rear admiral, a naval commander, the project manager who oversaw the construction of our new church, numerous elders and church officers, musicians, and one of the youth leaders.
We were blessed to have this room to ourselves each Thursday. That being said, we endured some challenges. The AC either blew arctic cold or barely at all. Water dripped from all the vents. Who knows what we breathed in through the ductwork. The whole building had to be torn down just a few years later.
New managers blew through the restaurant on a regular basis. The only constant was our waitress, Jenny. The rumor was that those on their way out were assigned to this restaurant. Six months later, and they disappeared. One manager was arrested and taken away in handcuffs.
The food? Acceptable. Usually lukewarm. Edible. Always good pie, though. For breakfast? Why not? George would order a piece of pecan pie with a cup of coffee. Life is short; have dessert.
All these years later, I remember so much about these men.
- Charlie was a banker who endured the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and served well as treasurer for many years. My favorite quote of his is: “Figures lie and liars figure.”
- Eddie’s wife was my first funeral when I arrived at this church in 1996. He cut the church lawn for many, many years.
- Fred had a beautiful tenor voice in the choir and for solos.
- James was a navy chief, a neighbor, and close friend of Mort (coming up soon).
- Jerry was a church elder for many years.
- Dick served as elder and musician.
- George was church president, elder, and tireless community volunteer. He ordered the slice of pie for breakfast.
- Bob spent half of his year on Stagg Island, Canada, and half in Palm Coast.
- Mort was a retired rear admiral. He flew just about every kind of plane off a carrier and had endless stories from World War two and his later job at the Pentagon.
- Gene was the comedic relief. He post-humously paid for me to fly to the Bahamas to perform his son’s wedding.
- Richard was a founding member of the church and part of the committee who called to come and be pastor.
- I’m the guy with the white shirt and tie.
- To my left is Harvey, a founding member of the church, a faithful elder, a great golfer, and the other comedic relief of the group.
- Jack wasn’t even a member of our church. He was friends with some of the guys and was a faithful attender on Thursdays.
- Dale was the construction manager, with plenty experience from building Epcot at Disney World. He was the no-nonsense guy.
- Jerry was an elder for many years and a great friend. He always took me out for my birthday.
- Terry was a youth group leader for a number of years. An ex-prison guard and ex-biker, we all felt a little safer with him around.
- Kent was a World War two vet who looked out for the “old” guy, Bob, sitting next to him. Bob was a naval commander and one of those who welcomed me to the church when I first arrived. He didn’t make it to 100, but Kent will this spring.
I remember all these guys like it was yesterday. Their names and lives are imprinted in my mind. There’s a moral there. Most of the time, all you have to do is show up. You’ll make a difference. Your presence will encourage others in their walk with the Lord. You won’t be forgotten.