Sun, Nov 04, 2018

Giving Thanks for Saints

John 11:32-44 by Doug Gunkelman

On a quiet morning, when I’m sitting in my office before anyone else arrives, I can still hear the clickedy click of Fran Schwarz methodically making her way down the hallway. With each step she would lift her walker, high step with one leg due to some physical malfunction, set the walker down again, clickedy click, one step closer to her destination. Fran would stop in front of my open doorway, greet me, and then continue on to the choir room to join with the Ladies of the Yarn. Fran had a presence about her that demanded our respect.

On this All Saints Sunday, we remember and give thanks for all our saints who have passed through the gate of death in the past 12 months and now rest in their eternal home.

Donnie Goodall’s soul was revived with the birth of Audra in 1991, blessing him with the opportunity to be a father, to coach some girls’ softball and go to soccer games. Living on Sherborn in Parma Heights, he joined Divinity in 1994 and Donnie proudly volunteered on our building and grounds committee, helping to keep our furnaces and air conditioners running until we were able to replace them.

While Joe Kelley enjoyed the green pastures and still waters of duck hunting, he also enjoyed his years on the green grass of the campus of the University of Delaware where he earned his degree in chemistry. Joe began his career with Hercules and then went to work for B.F. Goodrich necessitating a move to Northeast Ohio and Day Drive here in Parma.

The greenest pastures were to be found at the Abbeyville Ballpark. At age 17, Joe Kornmayer found his way to the bleachers where a teenage Gunkelman girl caught his attention.

He made his way to the open counter behind home plate where he bought a bag of popcorn and went and sat on the bleachers next to her, sharing his bag of popcorn. Joe and Maxine’s first date was to a Brunswick High School football game in Joe’s old, yellow, half ton Ford pick-up.

Pastor Don told me how much he appreciated Jean Lessing’s leadership in the church when he first came to Divinity in the 1950’s and 60’s. She was a leader in our Women’s group and taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School for many years.

Wade and his Dad, Darrah Cramer, loved archery, competing against others as part of the Parma Archery Club or going to the Archery Fest in P.A. where a course of targets were set up on the side of the mountain. Darrah and his friends went to what Sandy calls “Man Fest Weekends” where the men share a cabin and sit around a campfire making mountain pies and drinking Gentleman Jack. Father and son bonding time!

Peggy Yee went to work, volunteering in our Divinity office while her kids were in school. She cranked the handle on the mimeograph machine pumping out bulletins and newsletters; she prepared quarterly giving statements, helped count the offering on Monday mornings, and in 1985, helped transition the office to computers. Pastor Don told me that it was like having another fulltime secretary.

My favorite Gladys Basch story was when her brakes went out on her Mercury Grand Marquis and she ended up on a baseball field on Eastland Road. Gladys called her daughter Joyce to inform her of her location. Joyce called the tow truck driver who ended up marrying Gladys’ granddaughter!

After experiencing divorce, Renate Pernosky’s soul was restored when she met Lee who she described as the “love of her life”.

She referred to Lee as her “soul mate” when they were joined together in the covenant of marriage. I’m told Renate had a tattoo of a pair of wolves on her back symbolizing two lone wolves coming together as partners supporting one another on their journey together.

“You restore my soul, O Lord, and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake.”

Richard Blunk’s soul was restored when he and Linda joined the ministries of this congregation in 1985. Richard experienced a Via de Christo weekend and served on our Art and Action ministry team.

The Nagy family became members of Divinity on June 27th, 1971. At some point, good friend Eddie Pabst recruited Chuck Nagy to be an usher. Chuck, Norma, Linda, and Laura made good friends as part of our Divinity family.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve visited with Chuck in the hospital, in their beautiful home, in nursing homes, and finally in the beautiful new Cardinal Court. Over the years, I’ve listened to proud parents and grandparents give me updates on their children and grandchildren. I’ve watched them take turns helping Chuck and Norma recover from various surgeries and ailments. We give thanks for the love given and received in the Nagy family over so many years.

Julia Helms told me, “Never in my life did I think I would go out with Leonard Helms! He was a great boss”. Then one night after work, she was bowling with 2 other girls who talked her into going to a bar after bowling. She wanted me to know that going to a bar was not her usual practice.

When she told her friends she was ready to go home, Lenny obviously listening in, tapped her on the shoulder, and offered to drive her where she needed to go. On Saturday night, Lenny bought two tickets to the Cleveland Barons hockey game, not knowing she had a season ticket which she gave away for that night.

Ralph Griesbach was shepherded into this life on January 31st, 1942, the second child born to Ralph and Hilda, who had been blessed with their daughter Donna, two years earlier. Donna and Ralph were never in want growing up in the new home their father had built at 6907 Parma Park Blvd. in 1951 when the roads were still dirt and Pearl was red brick.

After graduating from North Olmsted High School and playing hard to get with a year older Valley Forge guy, Judy Habert was guided on the pathway to marrying Tim on August 26, 1967 at Divinity and then led to the green pastures or at least the green backyard of Snow Road where Judy grew green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and sweet corn. Judy’s soul was renewed with the births of Timothy in 1968 and Melanie in 1971 as all mother’s souls are renewed when gifted with beautiful babies.

Harry and Lois Zayac were married on May 21, 1949 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Valley City. They honeymooned at Niagara Falls and as was common in those days when money was short, they moved in with his parents, until they found an almost new house on Blossom Ave. next door to the Fix family and down the street from Divinity.

Lois’ soul was restored with the birth of 4 children in the 1950’s; Stephen, Jeanne, Joanne, and Michael. In 1958 her family joined Divinity which meant joining the bowling league, the golf league, and the softball league. Lois told me the only thing Harry’s church had to offer were really good pierogies.

Son, Bryan shared with me that after his mother, Nancy Petrunak went to work for HUD, she made sure her sister Marsha Eagan always had a good place to live close by your Twilight Dr. home. Bryan remembers Marsha carrying her books for her Tri-C classes she enjoyed.

But there’s nothing more painful than losing your mother, especially at a young age. Nancy loved and cared for Bryan.

You’re always going to miss your mom and you’re always going to love your mom. Something will happen to you years down the road that will suddenly cause a memory to pop up out of nowhere. She will appear in your dreams, because that’s what moms do. We don’t forget them.

Terry Atves was led on the pathway to work for Sohio, first as a salesman and then in Human Resources and Career Counseling. He occasionally would visit the Sohio “accounts payable” office on E. 49th where the women would “appreciate” his presence. One of the women bided her time which paid off at a Sohio Christmas party when Terry asked Paula for a date.

Chuck Carpenter learned how to build up his relationships with the people he loved and to give the gifts of forgiveness and grace to those who would hear him.

When Chuck lost wife Barb to cancer, like most of us, his life lost meaning and direction and love when he was alone. Then something unique happened – a gift from God. Through family gatherings, Chuck came to know and love his daughter-in-law’s older sister, Sandy. Chuck and Sandy were joined together in the covenant of marriage.

Olga Retsch told me that “God blessed me with a peaceful and wonderful husband. He never raised his voice”. But like all fathers, there were times he became frustrated with his children and would say things like, “I’m teaching you and teaching you. Nobody wants my advice”.

“A time to be born. A time to love. A time to build up.”

Dick Retsch could fix things. He became an expert at servicing big machines for the Burgmaster Company which took him all over this country, to Russia, Canada, and other places. And Dick could fix anything at home or at Divinity. He built furniture and helped Olga run our Divinity library. I remember thanking him for helping Olga and he looked at me and simply said, “We honor each other”.

When I was visiting with Dick and Olga in their home before their 70th wedding anniversary celebration, Olga summed up their life together with these words: “We achieved the American dream. We have always honored and respected one another and continue to give back through our children and our church”.

Even though Harrison Schiffer arrived 3 months early by C-section, a scary experience, there is still that overpowering feeling of awe, of feeling God’s presence, of witnessing one of God’s greatest miracles; when that very little baby comes forth from the warmth and protection of his mother’s womb into the bright light, cold air, and the harsh reality of a new and different world.

For Harrison, Ava, Megan, and Billy it was the harsh reality of a hospital room with tubes, caring nurses, and tests that kept coming back normal.

It was the harsh reality of waiting and waiting and not knowing if Harrison would make it from one day to the next. And yet in 3 months they became a family.

Joe Godoy describes his brother John Godoy . . . He was a no nonsense man. He spoke his mind and at times was brutally honest. Despite his rough and tough exterior he had a kind gentle, loving heart. Growing up together and throughout our lives he was larger than life. He was a simple man. He lived a simple life. He always looked after my sister and me. He always put his family first. He was always there for me anytime I needed him. He would drop what he was doing to come to my aid. He sacrificed a lot for me and my sister.

John and Phyllis Postle were blessed with two sons, John and Chris, moved to Parma Heights and joined Divinity in 1957 just after Pastor Don, who was Phyllis’ cousin, arrived.

“A time to be born. A time to seek. A time to love. A time to plant.”

I remember Walt fondly remembering the story of roller skating at Skateland over the Christmas holidays when his buddy introduced him to his date named LaVerne. LaVerne and Walt Penkal were joined together in the covenant of marriage on February 26, 1945 when Walt was home on leave from the war.

What was the green pastures of Parma Heights became their home when they built a new house in 1956 on Barrington when it was still a dirt road carved into pasture land. It was a new home in which to raise their 3 children, Ken, Russ and Lori.

Betty Beifus’ soul was revived with the birth of grandchildren, a great-grandson and then took under her wing Al’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She was always willing to baby sit and enjoyed loving her family in every way.

Joan Schroedel’s pathway led to a house on Greenleaf Avenue around the corner from here. The Schroedel’s became members of this congregation on March 22, 1964, just one year before this sanctuary was built. Barb and Debbie were confirmed here and Joan told me – quote – “Debbie still goes, which is good”. Joan would bake for funeral meals and worked in our office with good friend – Betty Wolkan.

Betty remembers Joan helping her create wedding bulletins and when they made a mistake, coming back in at night to correct it. Betty described Joan as “a lovely person easy to work with and always willing to help”.

But Cliff Bennett spent a long time on second base, probably wondering if he’d ever make it to third. He was waiting for the hit that would move him over.

It finally happened. He had a date at the Galleria with a woman named Terri Bemer. Cliff knew he was almost there when he took her to opening day on April 14, 2000. Cliff and Terrie were joined together in the covenant of marriage on July 20, 2002 in this sanctuary.

Jim and Karen Hopp were married on June 12, 1971 and beginning in 1976, were blessed with a daughter every 3 years – Laura, Lisa, and Linda. Then comes the blessing of grandchildren, which based on my experience, are much more fun than children.

From Marlene Dray… “Elna Fravel was a music teacher for the Cleveland City schools for over 30 years. She was a wonderful person, marvelous choir director and a lady! At Divinity, she followed Louise Jones in a long line of wonderful directors. Her selections of choir music were always well thought out and chosen with care. The choir loved her and always did their best to make her proud.

Lydia Wink became a member of our Divinity Lutheran Church on March 19, 1967 and enjoyed singing with her sister, Marti in our adult choir. Diane Mims would take them Holy Communion from Divinity, keep them updated on church news, and would deliver to them our Divinity made nut rolls in the fall and winter. Lydia once told me, “Marti and I love Diane, she is such a sweet lady.”

But then out of a sense of duty to his country, John Sidor would experience the not so still waters of WWII. The day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, John enlisted in the Navy. He applied for submarine duty because it paid the most. He sent his pay back to his mom to help her pay the bills at home. John spent all of WWII in active duty on various submarines. The cramped quarters for long periods of time, the darkness, the explosives being dropped from above; we’ve all watched enough WWII submarine movies to know that as son Jack wrote, “He had some horrific memories that he held inside for many years.”

Now it was time to serve the meal and to tell the story of how Guy Perram served so many people through his lifetime vocation of owning Sam Perram Plumbing. Guy slowly made his way to the kitchen counter while I remained at the table. He twisted the top off the Mason jar filled with his homemade vegetable soup. Carefully, Guy emptied half of the jar into a soup bowl and placed it in the microwave for what seemed like too long. He emptied the rest into another bowl while telling the story of his plumbing business that he started after a 5 year apprenticeship.

Jean Baach joined Divinity on December 17, 1961, after moving you into a house on Reichert. Jean had been the first female draftsperson for Bell Aircraft that became a part of NASA.

Later, Jean was a teacher’s assistant in our Parma School System before going back to draft work for Sunar-Hauserman then Ceilcote, and ended up working for the Northeast Ohio Sewer District. The work ethic and frugality of her childhood did her well throughout her life.