Fred Gilbert passed away on the 11th of January, five years ago, 2008. He was the pastor of the church the Missus dragged me to, kicking and screaming. After listening to a few of his sermons, the Missus no longer dragged me kicking and screaming to church. I went willingly and looked forward to it.
My Dad passed away on the 28th of February, three years ago, 2010. He served in the Army at the end of World War II. He dropped out of school at 17 in order to enlist. His two older brothers were already overseas. My Uncle Louis in the Pacific. My Uncle Charlie in Europe. He taught me many things. If I had to pick one thing he taught me, I think the thing would be that he taught me to throw (and catch) a baseball. Dad was a true American. Teaching your son to throw a baseball. Doesn't get more American than that.
Carroll "Lex" LeFon passed away on the 6th of March, one year ago, 2012. Lex was an amazing writer. His blog was a must read for me, every day. He and I communicated directly only once. What he said to me, I will always cherish and remember. We were in different services. He, the Navy. Me, the Air Force. He was an officer. I was enlisted. But we understood each other in a way that only another veteran would understand.
As the end of February approached I was pondering how I was going to remember my Dad here on the blog. That's when it struck me. These three men who have to a certain extent "molded" me into the person I am today (well, the better parts at any rate), all died in the first quarter of the year. January, February and March.
While I have already put up a post for my Dad on the anniversary of his passing and another for Lex (just last week), I've never mentioned Fred before. While the Missus Herself dragged me to church (almost literally) it was Fred who made me want to go back. And I did and have done so for nearly 14 years.
I know the kids were amazed, they'd never thought of their father as a church-going man. It kind of surprised me as well. I think it helps to find the right church. Mine is amazing, it's like an extended family. Everybody really cares about everybody else, it's hard to describe but when I'm with my church family I'm, I don't know, comfortable. Like I don't need to pretend to be someone I'm not. They accept me.
Now Fred was the pastor of this church for 20 some odd years. I'm sure he had a big part in molding our church. You have to understand, Fred was larger than life. He could walk into a crowd of strangers and come out the other side with 50 new friends. He was easy to talk to, well read and well educated, both in book knowledge and life knowledge. The man had many interests and took a genuine interest in what interested others.
But Fred's greatest love (other than his wife, my dear friend Betty) was stone walls. Around our little town there lie many a wall of stone built by Fred himself. On a trip to England with friends he saw an English farmer in his field repairing a stone wall. He bade the driver stop so Fred could talk to the farmer. In the pouring rain. According to reliable sources (Betty and others) Fred and that worthy English yeoman had a long involved talk about stone walls. In the pouring rain.
So I felt I owed Fred a memorial post. This is it. He was a good man. He was a good pastor. He was also a very dear friend. I trust he's still making friends. I know I'll see him again. It's just a matter of time.
I miss ya Fred.