I stopped yesterday out at Otterbein Cridersville to visit with Kenyon Howison. Earlier in the day, her husband, Earl, passed away after 98 pretty good years. Earl and Kenyon only moved into Assisted Living about two months ago (they had been in the Independent Living section for 17 years), and he had actively golfed until he was 92. While the last year has been a rough one for him, his life has been filled with family, friends, and lots of rounds of golf. The Howisons were just a couple months short of 70 years of marriage, and I think if you ask Kenyon, she'll tell you that the older she gets, the more blessed she realizes she has been.
Kenyon has been a member of Shawnee since before we built the current sanctuary. She can remember her and Earl walking with their son, Jeff, from their home in Elmview on Sunday mornings featuring good weather, to the "pretty little white chapel" that used to stand in the cemetery next door. Like me, she grew up at Trinity, in town, but when Bob Kimes was pastor way back in the days when Shawnee was on a three point circuit with Westview and Hume, after preaching an early service at Westview, he'd drive down Shawnee Road to preach here. Apparently, his route and schedule became so well known, that one day Kenyon went out to meet him as he drove down the road. She said less than a year later they transferred their membership.
"Bob was a nice man, and we could walk to church. You just couldn't beat that."
The coming years were filled with Circle meetings, rummage sales, spaghetti dinners, weddings, funerals, baptisms, and plenty of friends. She can remember the "walk over" from the old building to the new. She's still proud of the building the congregation built but misses the simple, pretty chapel, whose existence is now only marked by a small plaque that rests in the cemetery where it once stood. Much of her life was spent here on the corner of Zurmehly and Shawnee, and the memories are now rich and deep.
She told me that pastors needed to fun people. People who like to laugh, and make other people laugh. Life, she told me, is too short to be around a minister who is somber all the time. I took that as a license to make her laugh, and so I did.... repeatedly. And what a laugh she has! We were making a quite a ruckus last night. It was probably the only ruckus in all of Cridersville.
I'm sure the world she now largely only experiences through the visitors who come through her door, the staff at the facility, and the television, mystifies her in a multitude of ways. And like many of her generation (and of every generation, I suppose), I suspect she fears for the future. But I'll tell you this... while it might have been a fun preacher and easy commute to lure the Howisons to Shawnee, the thing that kept them here were good friends, meaningful worship, a sense that they seem to know Jesus better with each passing Sunday, and the decision to stand behind the commitment they made to do what they could to uphold the ministry of this place as long as they could.
And thank God they did, for Shawnee is a richer place for that gift.
Anyhow, remember the Howisons as they celebrate and grieve the loss of Earl. And if you have the time, maybe stop out at Otterbein to see Kenyon. Just so you know, she loves dogs (she misses her little chihuahua who died at 19 years of age) and she loves to laugh.