Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Eulogy - William Burton Reynders

I'm finally putting this up. I was delirious composing and typing my dad's eulogy at 4 a.m. the day of his funeral. I certainly didn't cover it all, but I hoped it would be a tribute to his life, his love of God, his family, and his fellowman.

William Burton Reynders Eulogy
presented by Martha Reynders Blair at his funeral
Friday, August 8, 2014

My father has suffered in many ways in recent years and especially in the last month, but we know he has moved on to a better place.  As a representative of our family, I would like to publicly acknowledge our gratitude for my father’s caregiver, Teresa Espinoza, and her family. Teresa was outstanding in her service, always choosing excellence, and full of charity. Thank you, Teresa.

There are many relatives who have preceded my father in death, but I will mention just a few - 1st his wife, Dorothy McMullin, two of his grandchildren, and most recently his sister, Betty, who passed away on July 25th.  Poppy is survived by his children - myself, Martha, and my husband, Houston Blair; Mark and JoLinda Reynders of Clovis, California; Beth and David Lockhart of Hope Mills, North Carolina; and Adam and Sally Reynders of Holladay, Utah.  He has 19 living grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren, and many other friends and family who are here today. Thank you for coming.

My grandparent’s, Dee Allen Reynders and Martha Ann Thaxton, were both from Michigan. They were married on June 23, 1917.  Together they had five children.  My father, William Burton Reynders was the youngest. He went by Billy or Bill in those day, and in later years was affectionately referred to as “Poppy” or “Coach”.  He was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 11, 1927.  Interestingly, his oldest brother, Jim, shared the same birthday of June 11th..

On Christmas Day 1927 this blossoming family met with great tragedy. Martha Ann Thaxton Reynders died of consumption or what we now call TB or tuberculosis.  Jim was 9, Betty 7, Doris 5, Robert 3, and my father, Bill, who was only 6 months old.  These children all found out later in life that they too once had TB.  My father had scarring in his lungs and was never able to donate blood because of it.

I have great compassion in thinking that my dad was not raised or cared for by his mother.  The nurturing experience that a mother can give was lost to him. There were others that stepped in and tried to compensate, but he keenly felt this loss.  Even though Christmas was the celebrated birth of our Savior he still had a bit of sorrow each year knowing his mother had passed on that day. He never showed it or talked about it, but kept it to himself.  I was older when I learned this information looking on a family pedigree chart. "What a trial!" I thought, "Not to be nurtured by your own mother."  It was a sad thing indeed, but I am hopeful she greeted him in death along with many other family and friends awaiting.

After the death of their mother, the children were separated and lived with other family members for a time; but eventually they came back together under one roof.  My father grew up attending the Central Christian Church.  He was raised in a home that promoted Christianity, service, sports, music, art, and education.

Their family formed a band performing in nursing homes. We have a photograph where my dad is pictured sitting at a snare drum with his other siblings and his father, but he also learned to play the piano and bravely sang participating in choirs and the like.

My dad was definitely skillful in sports.  He really was outstanding.  He attended Union High School where his father taught school. He participated in track and field, tennis, basketball, and football.  He left high school; too young to join the Navy, but he did it anyway with his friends, actually enlisting on D-Day during World War II.  He wasn’t in for very long because the war was soon over.  He came home and finished high school at Union High in 1947. He joined the Navy again during the Korean conflict. While he was in the military he actually had the opportunity to represent the Navy playing football at Treasure Island in San Francisco.

My dad’s sister mentioned to my mother’s brother that she had a brother serving in the Navy and wondered if he knew anyone that could write him.  My mother’s brother said, “I’ve got a sister that could write your brother.

Long story short, my parents started writing each other.  Eventually they met in California, as they walked together to greet my mother’s parents who were waiting in the distance, my mother could see her mother’s lips whispering to her father, “He’s too short for Dorothy.”  My father was the tallest in his family, but even so he barely reached the height of my mother. Obviously height was not a deal breaker, but one of the big common draws for both my parents was that they were both athletic. My parents were very competitive.  My dad was surprised that someone could actually beat him at tennis.  They both enjoyed watching sports and participating in them. It was something they shared together throughout the years.

My mother gave my father a Book of Mormon.  He read it while out at sea.  He knew the book was true.  When he saw her again, he said, “I want to be baptized.”  Later, after his baptism they were married on June 22,1951.  A year later they were sealed in the Mesa Arizona Temple.  Over time four children were born, myself - Martha, Mark, Beth, and Adam. Interestingly, my father named his two daughters after women he felt had most influenced him in his life.  I, Martha, was named after his mother and my sister, Beth, was named after his father’s sister, Aunt Beth.  She had a set of twins six-months older than my dad and he spent a lot of time in their home during his growing up years.

Like my parents, our family participated in sports, Scouting, and lots of activities at school, but my father knew life wasn’t just about sports and fun activities.  I remember my mother made up some signs for each of our bedrooms.  My dad brought them to each room and pinned them on a bulletin board as an affirmation to aim high.  The sign listed three goals:  “Mission, College, Temple Marriage”.

Our household was loud, and as boisterous as we all were it was still a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house that strived to teach and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Like Nephi of old, I can truly say “I was born of goodly parents.”

In our home for family home evenings we found ourselves often performing. Yes, we had family home evening lessons, but it seemed that everyone took a turn singing or playing the piano; except for my mother.  I’m not sure why she was exempt, but my dad participated.  He had a piano repertoire that consisted of “America the Beautiful”, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, and the “Happy Farmer”.  It didn’t stop there.  He would get up and serenade us with an old Christian tune from his youth “I Love to Tell the Story”.

I remember family home evenings.  I felt the Spirit; and because I was taught in my home and developed a testimony of the importance of family home evening; I have carried it through to the next generation and now I see it with my own children with their children.  Traditions of truth are tools that teach. Proverbs 22:6 reads, Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

I saw my father fulfill priesthood responsibilities daily with home teaching, missionary work, temple work, family history, teaching, and service  He gave us father’s blessings and blessings when we were sick. My father wasn’t perfect, but he tried to live the gospel and tried to always set an example.

My father worked in aerospace for 40 years, but there were times when he was laid off.  I remember my father being off for several months sometimes. There was one stretch that went for four months.  He even took up painting portraits. I can remember him cutting up vegetables into a pot of something which was our standard dinner with homemade bread. These times were frugal times.  I am sure my parents were concerned.  I am sure being unemployed can be a little depressing, but I really wasn’t fully aware of their worry; maybe because I just didn’t understand all the responsibilities of adulthood, but I also felt at peace in spite of these trials.

One day, I went into my parents bedroom and saw my father kneeling next to his bed praying.  I exited quietly and went to the dining room where my mother was sitting.  I told her that I saw daddy praying and why was he praying in the middle of the day?  She informed me that I shouldn’t disturb him that he was praying for a job.  I might not have been aware of adult responsibilities, but I was aware of the time and I watched the clock.  I didn’t know how long my dad had been on his knees, but since I observed him in his room praying I knew it had been at least an hour. Wow!  Praying in the middle of the day and praying for so long?! I was out on the patio occupying myself, the backdoor to the house was visibly ajar. I had been thinking about this situation.  I was watching. I was listening.  I heard the phone ring.  My mother picked it up.  I heard her say, “Yes, just a minute.” She went down the hall and got my father.  My father quickly came to the phone.  He picked it up and said, “I’ll be right there.” And he walked out the door.  I went in the house and said, “Where’s Daddy going?”  She replied, “He got a job.”  I was so amazed by that.  I’m sure it was faith promoting to my parents, but it was really a tender mercy for me also witnessing faith in action, to be there, to see it, to feel it.  God hears and answers prayers.  I knew my parents knew it and I knew it.; and as you can see, I’ve always remembered it.

My dad coached Little League for many years. He coached his sons and many other young men in the sport.  Surprisingly, he didn’t play it in high school and it was his first love of sports.  He also taught tennis.  He coached football and basketball.  I’m sure these kids called him “Coach”, but that’s not really how he got the name.  At a ward basketball game, my dad was watching, but wasn’t the “Coach”.  If you have ever set with my dad at a game, he’s definitely shouting from the sidelines.  He’s pulling his hair out in anguish at all the mistakes he sees and you can bet he’s telling you about it.  He was giving his advice from the sidelines while the boys were playing.  Those teenage boys really didn’t want to hear what my dad had to say to them so it was more a derogatory comment of “Okay, Coach!  Sure, Coach!” My dad took it in stride and was happy to be called “Coach” which eventually became a name of endearment.

My father was very passionate about sports.  He would get frustrated with kids that wouldn’t follow his instructions.  He’d tell me about situations referring to extraordinarily talented kids and say, “If they’d just do what I say, they’d make a touchdown every time.”  “If they’d just do what I say, they’d make a basket every time.”  If they’d just do what I say, they’d get it over the net, they’d get a home run.” - and on and on. Maybe my dad was a little bit over the top when it came to his delivery from the sideline, but I have to give my dad some credit. He was really very gifted and had a lot of knowledge and skill. One legendary story we tell in our family happened  when I was in high school. We had an event called the “Stake Olympics”.  The church utilized the college for many of the competitions - swimming, track, etc.  One of the events was tennis.  My dad was working that day, but wanted to participate.  He got there just in time for the competition. He didn’t have time to change his clothes coming straight from work.  He was wearing his worn-out, grubby, long-legged, long-sleeved dungarees.  He couldn’t be cool dressed like that  - “not cool” in that he had to be really hot in those clothes, and “not cool” because he looked absolutely ridiculous; and to top it off he had on his steel-toed boots.  He didn’t have his racket, but borrowed one from someone at the event.  He won! He was absolutely amazing! Over 40 years old running the tennis court in that get-up with steel-toed boots. He won the whole thing. Maybe there wasn’t any “real” competition, but like I said - He won and he was absolutely amazing.

My father’s patriarchal blessing says he is a man ‘without guile”.  He was honest and forthright. His intent was not to hurt others, but to help them - in spite of his gruff exterior that he often exhibited.  We all know if you asked him how he was, he’d respond with, “Terrible!”  I asked him about that one time trying to explain to him that he was being negative instead of positive, but he countered that he was being honest.  He really didn’t feel very good.

One special thing my parents did together before they got too sick, was serve a mission.  My mom wanted to go to Nauvoo - where they performed and gave tours to tourist about the Church’s history there and my dad wanted to proselyte.  They got the best of both worlds first serving in Canton, IL for six months and then another six months in Nauvoo.  They enjoyed both situations. My father gave tours at the temple lot.  (There’s a temple there now, of course, but at the time it was the lot or, in other words, the location of where the original Nauvoo Temple stood.)  My dad would give a history of the site telling people about the persecution of the Saints and how the temple had been burned down, not to mention his testimony of this latter-day work.  But like always there is a special Spirit when it comes to temples.  My dad was on sacred ground.  When he came home from his mission he was quite emotional when he said these words, “I don’t know if I was for Nauvoo or if Nauvoo was for me.” Meaning - I went there to serve, but I got so much out of it. It was, no doubt, a humbling and sanctifying experience to serve there as a missionary in such a unique way.

I have heard from many people who have shared stories of home teaching and missionary experiences with my father.  I certainly can’t share them all, but I’d like to share one that represents my father’s doings in this area.  Our friend, Charlie Shackett, use to be a Lancaster resident many years ago. It’s an understatement when I say, Charlie loves baseball.  He’s played it his whole life, but he also looks on baseball in a very special way because of how he joined the Church.  With his permission I share with you this afternoon an excerpt from a talk he gave at a stake conference in 1995:

"The most important role that baseball has played in my life has not been the many wonderful lessons learned about good sportsmanship, setting and teaching goals, winning and losing, competition, interpersonal skills, and working as a team, but what has been most critically important has been the relationships that have influenced my life and the opportunity I’ve had to influence others through this great sport.

When my career began in little league I had an inspired and visionary coach that could see the potential in every individual player.  He made sure that we also saw it within ourselves.  Had it not been for this special and spiritual gift that my coach possessed, I would not have been chosen to play on the team. For you see, I wasn’t nearly as huge and well built for my age as you see me now.  I was rather on the small side, and not so sure what kind of ballplayer I could become.  My coach not only knew what kind of ballplayer I could be, but he knew what kind of person I could become.

His name was . . . “Bill” Reynders.  We just called him “Coach” . . . What he did for me was not just teach me sound fundamentals of the game at an early age, but he remembered me over ten years later in a moment of prayerful inspiration to send the missionaries to my home to teach me the fundamentals of this sacred Gospel.

From the moment the missionaries walked in my door and started to teach this troubled and confused nineteen year old about his desperate need for the Gospel, I knew that my life would never be the same.  After the first discussion I learned the steps of prayer for the first time in my life and was challenged by the missionaries to get on my knees in the solitude of my room before I went to bed, and ask Heavenly Father in the name of His Son Jesus Christ if the Gospel was true.  They promised me, without a doubt in their voice, that I would know that God lived, I would feel the presence of His spirit, and I would receive an answer in my heart to my sincere prayer.  They were right.  Through my first experience of prayer I gained a testimony that God did live, that Jesus was my Savior, and that the Gospel was true.  It proved to be one of my most spiritual and sacred experiences I have ever had in my life.

The next day when the missionaries heard of my experience, they were overjoyed to tears, and from that day began pumping me with daily discussions as quickly and powerfully as humanly possible.  I guess I was what they termed “Golden,” and in Southern California in the mid-seventies golden investigators were hard to come by.

In a matter of weeks I was challenged and ready for baptism.  As the two wonderful missionaries were verbally sparring as to which one would have the honors of baptizing me, I received a little inspiration of my own.  I looked up the number of my long lost “Coach” and gave him a call.  “Coach,” I said, “this is Charlie Shackett and I understand that you were the one that sent the Mormons over to see me.”  He was quiet and didn’t know how to respond.  “Coach, are you responsible for the Mormon missionaries coming over to my house?” I asked again.

He responded, “Well, yes Charlie, I did.”

I proudly asked, “Coach, I would like to know if you’re not too busy this Saturday if you would consider doing me the honor of baptizing me into the Church?”

Coach, not knowing what had transpired over the past few weeks was emotionally taken, but he responded, “I would love to.”

My life was changed by an inspired man that followed the prompting of the Spirit, that took a risk, and influenced a life.  Within two years of my baptism, I was teaching the Gospel to the wonderful Japanese people and had the opportunity to take many “Golden Investigators” down into the waters of baptism.

Shortly after my mission, I married my beautiful wife, Kim, in the Los Angeles Temple . . . [and I’ll add here - raising six children].  He continues . . .

We can make a difference in the lives of others.  How are we influencing those we interact with daily in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our callings, at our work, and in our lives?  I truly believe that what is really going to matter when we stand before God to account for how we lived our life, will be the influence for good that we have made in the lives of others while on this earth, and for the times that we followed the prompting of the Spirit, without fear of man and for the love of God and mankind."

At my mother’s funeral I said in one word that my mother was a “teacher”.  My father was a teacher too, but all in all, in one word, I would say my father was a “missionary”.  He once told me that he knew a girl that was a Mormon in Michigan.  He said, “She never shared anything about the gospel with me, but I’d like to think I would have listened if she had.”  My dad, didn’t like the idea of anyone not knowing the truth. He wanted everyone to have the joy the gospel brings. He was truly a champion for Christ even though dementia and old age took its toll on his body in the end.

In closing, I’d like to read the words of the song my father learned in his youth. I mentioned it earlier and I feel it tells his story, for he truly loved telling the story of Christ. (The words are by A. Katherine Hankey.  I’ll be sharing the 1st and 2nd verses followed by the refrain:)

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat
What seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.

I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story; more wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams.
I love to tell the story, it did so much for me;
And that is just the reason I tell it now to thee.

“Poppy, I love you!”

In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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