We had a precious Celebration of Life service in his honor a few weeks ago, and afterward - according to his wishes - everyone was invited for taco salad. So typical - he didn't want sadness!
There were many ways that my dad was special to the world - from the many students he touched during 30+ years as Professor and Dean at Samford University, to the thousands he touched through his mission trips and writing projects.
But his family knew him in some other ways, too. Growing up, our family was my mom (to whom he was married for almost 68 years), my brother Wayne, and me. Daddy was The Great Explainer, a teacher to the core, whether it was introducing me to algebra at a young age (and it made sense!), or showing us how to dip boxwood cuttings in a special substance so they would root better (and paid us 10 cents for every cutting that rooted, BTW!), or being always ready to tickle our brains with a riddle ("A hunter left his cabin and walked 1 mile due south, 1 mile due east, then saw a bear, then walked 1 mile due north and ended up back at his cabin. What color was the bear?"), or set us on an adventure, like the around-the-world trip our family took when I was ten, so he and Mother could teach at Hong Kong Baptist College while on a semester sabbatical from Samford ("Well, we have been advised to change our plans and not go to Athens tomorrow because of riots - what do you say we go to Pompeii instead?").
He was a farmer (with a doctorate in agricultural education), as well as a scholar (with a doctorate in agricultural education). He was a writer, a poet (you should see the poems he wrote for my mom!), a patriot, and an inventor, with a dry wit that caught a lot of people by surprise. My children dubbed him "hard core" because of episodes like the time one Saturday that the wheel rim fell on his hand while he was changing his own tire (in his 80's) on a deserted Samford campus, but after about 20 minutes, he was finally able to flag down a student to help him get the car off his hand, then he insisted on driving himself to the emergency room.
He had occasion to preach once in a while, and he would say, "I'm a bootleg preacher - I'm dispensing the gospel without a license." My 10-year-old self has never forgotten the sermon he preached at a church in Egypt on that trip around the world - his text was Hebrews 12:1-2. I learned to love God through my godly parents, and I am so very grateful.
For the last 16 years, Dad helped Mother as she began a national organization called the American Rosie the Riveter Association, which honors women who worked during World War II. He faithfully helped her plan conventions and send out publicity, and he typed her correspondence and newsletter articles so often that she started taking him to lunch during Secretary's Week. He wore his original paratrooper uniform to give presentations with Mother called "Rosie and Her Paratrooper" in several states across the country.
Dad rode a glider plane into the 1944 invasion of southern France that followed D-Day. He became rather famous in veteran circles for telling "The Turkey Story" (watch it here on YouTube) about the time he volunteered to cook a Thanksgiving turkey with no kitchen or mess hall on the Italian border. So he typed that one and some more WW II stories on his computer last summer and bound them into a little tablet, even though he had had a stroke by then and it wasn't easy. He called it Some Side-Lights of Operation Dragoon and enjoyed giving it away at a Dragoon reunion last summer. Last fall we added some photos, formatting, and additional stories, and made it into a book, which he continued to enjoy giving away, especially to veterans.
Dad had a favorite saying: "I want to live 'til I die." And he absolutely did. The song says, "May all who come behind us find us faithful." Thank you, Daddy. Those of us coming behind you have certainly found you to be faithful.