Sunday, February 27, 2011

RCW at 93 - An Essay For Dad

LANGHORNE, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.   Sometimes as a writer you may wake up from a nap that has been long enough and you say out loud to yourself, "It is time to write about this. The words are there. Everything is in place. Write it down before something distracts you."  The person of whom I am about to write has never been a distraction. In fact, writing about him helps me to focus on what are the most important things in my life. This one is for you Dad :-)

RCW and 2nd son ALW in July 2010

He was born Robert Charles Winger. The name "Robert" was after one of his grandfather's brothers, Robert Sylvanus Winger. The "Charles" was the first name of his own father, Charles Edward Winger. The date was March 4th, 1918 and the place was Oil City, Pennsylvania. Bob, as he would be called by those who really knew him, or RCW, as he would sign all his personal letters, would be the oldest of seven children. After him would come Dora, Bill (William), Howard, Alice, Myrtle, and Ollie (Oliver). Of the seven he is still the oldest alive of the four that remain. Bill lives outside Jamestown, New York. Myrtle lives a little north of Phoenix, Arizona, and Ollie lives not too far from Norfolk, Virginia. The Patriarch of the Winger Clan, something of which he is very proud, lives in Sparta, Tennessee. The remaining of the seven - Dora, Howard, and Alice - are gone now, to a better place.

To his five children he is known as "Dad" but to all of them there is another name that is also freely given out of a loving respect that he still deserves and gets. With him it is a name you always use in conversation with him. It is always "Yes Sir" and "No Sir." It may be "Love ya Dad," but it is also "Love ya Sir," and it is the most natural thing in the world for you to say to him.

There have been three great ladies in the life of RCW. The first was his own mother, Myrtle Irene (Bixler) Winger. She was a Registered Nurse in the local hospital of a city that was built around the oil industry of northwest Pennsylvania. Charles, her husband, worked in a factory that serviced this industry. He also played in the city baseball league and he was very good. His son Bob would spend much of his later years coaching Babe Ruth League baseball, passing on that love of the game to future generations. But his father Charles would be stricken with pneumonia and he would die three days after Bob's youngest brother Ollie was born. All of a sudden the oldest son became the man of the house, having to help his mother as she would make decisions that shaped the future of their lives. This was during the Great Depression. Dad would dig the hole for someone who was putting in an outhouse so that he could buy a good sweater to wear. He was very proud of that sweater and kept it for a long time.

They lived on Oak Grove Street, "on The Hill" as it was known. They were surrounded by the Winger Clan. In later years when driving down the old street, Uncle Bill would identify houses still there as either being this or that Winger home and the others as being the homes of "outsiders." Their home on The Hill was built by Wingers and right next door to Dad's home lived Grandma Josephine (Quinn) Winger the matriarch of the clan. She was Irish Catholic so it is not unusual to go to the Catholic cemetary just up the road and find Winger headstones. Charles, Myrtle's husband and father of seven, would be buried there. On the other hand Myrtle, the mother of the seven, would be buried in a cemetary located more in the city. She and her children were Free Methodist. But on The Hill family was still family and differences in religion did not disrupt that life.

The next great lady in the life of RCW was Lois Pauline (Blood) Winger. From a very young age she had decided that she did not like the name Lois and insisted on being called Pauline.  L. Pauline Winger was how she signed her name. She was ten years older than Dad and they had met in the workplace in Jamestown, New York just sixty miles north of Oil City. She was a strong woman and very independant, but in such a quiet way that she and Bob were never known to argue in front of their two boys. Bob and Pauline were married just before the United States entered the Second World War. The oldest son, Warren Irwin, would be born while his Dad was fighting the war in the Pacific. The youngest son, Allan Leigh, would be born three years after the war, while his Dad was studying to be a Free Methodist Minister at Roberts Wesleyan College just outside of Rochester, New York. It was a two year school then so Dad would finish his training at Houghton College and their first church was in Olean, New York.

Dad was seen as an up and coming man of the denomination, a leader of the future, and so the family was transferred to Mason City, Iowa. There his small church became a larger church. The small building where he had started his ministry in a local community became the much bigger building that was closer to the center of town. He was on his way to becoming the next area Bishop who would oversee several churches in the area. But then something started to happen to the marriage. The two sons never seemed to see it coming but all of a sudden the family was moving back to Oil City to live with Grandma. Dad was no longer a minister and he returned to the skills of his younger days, being a machinist back in Jamestown. After a year with Grandma the family would move to Lakewood, just outside of Jamestown. Everything seemed okay to the two sons but sometime after that move the marriage came to an end. Even though the two sons would be living with their mother, Dad was always living somewhere close by. He never stopped being Dad.

The last great lady in the life of RCW was Pauline Lucille (Humiston) Winger. From a very young age her very red hair had earned her the nickname of "Rusty," and that's the name that everyone still calls her even though her hair may not be as red as it used to be. But also, like the respect that is given to their father, when the five children of RCW speak with her it is, "Yes, Ma'am," and "No, Ma'am," and in our own way,"Love ya Ma'am" as well. That respect comes in part from the fact that she and Dad have been married for fifty-two years now and it is definitely no small achievement to have lived with a Winger man for that long. Rusty knows her husband and they are still deeply in love with each other. That love which they share is something that holds the lives of the five children together like a very, very special glue.

Bob and Rusty were married as Dad was developing a new business that he and a friend had started, Good Turn Machine Company. The oldest daughter, Louise Anne, would be born in August of the following year in Jamestown. Almost eight years would pass before the second daughter, Laura Ann, was born. The successful business had been sold and now home was a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee. Dad was working for Avco Corporation at the time. Then a year later, still in the Nashville area, Curtis Edward was born who would bring another male voice to the Winger family. All three are very, very special indeed.

The two older brothers live a long way from Sparta and cannot visit as often as they would like. So it is these three who watch over their Mom and Dad very carefully and very lovingly. The two sisters live within driving distance. The youngest brother lives a bit further away but is always there when his Mom and Dad need him the most.

As the family was growing in years Dad became involved with Toastmasters International. One thing led to another and before we knew it Dad became a Minister again after being out of the pulpit for more than fifteen years. The first church would be in Providence, Kentucky. Then there was the move to Sparta. He would start with one church. Then he would move to be the Pastor of two smaller churches up the road in the Crossville area. Then he would close out his life in the ministry as the Pastor of Prayer in the same church where he had begun in Sparta.  All total there is probably much more than thirty years in the ministry in addition to all the other things he accomplished inbetween.

How do you count the blessings that God has given you in a lifetime? How do you measure the Grace of God in a person's life? How do I as one of his children also say, "Thank you" for instance to someone that has been such an integral part of your life, your very being, for so many years, almost longer than you can remember? How do you also teach what Dad loved to teach the most from the pulpit and in life. How do you teach the Power of God's Holy Spirit? One answer is what this whole essay has been about - Family. But for Dad there has always been something bigger to teach, something that includes Family right along with it, but it is a bigger picture, the biggest in Dad's life.

Teaching the Power of the Holy Spirit for Dad always centers around one thing. That would be the Gospel - the life, death, burial, resurrection, and soon coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ. For Bob Winger, when you examine his life and see what shines through like a ten fold beacon in the night, that is what drove his life and still does. "When God is near, so near I hear Him speak to me..." the words of the song reverently say. When that happens to a man what else can he talk about but Jesus His Lord and what the Power of the Holy Spirit can do in a person's life.

"Honor your father and your mother, which is the first commandment with promise, that you may live long on the earth and prosper." [Ephesians 6:2,3]

We thank the Lord for how He continues to use your life Dad to teach us how to do that.  We are also constantly amazed at how your Lord, our Lord, has prospered you and prospered us as well.

"Remember your leaders, those who taught you about God. Consider the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever." [Hebrews 13:7,8]

We thank the Lord on a daily basis for the faith that He alone has manifested through you and the Power of the Holy Spirit which is still very much alive in you is now alive in your family as well.  "...all things [really do] work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."  [Romans 8:28].

Happy Birthday Dad, and perhaps though you would probably prefer to be in Heaven right now, we your family are very blessed that you are still with us in this life :-)
Love ya Sir :-)