Monday, September 26, 2011

Mourning an Icon

"Dear Friends,

"I am sorry to inform you...."

Thus, in traditional form, began the letter that let our community know a member had died. Not just any member, but one who through the years had given his heart and soul to our program and the teens who came to us.

He had been in failing health and had not been an active participant for the last three years, but he got a standing ovation on his one visit in 2010. Which was 50 years to the month after he first joined us. His first year, 1960, he served as our Chaplain.

When our program faced it's biggest crisis in 1975, he and a few others worked their tails off to see that the it survived. Their vision and willingness to change things mean that we we are still here.

Through the years, he taught many things. Leading classes on "Christian Marriage" and sailing. In his last decade of service his class "God's Great Sea and Shore" was popular. He made sure that we knew the Navy hymn and lead  a vesper by the ocean every year. He always encouraged us to learn, to think, to grow. He was also the weatherman and knew his stuff. On that last visit, when he received the standing ovation, it was because he was asked to give the weather report at the last minute -- and just got up and did it.

He was a personal friend of mine, too. He offered prayer and help whenever my family needed it and we often shared times of laughter in the faculty lounge -- which, incidently, had been donated by the church he served and dedicated in his honor.

So today, I share in the sorrow of the community. Remembering, shedding tears, praying for his family.

Rest in peace, John Wilbur. You will be missed.

"They who go down to the sea in ships, who do business in great waters, these know the power of the Lord."

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