We attended a funeral of a neighbor the other day. It was a graveside service. After the preacher ended and the funeral home staff completed folding up the flag the widow appeared to be laughing and crying at the same time. There was no doubt that she was having an emotional turmoil. She from her front row chair turned around and to rest of us and the “The boss is dead!, the boss is dead!” Other than that she sailed right though it during this drastic change of her life.
The Baptist preacher was a slim fellow with nice hair and mustache. I would estimate he was in his late 40s to mid 50s. Before the ceremony began people were standing around making small talk. I overheard him talking about the A&P on the Square and who worked there. He also talked about the Big Star around the corner and who worked there, and who was always out front, he called them by name.
I refocused on him. He was talking about things that I barely remember; things that I saw when I was 4 or 5 years old. He was talking about things that people a generation older than me were exposed to. . He got around to Steele’s Store and the owner Pete, his wife Ruby. I interrupted him and said Pete’s daughter Helen died a couple of weeks ago. He said he was sorry to hear that, and went on his reminiscing.
A few minutes later he came up to me and said he was introduced to my wife but didn’t have the pleasure of meeting me. He held out his hand, we shook, and we introduced ourselves to each other.
He said by what I said I probably remember a lot of the old Mariettans, like the McWhirters, Steeles….. I stopped and told him all about the Steele. I don’t recall the McWhirters he mentioned.
As I was telling him about the Steeles and each family member I could tell his complete focus was not on me. His eyes were darting off elsewhere. He already cased me out and knew I had nothing to offer him. Almost in the middle of one of my sentences he patted me on the back and told me it was nice to meet me and off he went to shake hands with someone else that may be more worthy of his attention.
I thought his service was good. He said a one thing to poke fun of the deceased gently. It was a vague reference to how independent and stubborn he was. It was just enough to break the ice. His preaching had sort of a non-denominational message: If you are unhappy, then you need to change things to be happy and life is short.
He also led us in a song or two. He sung very well.
Later that day, back home I decided to Google the preacher. He seemed like a character and probably didn’t let the grass grow under his feet…. In other words, I bet he was always up to something – and surely left a wake or tracks.
WHAM! I was right.
There were several blog posts from different people telling about the energetic preacher. Several years ago he was hired as interim pastor of the First Baptist Church in Marietta, which is probably the largest church in Marietta, and cleaned house. The bad part was that it didn’t need cleaning. He fired people, took over the different departments’ finances – all departments, money-wise was in the black until he got a hold of their books and money and then they found themselves in the red. He openly publicly criticized people and caused a lot of enemies.
Groups of the people went to the deacons and other church leaders to tell of the havoc he was causing. They sort of politely ignored what they were being told. No leader wants it pointed out that he or they made the wrong decision in hiring a person. I know of other churches that had the same problem.
In 2008 he was finally fired. He got a job at the Presbyterian Church across the street. It wasn’t long before they got wind of his history with the First Baptist and was let go there also.
But he knows how to preach a good funeral and sing.
Labels: Cemeteries, Death, People study, Religion