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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Unsung Hero (12/07/06)

TITLE: Grandpa and the Governor
By Virginia Lee Bliss


It was Bill’s funeral and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Yonkers was packed.

Best way to go, everybody said. Died in his sleep. He was 82.

No one had expected it. He had been going to the office four days a week and just the other day he had walked from his office to attend the funeral of a friend.

So many people were trying to get into the old church that the ushers were hard put to make sure that Bill’s widow, the children and spouses, and the grandchildren were seated in the front. Not to mention the many nieces and nephews, grandnieces and nephews, and even great grandnieces and nephews. By the time all the mourners had arrived, there was standing room only.

Shortly before the service was to begin, a distinguished looking gentleman about the age of the deceased arrived. He was escorted to a pew just behind the family.

Immediately there was a buzz, as many of the mourners recognized him.

The minister came to the altar, the crowd quieted, and the service began.

When it came time for the eulogy, the minister said “Ladies and gentleman I give you the Honorable Herbert Henry Lehman, former governor of New York and recently retired member of the United States Senate.”

The crowd gasped. “The former Governor of New York?! Giving Bill’s eulogy?”

And “A Jew is going to give the eulogy in an Episcopal church?”

The distinguished gentleman stepped up to the podium.

“Ladies and gentlemen. You are perhaps wondering—perhaps asking yourselves: How is it that at the funeral of a man neither rich nor famous, there is standing room only?

“We might expect to see at the funeral of an elderly man with neither fame nor fortune, a few dutiful family members and a few old friends who had managed to outlive him.

“True Bill was from a large family with seven brothers and sisters, and many of the members of his extended family are here with us today. But large families were the norm for people of his generation, yet such large turnouts at their funerals are unusual.

“What was it then, about Bill that draws so many mourners? I suspect also that many of you are wondering how it is that I am one of the mourners.

“I shall tell you.

“Many years ago—in 1895 to be exact---I entered Williams College. I had three things against me. I was a freshman, I was fat, and I was Jewish. In the vernacular of today I was a ‘square’ ”.

“Nowadays it is not such a bad thing to be Jewish. It is worse to be fat. In 1895 it was worse to be Jewish than to be fat, but it was not good to be either.

“Except of course to a man like Bill. He was a year ahead of me, handsome, dashing, and popular. For some reason he thought I was ‘okay’. I was ‘okay’ with Bill so that made me ‘okay’ at Williams.

“Ladies and gentlemen, if it were not for the friendship of Bill I would not have graduated from Williams College. Had I not graduated from that prestigious institution I would not have become an army colonel in World War I. I would not have become lieutenant governor of this great state of New York, nor Governor, nor United States Senator.

“I therefore owe my entire career to Bill.

“And I know that each of you here today can recount what Bill’s friendship has meant to you. From his unpretentious office on Park Avenue, his influence extended far and wide. During the Great Depression, he provided jobs. A man of simple tastes, his favorite pastimes were spending time with his family, playing his flute, and enjoying nature. Yet when it came to his fellow man he was a true cosmopolitan. His heart was open to people of every race, creed, and color. His office was a place where anyone was welcome. Among the mourners gathered here today are individuals from every walk of life. Because Bill did not care how much money a man had or whether he knew all the right people or whether he was famous. To Bill everyone was the right people.

“You may think it unusual that a Jewish fellow is giving the eulogy in an Episcopal Church. Ladies and gentlemen I am here to tell you that Bill was a true Christian.”

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This article has been read 1186 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Donna Powers 12/15/06
He certainly lived out his testimony. What an honor to have touched so many lives. A good story. Keep writing!
dub W12/17/06
Nicely written. I hope to see more of your work in the future.
Amy Michelle Wiley 12/19/06
I like it. I like how you showed a hint of the many, many ways we can influence the world around us. Well done!
william price12/19/06
I didn't like reading about a guy named Bill's funeral...
But, when God says its time, I hoped I was able to touch as many lives as your Bill did. Excellent story, well told and written. God bless.
Rhonda Clark12/19/06
What a lovely, lovely entry. Keep this kind of writing up and you won't be long in beginners.

Great job, very touching.
Catrina Bradley 12/19/06
I enjoyed reading this. Very nicely written. Good job!
Betty Castleberry12/19/06
An enjoyable read, and with a message, too. Thank you for sharing this. Nicely done.
Jesus Puppy 12/19/06
Way to go Bear.. Great story of the mans life and testimony. A good message of how ones actions can truly touch the hearts of many. And you did it without foreign languages. ;) Great read.
Joanne Sher 12/20/06
I was SO engaged in this from beginning to end, and I SO wanted to hear more! I hope you will expand on this at some later time. Wonderful writing!
Donna Haug12/21/06
Congratulations. Inspiring story.
Jan Ackerson 12/28/06
Thanks for sending me this link, Virginia! Look for this charming story to be showcased on the week of January 21.
Phyllis Inniss01/15/07
I'm glad I got the opportunity to read this well-written account of a true Christian. I can only read so many entries on the Challenge per week. Thank you, Jan, for putting it where it can be noticed.
Linda Riddell01/17/07
Wonderful piece! You are very polished for a "beginner"!
Marilyn Schnepp 01/18/07
First of all, Congratulations for placing in your category; secondly Congratulations for being showcased (where I found your article), and thirdy, Congratulations for writing such a wonderful, touching story! Impressive! Enjoyable! and a tribute to Christianity...and to the man who lived up to that title in his everyday life. Kudos!