This was weird in a wonderful way.
As fate would have it, I produced two feature obituaries this week concerning people who were almost universally described as “gentle men” in the truest sense, Dr. Fletcher Lowry and the Rev. Charles McDonald. Both were good Methodists, but that was not all they had in common.
The interesting, bizarre part is that both men had been married for 62 years.
I consider it another unique experience in my newspaper career — that within three days to write two obituaries of men I had known who had celebrated 62 years of marriage.
Both knew how to love on several different levels — sports, family, life, fellow man, God.
“It’s amazing what you can get away with when people know that you love them.”
It reminded me of a speaking engagement I had a couple of years ago for a men’s breakfast at the College Park Retirement community.
Meeting and talking and sharing stories with those men was a delightful experience. They loved to discuss sports and inform me of their opinions on a variety of sports issues.
One of the men who asked insightful questions, offered interesting observations and insights and provided plenty of laughter was a guy in a plaid shirt, suspenders and jeans, the Rev. Charles McDonald.
As I spent some time with the group, McDonald talked a lot about his family. His son, Tom, was a former colleague of mine at the Log Cabin.
“I’ve learned more about God’s love for his children through my love for my children.”
McDonald was a retired Methodist minister who had served a dozen or so churches in Arkansas, including two terms at First United Methodist Church in Conway. I say retired. He tried to retire several times but kept coming back because he loved connecting with people and serving them.
“I don’t believe in trying to scare the hell out of people. I believe in trying to love the hell out of people.”
He loved sports and enjoyed talking about them.
As with the ups and downs in sports, part of McDonald’s passion was trying to help folks through life’s ups and downs.
“God doesn’t send us tragedy. When something bad happens, he cries with us.”
You may be wondering by now about the italicized quotes sprinkled throughout this column.
As a tribute to his father, Tom McDonald posted some quotes on Facebook, some direct, some paraphrased, that he remembered his father saying to him throughout his life. I thought they were provocative, proverbial and wanted to share a few here because they represent the essence of how he lived and served and was devoted to his family.
“He introduced me to God, led me to manhood, and showed me how to be a dad. I’ve known no better man,” said Tom.
The Rev. McDonald was also a leader in social justice issues before it was cool to be outspoken about them. He was one of the most prominent voices in pushing for integration at Hendrix.
“Leave it better than you found it.”
“I believe in the immortality of influence.”
He also showed people how to love. Family members say his muffled, last recognizable words before his death, were, “I love you,” to his wife, Lois King McDonald, “bringing to an end,” Tom says, “but only in the physical world, a 62-year love affair with her and 86 years of loving, well, everybody.”
It’s a legacy that, rather than finality, has transcendence.
(Sports columnist David MCCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or email@example.com)