Leaders emerge in every area of life. Some are more imposing, others quite humble. This past week one of my dear friends and mentors passed away at the age of 90 and I have dedicated this week’s post in his memory. This tribute was shared at his memorial service today (June 9, 2013). I hope it will inspire and encourage you.
Each of us is shaped by the DNA we inherited from our parents and by the life experiences we encounter along life’s journey. In Abe Alderfer’s case his strong work ethic seems firmly linked to both these influences. His dad was an early riser and hustled about their dairy farm to get the work done. Abe was usually awake each day around 4:30 AM and, even in his later years, had an insatiable urge to get things done. All this in spite of the fact that his body didn’t always want to cooperate.
I never had the pleasure of seeing Abe in action on the farm or while he worked with the Franconia Township road crew.
But, I do recall his physical toughness during my trips to the lumber yard at Snyder’s in Hatfield or working along side him at a Salford work day. I marveled at how much strength emanated from such a tall, lean frame. Anyone who shook Abe’s hand knows what I am talking about.
Abe and Marian’s home occupies a portion of their former dairy farm. It is graced with some magnificent trees and a spacious lawn that both of them took great pride in keeping mowed and leaf-free. In spite of health limitations these past few years Abe still enjoyed taking his turn riding the mower, trimming, and sweeping those ever-present leaves.
For a number of years Abe and Marian served our church as custodians and Abe would spend hours trimming in the cemetery, regardless of the heat. George Gaugler will likely tell you that no one trims as well as Abe did. They both loved this work and served with dedication and joy.
Even after giving it up, they could be found most Sunday mornings enjoying one of Sandy Wampole’s sweet treats and a cup of coffee with the custodians and sound technicians who gather early. Then it was off to their favorite pew so Abe could enjoy the pre-service music.
I’m not sure how many of us can say with conviction that they “love to go to church” but that was true of Abe. He genuinely looked forward to every service and opportunity to attend Sunday school class. His “amens” could be heard after an especially inspiring message or testimony. One of the things I will miss most as his teacher is the absence of that distinctive Pennsylvania Dutch accent when I solicit volunteers to read the scripture text. Abe always loved to participate in this way and I enjoyed listening. How do you replace that gift?
Abe and I share a love for good coffee, an appreciation for scripture, and a passion for hard work. He has been a constant source of encouragement and modeled love and commitment as a devoted husband for 67 years. Melody and I enjoyed numerous visits in their home and at Grand View Hospital when Abe would have one of his frequent bouts with pneumonia. Our final visit took place this past Sunday evening when his most recent trip there became his last.
For nearly 91 years the rhythms of faith, family, and work combined to govern the life we remember tonight. I am grateful for Abe’s friendship and humbled by the family’s invitation to share in this service. These words from Matthew 25 offer a fitting tribute to Abe: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your master.”