My great-grandfather Jesse was born on this day in 1882. In addition to caring for my children over the past few years, I have been researching and writing a book about him. His life and work have had a profound effect on me and I thought a lot about him today as we took the Heritage Home Tour and attended an exhibit at El Centro of work by local artist Alex Flores.
After being ordained in 1910, my great-grandfather began his ministry working in a medical mission in Labrador, Canada. My granddad and his younger brother were both born in the hospital my great-granddad helped build in the coastal town of St. Anthony. Called “the Christian plumber of the Mission,” during his service in Labrador he increased efficiency not only in the hospital, but also in the school, in the orphanage, and in the homes of the fishermen who lived there. He installed furnaces and running water into the orphanage and hospital, delivered sermons on Sundays in the church and hospital, managed the mission’s general funds, and taught evening school.
In 1913, my great-grandfather accepted a call to became pastor of the Seventh Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, where he served for 29 years. In addition to his many involvements with the Church, he was an artist and a writer and was very active in a broad range of civic and charitable organizations. He served as president of the Southampton Historical Society and authored numerous articles based on family lore and his boyhood memories. He also served with the YMCA and Red Cross in Russia during the First World War and worked to recruit Army and Navy chaplains during World War II.
In a book of prayers he published for servicemen, he included this quote from Abraham Lincoln, which I think sums up his life’s philosophy: “Die when I may, I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.”