Monday, February 25, 2013

Nelda Chesshir

Mom, as a Harding coed.
We had a Harding University Alumni and Prospective Student gathering tonight at Westbury Christian School. The food was terrific- catered by Old Hickory Barbecue- and there was an excellent crowd of more than one hundred. I was able to meet several FACEBOOK friends (Liz Culp Howell/Ken Bissell) and hear incoming president, Dr. Bruce McLarty, speak of his first day in Searcy, Arkansas. Several of our WCS alumni who attend Harding talked about the correlation between the two schools. The night ended with the singing of the Alma Mater. (I heard someone say that no one knows the second verse but I do; I learned it from my folks.) I am indebted to Harding for any number of reasons but chief is this- if it was not for Harding, I would not have been born. My dad penned this devotional about my mom on July 17, 2006, explaining the beginning of my existence. 

That was her name when we first met at Harding College in the fall of 1946. I don't remember when we met but I do remember the tall, graceful, pretty and most pleasant Christian young woman. She was a 20-year old junior from Nashville, Arkansas. I was an all-of-17-year old from Flint, Michigan. She wasn't the kind who drew attention to herself, but her modest, quiet and caring quality spoke for itself. She was one of the most respected persons on our 600-student campus.

When I arrived at Harding I thought that I had come to an outpost of Heaven. Four years later at graduation I had not changed my mind. Now 60 years later that four-year period of my life is remembered in the light sepia-colored tones of a favorite memory-filled old photograph. I wouldn't take anything for that life-directing experience.

Being at Harding for a boy who was sure that one day he would find a wife among all the lovely Christian girls at a place like that was like being in a candy shop--with his dad's credit card in his pocket. Except that there weren't any credit cards back then. During my freshman and sophomore years I dated dozens of girls, usually for church or Wednesday night service or Monday night meeting or special lectures or club banquets. A few I liked a lot. Not all of them liked me that much. I knew that I couldn't afford to get too serious because I couldn't ask a girl to wait three or four years for me until I graduated. My brother, Monroe, Harding class of '45, found Julia in his junior year and they married shortly after their graduation. That was for me, therefore, the way it was supposed to be done. That, of course, was God's plan for my life, too.

So when I went back for my junior year I was sure this was the year in which I would find the girl. In fact it was my avowed intention to find me a wife, and of course we would marry in the summer of 1950. Not only that, but I had her picked out before I got there, only to find out she was not available! Oh, well, keep looking.

I was an English major and so was Nelda Chesshir. She had stayed out during my sophomore year to teach, so now she was a senior. I was glad to see her back at Harding and we began to sit together in Romantic Poets class. She had such a sweet smile and pleasant disposition. I began saving her a place in class and in the cafeteria line. Then before we knew we were "going steady" (as people used to call it). Lack of money dictated that most of our dates are like those listed above. I first held her hand at a Halloween spook house. What a thrill that was! We talked and talked and found that we had similar values and similar aims for serving God. This was "The Plan" unfolding. In April of that year I asked her to marry me. She said "Yes" so we set the date for just after graduation one year hence. Then we thought, why wait? So we moved it up to Sunday, Christmas Day, 1949.

There is so much more to tell. But this much needs to be said in retrospect: I do not believe in mere luck and I do not believe I was smart enough or experienced enough at the ripe old age of 20 to have picked out such a wonderful life-long partner. Therefore, my only possible conclusion is that God with his grace was smiling on me big-time. It must have in fact been His Plan, not mine that was at work. But isn't that true of our whole experience when we submit our lives, our selves, our desires to Him and His will?

Now 56 years later my Nelda is now in the mid to late stages of Alzheimer's. We can no longer carry on a real conversation. I am her full-time caregiver at this point and the future is in God's hands. Everyday without fail I thank God for the gift of Nelda Chesshir. But I also thank God daily for the challenge he has given me, for we are told to give thanks in all things. In the process He has taught me so much. In fact he is remaking me.

If Steve will let me--and he better!--I'd like to share more in the future about Nelda Chesshir Hawley and how God has used her to help make a better man out of me.

In Christ,
Roger Hawley,

Steve's Dad

Applicable quote of the day:
"I notice that you have quite a few real letters in this annual. It's because you have so many real friends. I hope that I may be classed as one of your friends, too...If it's the Lord's will I hope that we will become much better acquainted next year.... "
Roger Hawley (a prophetic note in the back of Nelda's 1947 Petit Jean, the Harding yearbook)

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at


Steve Hawley said...


I enjoyed reading your entry about mom. She is quite a gal.


Jeep said...

Nelda has been one of the biggest blessings in my life as well and the greatest mentor I have known.

Thank you for letting others know about her beauty Roger.



Jon said...

That was a great story Mr. Hawley.... im one of Coach Hawleys students

God Bless,

Jon Scott

Suzanne said...

I loved reading about Nelda; the person she was and still is.

Thank you for sharing her with the rest of us.


Sandi said...

Thank you for sharing this, Steve. We are praying for your family and for the decisions that you face. Roger and Nelda both are such special people and God has had a great impact on many people through them.

Michael said...

We have heard many stories of Roger and Nelda's life together during marriage enrichment events, all shared with the hope that others could learn from them. We count them as our marriage mentors. We've known them since we were college students at York College and our lives have been woven together ever since. What a wonderful blessing to have known and worked with them for the Lord! Thanks for sharing your dear parents with all of us! With love, Deanie and Mike

Cindy said...

Steve, I have just got off the phone with Patti Weeks, (I wanted her to know about your dad) and she wants to send her love and prayers. They do not have a computer so I told her I would write you and your family to let you know.
Thank-you for sharing that story from your dad about your dear mother.