Today, Sue and I attended the funeral of a wonderful man, Dr. Roger W. Hawley. I met Roger and his wife, Nelda, when they moved to St. Louis where he became the Director of Family Services at CFS. Roger grew up in Michigan and got his B.A. at Harding where he and Nelda met. He went on to get his M.A. & Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska in family counseling. He preached for 19 years, taught in Christian colleges for 17 years and was an active family counselor for over 30 years. He also served as an Elder at the Lafayette Church of Christ where the funeral was held this morning. Roger had a personal warmth that made him attractive to all people. He was a very humble person whom always showed interest in all those around him. I had the privilege to work with him as an attorney on some very tough child custody cases where he testified as an expert witness. I remember one time when he took on the Ph.D experts at Master and Johnson in a very highly charged termination of parental rights case. After the Judge sat through all the expert witness testimony of both sides, I recall him shaking his head at all the psychobabbel of the "experts" and saying, "You know, that Hawley guy was the only one who made any sense." CFS won that case.
Roger was always known for his sense of humor. Today, Mike and Deanie Runcie drove in from Nashville to be here for the funeral. Mike's comments were touching, recounting his long relationship with Roger that began with him as a student of Roger's at York College when Mike was only 18 years of age. Later, Mike went on to become Roger's boss at CFS. But, everyone knew whom the mentor was for the agency. Today, Roger's nephew and 3 sons all eulogized him. There were no dry eyes in the church. And, yet for all the sorrow of missing Roger, there was much laughter among the tears recalling Roger's stories and personal traits. There is no better testimonial than a family that stands before a large audience and honors their father. Roger's older brother, Monroe, also spoke of his brother's humble beginnings and the legacy of integrity and faith handed down to them by their parents. Perhaps no testimony spoke more of Roger's character than his devotion to his wife of 58 years. Nelda was stricken with Alzheimer's and Roger remained at her side for as long as he could before his health failed. His compassionate love for his wife whom had been his soul mate and partner for so long was a tribute to his teaching about marriage. The last note that I penned to Roger when he was in the hospital recounted the story of Jesus's words to Peter in John 21:18 :
Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go."
One cannot help but wonder why such a godly couple were afflicted with Alzheimer's, strokes, and surgeries. And, yet it is our faith that says that in the end all that does not matter. Roger and Nelda have known suffering in these last years; but, the outpouring of love from those who knew them reflects the good deeds and wisdom that they shared with so many over Roger's 79 years of life. Sue and I were blessed to have counted Roger and Nelda as friends and as a fellow pastoral couple for the cause of the kingdom. I am looking forward to visiting with them both again someday in the land where God wipes away all tears. We can only hope to leave a legacy like the one that Roger and Nelda created. And, I can still hear his laughter!