Friday, October 4, 2013

My Friend Dale

I sealed my note to my friend, turned back to my work station and the phone rang. Picking it up up and answering, I heard that familiar voice asking, “Well, how are you, my friend?"
 Is this Esp? or somekind of Providence? Friend Dale is on the line inquiring about me . . .
As a boy, I was exposed to preaching greats like Boyce Blackwelder, Hershel Rice and celebrities in my circles. When older I encountered the likes of Ewald Wolfram, Harold Boyer, A. F. Gray and O. F. Linn. I learned to know them as friends, mentors, models, and significant others.
They were “names” but there were also the nameless. The last time I spoke with Walter Weaver was 1945, on College Avenue, Anderson, IN en route home from church, following old Park Place with the new W. Dale Oldham. Walter was my pastor in my adolescence. Hard years; they prompted Walter to make-and-sell donuts to survive depression days. He was a quiet presence I remember seven decades later.
In more recent years I found a new friend via my pursuit of church history—Dale. Circumstances could have made our paths cross before they did, but they didn’t, but when we met, we bonded.
Dale is a sharing person, authentically genuine. He compulsively gives his life away. He is heart and soul of our Church of God Historical Society. Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, his first remembered pastor was M. P. Rimmer, but he identifies with Emmet Caldwell--a major influence. Caldwell went back in Church of God history to the Grand Junction-Moundsville era—a preoccupation for Dale!
There was the mother that took her son to Anderson camp meeting, a faithful saint who had been a friend of young Dale Oldham. Thus, son Dale became a namesake of Dale Oldham.  Dale feels blessed by growing up in the golden age of the Church of God, the era of Oldham and CBH-radio.
Dale went to Anderson College, not to attend, but to drive his brother Lowell to school. Feeling inadequate with his dyslexia, Dale ended up in AC, managing Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Arts/Crafts, a miracle he gladly shares.
What I like best about Dale is his utter humility. Some of us consider him more gifted than he sees himself, and he just looks at you and stares. I see the exact opposite of a self-seeker in Dale. I love his utter selflessness!. Buttressed by a compulsion to give himself and be useful, he spent his career teaching arts and crafts, and now gives back to the church—so freely.
Dale visualizes concepts, seeing pictures rather than words, which enabled him to enrich his career by also serving as a photo-journalist stringer (free lancer) for the national news.
With Dale,“what you see is what you get!” What you see is who he really is! Moreover, I would rank him top of the ladder of character, finding him as fine a composite of what our theology and doctrine teaches as can be found. Dale loves people with a Godly grace. He is generous to a fault … humble … anything but self-seeking, and scrupulously honest … yet comfortable in his own skin.  

When Dale met Missionary-Educator Douglas Welch; they became two sides of one nickel. Dale seeing, Doug describing. Their picture-word combination for Church of God history created three-volumes from their eight years of research: The Book of Noah; Old Main; and, The Gospel Trumpet Years.
His friendship reminds me that within this blog are numerous hidden stories. Should you encounter Dale along your path know that this highly personable guy doesn’t palaver or do academia, but he will swap stories with you.

Ask to see his picture collection—hundreds, probably thousands. Ask about sculpting. Ask how he met Warner Clayton and how that became a book. Ask about finding Barney Warren’s boyhood home or the burial site of Joseph Smith and WB Grover.
He might just regale you with experiences with Jerald Frederic, the genius son of F. G. Smith who travelled in Europe as a classical musician. This stranger rediscovered his Reformation roots through Dale. And although Dale is not a Minister, Jerald Frederic’s family turned to Dale for final eulogizing and memorializing. And … who did President Robert Reardon share his precious final moments with … his history-collecting buddy, Dale. 

I watch Dale spread loving grace among the highest and lowest, from University Presidents to homeless persons for whom he is “home”. I am not the person, but I hope someone with more time left than I have, and with greater skills than I possess, will record Dale’s contribution to Church of God history, the AU Archives, and our church Historical Society.
My cherished moments with Dale (and Chery) reveal an authentic treasure--in our midst--but unknown to too many Choggers. Doug Welch is part of that story! Their contribution is one of a kind. It ought to be told! Without it, we will be impoverished.

From Dale, I’ve learned much history; but more, I’ve learned classic Christian values! From Warner’s World, this is