Dad was a determined man when it was time to get the “word” out. Once he became a born again Christian, it was his mission in life to do “whatever it takes” so others would be saved too. He set up “tract racks” everywhere. Rock Valley, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, anywhere owners, friends, acquaintances would let him. These were palm-sized Mini-books with a message. How to be a better Christian, How to pray, Uplifting words when you’re down and out. Fire and brimstone ones to get you “scared straight,” though most tended to be on the positive side. He bought skids of bibles, Good news for Modern Man, The New Testament, The Psalms, study bibles, special bibles designed just for inmates. He had hundreds of his “testimony” printed up.
|Favorite picture of my Dad. Probably late 1970’s…|
The story on how he was a sinner, enjoying worldly things. His love of money until he lost his son Larry at age 12, and became a Christian. At times it was almost like he was possessed. Tough to live with and even be around. Sometimes his methods leaned towards “shove it down your throat until you realize this is for your own good. There’s only once chance to get into heaven.”
|Dad’s Testimony. Larry’s school pic from 1958…|
What else could he do to get God’s message out there? He spoke frequently in prisons, and nursing homes. Using the New Testament, especially the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These books tell different versions of the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. Often he used The Sermon on the Mount with the encouraging beatitudes. Other times Corinthians, Love is patient, love is kind. Lucky for me he didn’t care or study the Old Testament very much. He could have gone the prophet Ezekiel’s route and laid on his left side for 432 days or something. This might be categorized as “spuuting.” A Dutch word meaning making fun of God or religion. Sorry God, and you too Dad.
|Pretty sure I saw this saying, and suggested Dad use it…|
So Dad was not a prophet. But somewhere along the line experienced an epiphany, or perhaps we’ll just call it a “sign!” I don’t know where or how this idea popped in his head, but I think it started in the early ’70’s. He would get permission from a farmer to use a tiny spot of their land to erect a good-sized sign. These were fellow Christians and supporters of his “mission in life” agenda to save sinners. This pretty much included all drivers zipping through northwest Iowa.
|Dad really appreciated the local farmers letting him use a spot for his signs…|
The signs were hand painted on plywood. Constructed, then erected by Dad, touched up or repainted constantly. Most were positive messages. Once in a while there would be a “scared straight” one, sometimes offending someone who would ask the farmer for Dad’s name and come over and state his objections. Dad took this well, he was not thin-skinned. God had made him “prophet tough” in that respect. Dad would re-paint the sign in a more positive light.
|Making sure anyone driving past-GOT the message…|
I can remember seeing catchy phrases on billboards or advertising near a church when driving. I’d stop, jot it down on something, (no never wrote it on any of the kids) then call Dad with a new idea for a sign. Once in a while it was such a clever play on words that further explanation was needed. (ok Dad, let’s go through it again) Plus always giving him the correct spelling and punctuation. Don’t know if you can really see it on any of these pictures but Dad’s commas on most of the signs are hysterical.
|One of Dad’s favorite signs…|
Never close to bottom of the line, they always look more like apostrophe’s to me. Sorry Dad, couldn’t help myself.
This was a ministry that was very important to Dad. One he really enjoyed and always prayed would touch someone he might not ever meet. It was one of the hardest things for him to give up when he left Rock Valley. He had a couple guys lined up who would keep them in good repair, or erect new ones. Deep down though I know he worried that his “sign ministry” would not be the same without his constant care and attention.
|Trying to catch your attention and make you think…|
After Dad passed away, while we were cleaning out his apartment, John came across the 4 x 8 sheet of styrofoam board. It was covered in pictures, newspaper articles, and awards Dad had received over the years for many of his various “good works.” (No one would ever accuse him of being too humble). John suggested that we take it along to Rock Valley and set it up at his funeral. Maybe someone there might want it. Good idea, but there was one particular picture that had to be mine. Just the most appealing, captivating, smiling shot of him. A newspaper photographer got while Dad was being interviewed for something. He had just gotten off work and was still in his striped bib overalls. Must have been summer as his “constant long sleeves” were rolled up almost to his elbows. Found the picture. See above. I know he would have rather been photographed in a suit, clutching his bible, or behind a pulpit. But my all time favorite shot of my Dad. Awesome.
|Grandpa Rich teaching Shannon, 2 how to pray…|
Dad’s body was flown to Iowa. We drove and hauled the “Rich wall” along. It was the talk of the luncheon after his service. John carefully cut off the picture I wanted. Lo and behold people were standing in line to take a small piece of Dad’s legacy. I’ll take that as a “good sign” Dad…
|Dad dressed up, ready to save your soul…|