She died on April 8, 2015, at age 70. Last Saturday, I joined family, friends and fellow Christians in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, to honor Wimpy’‘s memory, mourn her passing, but to celebrate her life.
For over 40 years I have participated in speaking at funeral services for people of all ages and who were taken from this life in many different ways. Natural causes. Accidents. Disease. And tragic events. To stand in the specter of death is always a solemn experience. But when it’s a loved one, death suddenly becomes more personal. Painful. And thought-provoking.
Wimpy was the daughter of my mother’s sister, Hattie Lee. In fact, I preached her funeral service 29 years ago this month. But there is something different about speaking at the service of a contemporary. Of a relative. Or someone you grew up with. It reminds you of your own mortality. That indeed our days our numbered. And that death will eventually claim us. Me.
Many of our readers knew Wimpy through her work at Religious Supply Center in Louisville, Kentucky. She started working there when my Uncle David began the bookstore in the 1960’s and continued after he sold it to Jim Berryman.
But my memories go back to childhood. I recall fondly making the “long journey” from Indianapolis to “the country” as we called it, to spend time with family. I can remember running around my Aunt Hat’s farm with Wimpy and other cousins playing hide and go seek, catching fire flies, and looking to get into a bit of childish mischief.
As we both grew into adulthood, we developed a relationship of mutual respect. By the time I began preaching Wimpy was working in the bookstore and we had fun sharing family news when I would call in orders.
I loved to tease Wimpy and would sometimes call the store, disguising my voice, and pretending like I had this big order. Wimpy was all business in attending to the order, then I would say something to indicate it was me, and Wimpy would feign exasperation at my deception, with a phrase known by the family and very close friends! Pretty soon she was on to me, and the little trick came to an end.
Wimpy was a great encourager. Anytime I would be in a meeting, whether at Roundhill, Christian Home, Leitchfield, or Clarksville or Louisville, Wimpy would load up her car with family and come to hear me.
Philip Mullins, a gospel preacher and close friend of the family, delivered the funeral message. He reminded us of Wimpy’s wonderful qualities. Her positive outlook. A good sense of humor. Happiness in spite of personal difficulties. Phil said, “She was a combination of tenderness and frankness, even bordering at times on being feisty!”
Wimpy had experienced loss and heartache through out her life. The death of father in infancy. The death of her mother, sister, brother-in-law, and husband, Ben. Yet, in spite of various setbacks Wimpy remained strong, resilient and faithful. As Phil put it, she was the “glue and centerpiece for her family.”
Wimpy was a great example of serving the Lord through her work. She was engaged in selling Bibles and related Bible study materials. Philip Mullins observed that Wimpy could probably have taken her skills and made more money in another occupation. She loved what she did because of who she was. Wimpy loved people. Enjoyed helping preachers. She was respectful and supportive. She glorified God in her occupation.
Wimpy never preached a sermon, or taught a public Bible class, but her influence in the Kingdom was reflected in her “bookstore ministry” by serving others and providing tools to help them teach.
To Wimpy’s daughters, Lanette, and Leann and her sons, Paul and Brian, cherish your mother’s memory, as a worthy woman, whose price is far above rubies.
The words of the wise man are fitting as I reflect on my late cousin, Wimpy, “The memory of the righteous is blessed.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman