A Tribute To My Father, Reverend Kenneth Dale Pierpont

Introduction

By the time I had arrived in the world and was old enough to know them, my grandparents Pierpont were retired and lived in the lazy little village of Chatham, a few miles north of my hometown, Newark.,  Neither of them lived very far into my adulthood, so my memories of them were mostly as a child.

Grandpa (William) Pierpont passed away in 1955 while I was in the Navy and Grandma (Lily) lived only until about the time our daughter, Melony was born in 1956. Their home was simple and my grandfather raised gladiolus to make a little money selling them on the Columbus farmers market.,  He had lost “the old home place” early in the Great Depression.,  A deficiency judgment had been taken against him as a result.,  They had very little of this worlds goods but always radiated peace and contentment.,  They were members and workers in the Chatham Methodist Church, just on up the road from their home.,  Across the corner to the south Roberts Grocery and filling station presided over the village as its only business.

Their second eldest son was my dad, Kenneth.,  A sister had died in infancy and a brother, Elmer, and a sister, Dorothy, were older than he.,  The other children were brothers Orville and Arthur.,  Only my Uncle Arthur, in his nineties, is still living.

I begin my dads story with an experience his mother had as a young woman.

“One Of My Sons Will Be a Minister”

Whether a dream, a vision or a settled conviction is a matter of how it is remembered.,  But, Grandma Pierpont always claimed one of her sons would be a minister.,  And when he was, she insisted, he was to “preach the Bible and believe it from cover to cover.”

Grandma Pierpont was not to live to see her dream fulfilled, but eventually it was.,  For many years it did not appear that such would ever happen though.,  The boys, my dad and his brothers, were rugged and ornery farm boys, quite accustomed to slipping around their old-time Methodist fathers strict rules of conduct.,  The boys were not to be seen in public with sleeves rolled up.,  There was to be no smoking and certainly no alcoholic beverage.,  The occasional slipping off to the neighbors watermelon patch went unknown to Grandpa so far as I ever knew, to say nothing of imbibing upon their hidden-away hard cider.

Dad did know hard work, though, early in life.,  At nine years old he worked for fifty cents a day hitching, working and caring for a team of horses in the fields.,  The fields and woods there in central Ohio were a great love for Dad and he learned nature like the back of his hand.,  Dad loved animals and had a deep respect for Gods creation.   In later years, teaching my brother and me to hunt, he insisted that we never shoot a songbird, keep an undersize fish we had caught,,  or shoot game over the limit.,  In my case getting any fish or game was usually challenge enough. But, to tell you more I have to involve my mother.

Mother and Dad

In the tribute to my mother I told you the story of how Mother and Dad met.,  At age twenty-four my dad had dated numerous young ladies and had been around them in farm community social settings and church.,  By the time little Grace Sasser came into his life he knew what he wanted.,  Their courtship was brief.

On September 5, 1933, they stood side-by-side in the living room of the Methodist parsonage across the road from the church there in Chatham and were married.,  Their first home was Dads parents “Old Home Place” at the top of the hill northwest of Chatham on Ohio Route 657.,  A modern ranch house now occupies the place of their old house.

The young couple was not to live there long, however, for Grandpa lost the farm that year and Mother and Dad moved to Newark to stay with her parents, Grandpa and Grandma Sasser.,  At this point, my dads job at Owens-Corning in Newark materialized.,  Dad was a hard worker and not long after hiring in as a laborer he was able to obtain a place in the machine shop.,  From there he gradually learned the machinist trade.

With no car and my birth coming on, Dad decided he would “build” one.,  He made the rounds of the junk yards in Newark and obtained enough parts to put together a T Model Ford.,  Satisfying himself that it would run, he asked Mothers brother, Uncle Carl (Sasser) to tow him around the block to get it started.,  The engine was too tight to crank it, the usual means of bringing a T Model to life.,  Sure enough the old car coughed to life–they had a car.

During the winter of 1934 I was a baby and had experienced some sickness.,  The old car had no heater and they wanted to go downtown.,  Dad took several bricks into the house and deposited them on the coal stove.,  After ample heating, he wrapped them in burlap and placed them on the floor in front of Mothers seat.,  She got herself and me into the car and we were off to downtown.

After just a few minutes, they began to smell something.,  They remarked and guessed back and forth what the smell was.,  Shortly thereafter they noticed smoke curling up!,  It took only a few moments, then, to realize that the hot bricks had set fire to the burlap.,  The car quickly filled with smoke.,  Rolling the whole thing out into the snow, Dad was able to rearrange things and get going again with their shopping errands.

When they appeared in a couple of stores the noses of the clerks before them began to sniff.,  “I smell something,” one said.,  “Somethings burning,” another remarked, glancing around.,  The young couple could hardly contain their laughter after realizing that the burning burlap had left its telltale odor on their clothing and my blanket.   Mercifully, Dad was able to get a little better car not long after.

As I also related in Mothers story, the folks were able to get the little cottage at 151 Buena Vista Street in Newark.,  It was a simple cottage with two very modest bedrooms and a partial basement at the back of the house where, on the dirt floor, Mother washed our clothing on a scrub-board over two washtubs.,  Dad worked hard to keep us together.

A major incident occurred at approximately this time in Mother and Dads lives together.   Coming home from his second shift work one night, in their old Hudson bought from our neighbors as an upgrade in their transportation, Dad noted through the dim headlights the figure of a man in our front yard, staring through our front bedroom window.,  He instantly realized the presence of a “peeping Tom,” apparently observing Mother inside the house.

Dad decided not to slacken his speed as he approached our house so as to avoid scaring the man off.,  However, just as he reached the front of our house, Dad killed the ignition and bailed out of the car.,  The man turned to flee but Dad caught him just as he reached the sidewalk.,  I have heard my dad describe this decidedly one-sided fight many times.,  Knowing as I do, my dads ability with his fists, I would not have wanted to be in the intruders shoes that night.

As those early years quickly passed, first my brother, Bill, and a year and a quarter,  later, my sister, Ann, were born.,  Dads job at Owens-Corning met needs but times were difficult and Dad took extra work to help ends meet.

Across the street from us a vacant field boasted a very large sycamore tree, not unlike the huge one in our front yard.,  The owner wanted the tree removed and Dad offered to saw it up, once it was down.,  As I recall, one or two others came a time or two to help Dad on the two-man crosscut but, for the most part, he worked along, removing the second handle and labored away until the job was done.,  I dont know what Dad got for the job but I am sure he earned every cent.

Dad worked night shift and got the idea to cut corn for some farmers to make extra money.,  I remember the day he brought home the green-handled corn cutter, the blade was,  about two inches broad and about two feet long.,  When I saw it I had no idea how much hard work over several years Dad would do with it in his strong right hand.,  In all those early years I never heard him complain.,  Looking back now, I realize what is really meant by “moonlighting.”

Late in the evening in the fall, after dark but before his factory shift, Dad cut corn by the light of the moon.,  Very few times in my life did I ever hear my dad say, “I love you,” I assure you, he didn’t have to say it! His commitment to his family spoke for itself.

The War

The old floor radio blared out the news as I sat in front of it, age seven.,  “The Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor!”,  I was thrown into confusion.,  Not so long before, I saw Dad go into action as he hung up the old black phone on the living room wall.,  That was the death notice of Grandpa Sasser.,  Now, another phone call and much excitement broke out.,  We were at war!,  I wasnt sure what it all meant, but I knew it was big.

Unbeknown to me, Mother and Dad were apparently planning for Dad to go into the service.,  A ride in our old 1934 Ford to see Congressman Ashbrook in Johnstown had me standing on the floor in back.,  It was winter and Mother and we kids waited in the car.,  Later it was warm weather and we were in a large park overlooking recruitment offices in Columbus.,  Dad and Mother had bought the three of us red and black balloons portraying Mickey Mouse.,  We played with them unaware that Dad was in the Navy Recruiting Office signing on the dotted line.

Just days later Dad realized that had he not signed up to be an enlisted man in the Navy Seabees, his warrant would have come through that the Congressman was trying to arrange.,  He would have been an officer instead of a first-class petty officer.

We moved to west Newark, combined our belongings with those of my Grandma Sasser, and the folks sold out on Buena Vista Street.,  Instead of being a third-grader at Conrad School, I would now be enrolled as such in Maholm School, just a strong block from the house at 51 Bowers Avenue.,  Dad shipped out with the Seabees to train in Providence, Rhode Island.

On his first leave home Dad took Bill and me into the backyard and showed us some of his “Judo tricks.”,  He became very good at it and was soon an instructor in hand-to-hand combat.,  I was hoping he was not intending me to use any of it on my school guys who didn’t like me.,  About that time Dad wrote home to explain that he would be a “diver.”,  This meant that he worked under water in both shallow and deep-water gear.,  One of his fellow trainees was killed under water during the training phase.   Later Dad told us how he passed the qualifying test to hold his breath for two minutes under water.,  He rolled a pebble around in his mouth to distract himself from the lack of oxygen.

Overseas

Mother and we kids got on a train in Newark and went to Providence to see Dad.,  I was not aware of all the circumstances but the last day there Mother and Dad clung to each other and us as Dad said goodbye.,  He would be going overseas to help win the war.,  It was most of two years before we saw him again.,  He was shipped to Guam with a Seabees battalion. The Seabees was a gutsy group of skilled builders and workers who did construction in hostile-fire zones.,  The initials “CB” on their dress blues stood for “Construction Battalion.”,  They were deeply respected by fellow sailors.,  Their motto was “We can build and we can fight.”,  They took Marine combat training as a part of their preparation.

From Guam Dad wrote home as often as he could.,  One Christmas, he was able to send home a $5 money order for each of we kids.,  We used it to go Christmas shopping for weeks!,  Dads stint on Guam lasted until the end of the war.,  Early on, he reported “the Japs run through the camp pitching hand grenades, yelling ‘Banzi — a guy could get hurt.”,  But, eventually American air power, including the dropping of two atomic bombs, finished the Japanese Empire forever.

On one occasion, an officer came to Dads shop.,  He needed someone who knew blasting.,  He heard dad was a demolition diver and blaster.,  Dad tried to explain that blasting under water and “topside” were probably far different.,  The officer insisted that Dad blast for him to cut out a road up a mountain there on the island.

Over continued protest, Dad set his charge as he would below water.,  When he detonated the powder he said “Rocks as big as pianos flew everywhere.,  It took two days to fill in the crater.”,  After that he wasnt asked to blast anymore!

Dads eldest brother, Elmer, a Seabee Chief Petty Officer was stationed on Tinian, another of the Marianna Islands.,  Dad and, perhaps, Uncle Elmer, were allowed to fly in a B-29 at least once, even though they had nothing to do with the air wing of the military.,  But the Seabees were very good at “commandeering” all kinds of things–food, equipment, fuel, et cetera.,  A ride on a military aircraft by an unattached serviceman is not unheard of.,  It was from the island of Tinian that the atomic bombs were delivered.

When on September 2, 1945 “VJ Day” (Victory in Japan) came, our family all rode round the square in downtown Newark to celebrate as did thousands of others.,  I was in the rumble seat of an Model A.,  What a time it was.,  Tears,,  hugs and kisses all round, wildly honking horns, shouts of victory, just about every means of celebration took place not only in Newark that day but throughout the world.,  The war was over and “our boys were coming home!”

Dad Back With Us

With a wife and three children at home, Dad had a priority number by which to “muster out.”,  In just a few weeks after wars end, we noted a big man in a white uniform with a huge duffel bag making his way proudly down little Bowers Avenue.,  We were ecstatic.,  The war was over, Dad was home and would soon be back to work at Owens-Corning.

About this time the factory came to be called by most “Fiberglas”.,  Dad always felt that years and years of exposure to the “glass wool” contributed to his eventual poor health.

I bounded out of bed on Dads first morning home to rush downstairs and join the action where I heard Dad talking at the breakfast table.,  I slipped on the floor and put a nasty slice in my left knee due to the presence of the floor heat register.   Dads first order of business at home was to administer first aid and to take me up the street to the doctor for stitches!

The next few years were filled with experiences with Dad that now flood my memory.,  He always had a big garden at the end of our street.,  He pushed a hand cultivator, with its steel wheel in front, over the big stony garden, many, many times during the course of a summer.,  I learned to work there as did the whole family: setting out plants and bulbs, sprinkling seed, taking weeds out by hand, row after row.,  Dad had an eye for flint and the garden soil yielded many artifacts from Indian days.,  Dad seemed to know the various kinds and even made educated guesses as to their differing usage.

Life was full of berry picking expeditions featuring my Grandma Sasser against Dad for most berries with the rest of us distant third, fourth, fifth and sixth.,  I have seen them both pick gallons of berries never raising even one to their mouths.,  Dad considered “picking and eating a disgrace.”,  No matter how hard we tried, we kids could not disguise our purple lips from his disapproving glance.

One Sunday afternoon Grandma had fixed us Kool Aid from the kitchen sink for our afternoon family fishing trip.,  She did not go.,  After a blazing afternoon on a creek bank, few fish to show for our efforts, we broke out the picnic fixings with a burning thirst.   The five of us, as one, began to gulp down the drink.,  In seconds we were all sputtering, “Lifebuoy!”,  Grandma had inadvertently swept the bar of hand soap into the jug as she made the Kool Aid.,  Our soapy and thirsty throats put a permature end to our day of fishing.,  Of course we kids jockeyed for position upon arriving home to register Grandmas error to her.,  Our much wiser parents contained their bemusement

Brownie, our old Beagle rabbit dog lived through the war to once again hunt with Dad.,  By now I was eleven and Bill was nine.,  Dad said, one fall day, “Shoot Bellerin Betsy and you can have your own shotgun.”,  The old twelve gauge had a much-respected recoil that we called a “kick.”,  Nevertheless, Bill and I both shot it that year and Dad got us each a shotgun.,  Mine was an Iver-Johnson single barrel sixteen gauge.,  Bill got a single barrel 410 with a modified choke.,  He quickly got very good with it and always came home with game.,  My gun was much more powerful but I wasnt as good but did manage to be carrying a few rabbits in my coat from trip to trip.,  Dads love for the out-of-doors took us hunting numerous times every year — in the fall for squirrels and in the winter for rabbits.

Dad went fox hunting some also — usually alone due to school for us and the bitter cold in which he usually hunted them.,  He was known to be able to start out through a snow-covered field, pick up a fox trail and follow it all day to get a shot at it.,  After trailing a fox many hours he would walk up on one from downwind and kick it out of a sleep before shooting at it.,  “They deserve a chance,” he would always say.,  Fox pelts he had taken provided a wrap for Mother but she seldom wore it.,  She always said, “Its looking at me,” as she glanced over her shoulder and the impressive wrap stayed in the closet.

Dad always seemed to have nerves of steel. On a trip in our old 38 Buick to New York to visit our aunt and uncle we topped a mountain only to slip on the hot rainy blacktop highway.,  The old sedan, packed with the five of us, instantly spun out of control and started down the mountain road backwards.,  Dad deftly let the car come all the way around before applying the brakes.,  A Plymouth coming up,  the steep grade stopped as we slid toward it.,  Dad brought the big maroon Buick to a stop about six feet from the other car.,  He calmly got out, walked back to the terrified driver, whose hands were locked on the wheel,,  and said, “More fun than a rolly-coaster,” got back into our car, turned around and drove away.

On yet another trip to Cincinnati where my Uncle Jim Sasser lived with his wife, Jean, and my cousin Bonnie Jean, Dads first aid skills were again tested.   My uncle was talking to Dad as he showed off his nice 39 Buick coupe.,  He had the right side of the hood up and, at fifteen, I was looking into the engine compartment with my left thumb resting on the hood cage.,  Uncle Jim gunned the engine and the vibration kicked out the hood brace.,  Instantly the hood slammed shut with my thumb smashed in the works.

They got me out of the closed hood.,  My cousin Bonnie, a first-year nursing student , at the time, insisted that I go to the hospital.,  Dad calmly asked if they had a Band-Aid.,  With it he fashioned a “butterfly tie” as he called it.,  They cleaned me up, he applied the tie and I was put down on their guest bed with my hand above my head.,  The thumping went on for hours.,  As I glance down at my thumb now, forty-nine years later, I note Dads handiwork.,  He didn’t quite get the end of my thumb back on straight so there is a major indentation. But, it still works!,  Though left-handed, I was able to do my work as clean-up boy at the Jean Frocks dress shop back in Newark the next day.

I learned to drive from Dad instead of the school driver-education teacher and got my license about ten days after my sixteenth birthday.,  During the early days of my driving though, Dad was instructing me from the right side seat of my old, green,  33 Plymouth.,  On this particular day we arrived at the end of Bowers Avenue with me going a little too fast to make the corner.,  I froze on the wheel unsure of whether to go straight ahead or to try to turn.,  Dad began yelling, “Turn it! Turn it!.”   Crash!   I went on across the corner and knocked down the sign to the photography studio of Shirley Childrens parents.,  The impact knocked the left support off my front bumper and it fell, unceremoniously onto the curbing.,  Dad got under the wheel and drove the car down the street slowly as I walked carrying the end of the bumper–right past Shirleys house.,  I liked her but was fairly sure the feeling was not mutual and I am certain,  this escapade didn’t add anything to my image.

The Later Years

In 1952, just seven years after Dad came home, I joined the Navy Reserve at Port Columbus using Dads old uniforms to trade for some that fit me.,  Some time later I was taken on active duty and was transferred to Glenview Naval Air Station near Chicago.,  Hence, my “combat” during the Korean Conflict was with a typewriter in a Navy mail office.,  I found Christ as my Savior through the witness of Christian buddies and knew I must win my mother to the Lord.,  Thank God she was saved before long and I finally got up enough courage to face Dad with the claims of Christ.,  Obviously Dad was a strong and decisive man and I wasnt sure what to expect.,  Really, I expected extreme anger.,  Was I surprised!

Sitting at our kitchen table, Mother on my right, Dad on the left, while at home on leave, I took my dad on with the witness of Christ.,  After a few minutes going through the gospel, to my astonishment, Dad began to weep.,  Then he, in very manly fashion told me and Mother that he knew what I was talking about and that he had been saved at the Old Methodist church in Chatham when he was twelve years old.,  No one, that he remembered, had dealt with him at the altar and he seemed to attribute that fact to his lack of growth all these years.,  “Dad,” I thought to myself, “if you were saved during all the years we were growing up, it was a well-guarded secret!”

Dad, as well as the rest of us, had taken,  part in the activities of St. Pauls Lutheran Church in Newark during our growing-up years.   We kids and Dad sang in the choir.,  All three of us took catechism classes and were in church every Sunday.,  In later years Dad taught our pastor to hunt rabbits with him.,  But, the gospel was not preached and we all had to find the Lord, through His grace, from others who knew and witnessed for Him.

From that day at the kitchen table, when Dads tears fell softly to the old oil cloth,,  to the day of his,  death, he was a changed man.   After I was released from the Navy we were able to help Mother and Dad get into a good Bible-preaching church under godly Pastor and Mrs. H. E. Doyle, at Pine Street Christian Union Church, just one block from Bowers Avenue.   In a couple of years Dad got the victory over the cigarette habit, became a trustee at the church and grew strongly in the Lord.

In 1964, while visiting us in our pastorate in Michigan, Dad confessed to me that he believed God was calling him to the ministry.,  He and I immediately began a two-year study course with a core library of about twenty-five books I recommended.,  I had never dreamed that one of my earliest tasks after graduating from seminary would be to teach my dad to be a pastor.,  Gods grace is truly amazing!

During most of the last years Dad lived he pastored Linnville Christian Union Church, worked his way to ordination in 1967, raised Hereford beef cattle on the farm they bought while I was in college,,  and continued his romance with the things of nature. Dad had a name for each of the 47 white-faced cows and steers he raised.   It was common for Dad to pile off his old tractor to pick up a four-leafed clover twenty feet away.,  He had amazing eyesight.,  He loved to play with snakes, which, to show off, he would thread around his body when horrified bystanders were watching.,  On one occasion a six foot black snake was on the side of the house one day when we were all present.,  This time the snake was big enough for him to pluck it off the house and fashion a knot at the front of his waist using Mr. Snake s unfortunate body and head!

Over the years of Dads younger adulthood he had a very short temper.,  I have seen him advance on men over some argument or traffic altercation.,  If they didn’t back down he would begin pulling them out of their vehicle until they apologized or sped away.,  Today he would probably be shot.,  Thank God, after he began living for Christ he displayed the heart of a child.,  His previous capacity to tell dirty stories was replaced by the keenest of memories for funny songs like “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” and good clean jokes.

Finally, after seventeen years fulfilling his mothers prophecy that one of her boys would be a minister, Dads body began to run down.,  His great heart began to fail.,  He grew tired from simple tasks in stark contrast to his zest for backbreaking work in the past.,  Short jaunts with his modest fishing boat became fewer and fewer.   Near the end, our son-in-law, himself an avid out-of-doors-man, found Dad sitting against a tree in very cold weather, out on a deer crossing.,  Dad was unable to rise from his position.,  Jim probably saved his life that day.,  Knowing Dad as I do, he would not have minded going to sleep in a woods he loved so dearly “to meet Jesus,” as Dad would have put it.

Honorable Christian gentleman, great talker and listener, deeply faithful to my mother, gutsy and humorous,  preacher that he was, Dad spoke from a stool to his prayer meeting group on Wednesday October 8, 1980 for what was to be the last time.,  Shortly after, he was hospitalized for the final       time. Dads heart failure was complete.,  I walked slowly down the hallway to the nursing station in the Newark Hospital and, speaking for the family, agreed with the medical team that is was time to let Dad go.,  At the prayer meeting hour on October 22, 1980, the greatest man I ever knew slipped out of this life into the presence of His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.,  If there is nature to explore in Heaven the old champion berry picker, hunter, fisherman and student of Gods creation is sure to be on the job when I get there.,  I love you, Dad.,  Ill never forget you.

Comments

  1. Dad – thank you for the wonderful recounting of Grandpa’s life. We cherish these memories.

  2. This story is a treasure. Thanks, Dad.

  3. Bill Pierpont says:

    Thanks Ken I loved your story, some day I will write one for you. Love you man. Bill

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