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Today is the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, the commencement of the Allied invasion of continental Europe. Within a year, Hitler was dead and the Nazi reign of terror over.
President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 speech at Normandy marked the 40th anniversary of the invasion. Reagan used the opportunity not only to honor the allied soldiers who fought their way ashore, but also to strengthen NATO’s resolve in the face of threatened Soviet nuclear missile deployments to Eastern Europe. I introduced this speech to my high school rhetoric and debate students as one of the great presidential speeches of the 20th century.
My father, George Thomas Wingard, Jr., fought in Europe later in the war. He was at the Battle of the Bulge, which began on December 16, 1944, his 21st birthday. My cousin, George King, son of Clinton and Magnolia Wingard King, was killed during the D-Day invasion. Their courage and the courage of all America’s military forces should be remembered.
Thirty years ago today I was ordained to the gospel ministry at Faith Presbyterian Church in Morganton, North Carolina. You only get one first church, and this one couldn’t have been better. Loving and caring and encouraging, its members will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Apart from my sons’ and grandchildren’s birthdays and the anniversary of my marriage to Lynne, my ordination day is the most memorable and important date in my life. Lynne makes the day special – a card, gift, and dinner – just one example of the many ways she stands beside me in my work.
My interest in the ministry began long before I ever preached. Since I was a teenager, I wanted to to be a pastor. My Dad influenced the direction my life would take. His care for congregations inspired me, and as I watched him go about his work, I sensed that pastoral ministry was the life God wanted for me. Dad’s moving prayer at my ordination service meant the world to me.
Certainly, ministry is full of joy, as well as challenges, setbacks, and disappointments. It deals with matters of eternal consequence. “Who is sufficient for these things?” Scottish Presbyterian minister James S. Stewart was right: “the first duty of a minister is to be a real man of prayer. Nothing one can do for God or man is so important as that. To maintain the spirit of prayer is just about the greatest thing a Christian (or anyone in the ministry very specially) can do for the world.”
For three decades God has given me the privilege of serving a succession of godly people in Christ-centered churches. So, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that Paul calls the Philippian believers his “joy and crown” (Philippians 4:1). That’s how pastors feel and think about their congregations, and that’s how I do.
For the beloved people I’ve served I thank God today.
A Centerpoint School class roll from 1913.
Centerpoint was located in southern Montgomery County, Alabama. It was near Elmdale, the Moore-Wingard farm. Some of the teachers lived with the Wingards.
Clinton King was the teacher in 1913. One of his students is my grandfather’s sister, Magnolia Wingard, age 15. Five years later, in 1918, Clinton King and Magnolia Wingard were married.
Several of my great uncles and aunts and their kin are listed on the report card.
These pictures were take at an October 2007 workday at Moore-Wingard Cemetery in southern Montgomery County. The cleanup crew from left to right:
Duane Norman, son of Murray and Ralph Norman
Murray Wingard Norman, daughter of Uncle Murray Wingard
Vickey Wingard, wife of Rick Wingard
Rick Wingard, son of Dick Wingard, grandson of Uncle Sam Wingard
Ralph Norman, husband of Murray Norman
Austin Norman (front), son of Duane Norman
Richard Wingard, son of Uncle Will Wingard
Here’s what the cemetery looked like in June.
Here’s what the graves looked like around 1955. You can see the old Wingard home in the background. It has long since been demolished, and the field is now wooded. The land was sold to a paper company.
Several Wingards are buried at the Pisgah Primitve Baptist Church Cemetery in south Montgomery County, Alabama. One Primitive Baptist distinctive is the practice of footwashing when communion is observed.
Pisgah Primitive Baptist Church was constituted in 1842, and its beautiful meeting house was built in 1931. I have never been in the Pisgah meeting house, but I’m told its interior was never painted, and that if you look up, you can see the foot prints of the workers on the ceiling planks.
The grave of Lenna Emma Curry Wingard (1862-1889), the first wife of my great-grandfather George Franklin Wingard (1860-1949).
The grave of Mary Lou Miles Wingard (1824-1911), the wife of Richard William Wingard (1822-1862). Previously I posted a picture of Richard William Wingard’s grave at Wingard Cemetery, Wingard, Alabama. Richard William and Mary Lou Miles Wingard were the parents of my great-grandfather, George Franklin Wingard.
The graves of Coleman (1903-1984) and Lola (1905-1996) Wingard. Coleman was a son of George Franklin and Carrie Lou Wingard (1870-1955), who was the second wife of my great-grandfather. Coleman and Lola’s daughter Eloise lived in Huntsville for many years.
Welcome to the Wingard Cemetery in Wingard, Alabama. If you’ve never been to Wingard, you’ll find it in western Pike County, just off the main highway between Troy and Luverne.
Wingard, Alabama was settled in 1820 by William Wingard (1796-1872) and his wife Ellender Burgess Wingard (1797-1885). They moved from South Carolina, accompanied by his brother-in-law, William Burgess, who had married Mary Wingard. So, a brother and sister married a brother and sister.
Here are a few photos of Wingard Cemetery, taken in 2007:
Richard William Wingard was the father of my great-grandfather, George Franklin Wingard (1860-1949). He died on his son’s second birthday.
My closest kin lived in northwest Pike County and southern Montgomery County at Elmdale, the Moore-Wingard plantation. For a number of years, my dad, George Thomas Wingard, Jr. lived on Wingard Road, which is off highway 94 between Orion and Raymer. His family included his father, George Thomas Wingard, Sr. (1892-1946), his mother, Dorinda Thompson Wingard (1894-1980), my uncle John Calvin Wingard, Sr., and my aunt Martha Lena Wingard. For anyone wanting to drive down Wingard Road, you should know that the bridge that joins Wingard Road and Moore Road is washed out, so you’ll have to come back the way you came, which is three miles. There’s only one house on the road now. The rest is owned by a lumber company.
While living off Wingard Road, my dad and his family worshiped at the Pine Level Methodist Episcopal Church South (now Pine Level United Methodist Church). The old frame building is gone. Construction of the current sanctuary began in 1937, soon after dad and his family moved to Forrest City, Arkansas. On my dad’s last Sunday at the church, his grandfather, George Franklin Wingard (1860-1949) made a public pledge to the church’s building campaign.