George Thomas Wingard, Jr. (December 16, 1923-December 19, 2010)




My Dad would have turned 100 today, and I’m thinking about all he gave me.

My Dad gave me a home. He loved the orphan. He worked in Arkansas and Missouri orphanages. On his 36th birthday, December 16, 1959, my adoption was finalized. I never knew my biological mother. Thirty years old and unmarried, she chose to deliver me, her fifth child, in another part of the state, away from family pressure to keep me. She had a ninth grade education. I am grateful to her for giving me life, for making a choice to put me up for adoption. And I am grateful for my Dad and Mom for giving me a Christian home.


My Dad gave me a love for Jesus. I can’t remember a time when he did not lead our family in morning and evening devotions. The disciplines of prayer and Bible reading stuck with me.

My Dad gave me an interest in the world. From 1963-1969, when we lived in Atlanta, our “together time” was watching the news after supper: first The Huntley-Brinkley Report, and later Walter Cronkite. I knew Vietnam’s geography better than Georgia’s. We’d talk about the news and a life-long interest in politics and history was born.

My Dad gave me a love for the church. In addition to the churches he served, he supplied the pulpit of small congregations without pastors. He took me along, talked to me about church life, and taught me to warmly greet everyone I met. When appropriate, he took me on pastoral calls, and I became comfortable entering homes and hospitals. I remember poor folks coming to our home in need – Dad would take them to the store to buy groceries. At other times, he sent me to deliver food and books to shut-ins. My pastoral ministry today is modeled on everything I saw him do.

My Dad gave me a love for my community. He belonged to the Lion’s Club. I would see him at my school doing vision screenings. He was a Lion. I became a Rotarian.

My Dad gave me a love for my community’s churches. He took me to visit churches in other traditions – Baptists, Methodists, and Pentecostals. He helped me to understand and appreciate the extended Christian family. Because of him, I’ve felt at home wherever I worship and have enjoyed the Christian fellowship of wonderful people I would otherwise have never met.

My Dad gave me a sense of duty. He was a soldier, a World War II combat infantrymen. He was a gentleman, always solicitous of the needs of others, always wanting to put people at ease.

I want to honor my father on his 100th birthday with these brief reflections. Later today I will minister at a funeral and visit a prison inmate – the very things my Dad taught me to do.


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