Dr. Wallace B. Rummel came to Westminster Presbyterian Church 26 years ago, with his wife Nancy and five children, having left a blizzard in Portsmouth, Ohio.
Now _ 1,994 sermons, 142 weddings, 800 funerals and 17 grandchildren later _ he will retire.
It is not a decision he has made easily or that his congregation is taking lightly. With a vigorous voice and carriage, the 65-year-old could easily go on a good while.
But it is time. Four of his five children and their spouses and most of his grandchildren will be here today for the reception honoring him at the 11th Avenue NE church, which was built on a piece of farmland "on the edge of town" in 1924.
He will actually retire April 30, but the congregation will honor him early because "we have so many Canadians and other winter members who will be leaving before then," he says.
Wallace Rummel was just 14 when World War II ended and had become enamored of the planes that flew in it, "you know, the Flying Tigers and such. I wanted to be a pilot, but I also felt God calling me. I answered his call, and I never looked back. I always say I'm a sky pilot."
The Rummels enjoyed their family, and Rummel could be seen water skiing on Tampa Bay with his children in his early years here. He also jogged with son Daniel. "He's now pastoring in Columbia, S.C." Rummel said.
"But anyway, walking is what I do best now."
His heavy schedule includes preaching a morning sermon at his own church at 10 a.m. Sunday, then making hospital calls. "For 15 years I've been preaching at the Masonic Home." That's at 3 p.m. "Then I make nursing home calls."
So it's Sundays that will bring the most marked change.
In reflection, he said he sees a moral slide nationwide, but a church program allowing college students to stay in the church building over spring break renews his faith in young people as much as anything. This has been going on for a number of years, and "we've even put showers in for them."
The boys sleep in Westminster Hall and the girls in the library. A counselor comes with them, and they even fix their own meals at the church. "They give us one day of work around the church, spend two days having fun and then practice peer-to-peer ministry, witnessing to others."
And now? He and his wife will get back into bicycle riding, he thinks, and will continue their pattern of vacationing in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. And there is a new grandchild coming in November.
Peggy Botts and I agree that since people come from all over the world to see the Gisella Kopsick Arboretum in our Flora Wylie Waterfront Park, it's time we locals should see it, too. That's why it has been included in the Stuart Society's Tour of Homes on April 5. (For $10 tickets, call the museum at 896-2667.)
"They've been working really hard on the park, adding lights and lots of new palms," says Mrs. Botts, who lives across North Shore Drive from the arboretum. "This is more than just a bunch of palm trees. And people should know they can give a palm in memory of someone if they want to." The arboretum marks its 20th anniversary May 18, at which time the city and state will take note of it.