Eulogy and Obituary for Diane L. Thomas

Eulogy for Diane L. Thomas

February 13, 2020

by Pastor John Partridge



This may seem like an odd place to start, but one of the strangest, and funniest, scenes in the animated movie “The Incredibles” is when Lucius Best, also known as the hero Frozone, is desperately trying to go out in the street to fight the bad guy, and is having an argument with his wife over where she put his super suit.  Why does this matter at a funeral?  Because in that scene that only lasts a few seconds, we see that in the home of a genuine hero, the amazing abilities and even the heroism of Frozone is completely ignored because they have become entirely ordinary to the people that live with him every day.


In the years since I became a pastor, I have seen almost that exact same thing happen in the families of people who, although they didn’t have super-human powers, nearly lost sight of the heroes with whom they lived because of the ordinariness of everyday life.  And, as met with Diane’s family, and as I looked over the notes that I took while they shared her story, that is what I what I saw.


Diane was born on May 22nd, 1963, went to Alliance High School, and then to Mount Union.  She was in her mid-20’s when she met Brad at a campground where Brad was visiting friends and Diane had arrived with a mutual friend.  After their meeting, they dated for about a year before getting married in the chapel at Christ Church.  I want you to understand that our chapel is not very big.  It only seats about 30 people if you squeeze.  So small was their wedding, that other than the pastor and a few members of their immediate family, the only people in attendance were the kids who came from the daycare center downstairs.


For Diane and Brad, church wasn’t just the place that they had a wedding, it was more of a way of life.  Diane loved to sing, and she sang in the choir, played in the bell choir, and became the church’s financial secretary while Brad became the church’s custodian and jack-of-all-trades.  Diane was known by her coworkers to be one of the most organized people at church and she was always on top of anything with which she was involved.  Brad said that the most amazing thing about Diane was that she was able to put up with him.


Diane’s favorite color was purple, she was easygoing and hardly ever picky, she loved chocolate silk pie, she loved the holidays, loved watching movies, and she loved animals, especially her dog, Grace.  Diane and Grace were practically inseparable and although she isn’t human, just the same, Grace is struggling with Diane’s loss as much, or more, than many of you.


Diane and her family did just about everything together, from trips to Mexico, Niagara Falls, Myrtle Beach, and a bunch of other places with the word “beach” in them, motorcycling, walking, and lots of restaurants.  And Rachel emphasized that everything they did together was always fun.  While the kids were growing up, Diane was regularly reading to them.  She loved books.  She was not just an avid reader, she read constantly.  In this last year alone, Diane read more than one hundred books.


I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to all the children yesterday, but I’m going to guess that the experiences of Heather and Scott weren’t a lot different from the things that Rachel told me.  Rachel talked to her mom while she drove home from work every day, and she said that her mom helped her grow up, was always there for her, helped her with everything, and was absolutely her best friend.


But the hardest, and the most inspiring, part of Diane’s story started 12 years ago when she first discovered that she had breast cancer.  She fought it, and she won.  But on her ten-year checkup, they discovered that this beast from her past had returned.  And she fought it again.  She fought hard and she fought bravely, and she battled with the beast for three more years.  And in all that time, Diane never complained.  Brad said that Diane always handled her fight, and her situation, better than he did.  And, in the same way that she had always done everything, no matter what happened, Diane always had a positive attitude.


So, while those who were closest to her might be tempted to say that Diane Thomas lived an ordinary life, what are the things that she will be remembered for?  Certainly, she was loving.  There were never any doubts about her love for Brad, or for her kids.  She loved her kids partners as if they were her own.  This past Christmas, the family gathered at Rachel’s house and although they didn’t realize it, all her siblings had the chance to be together one last time.  No one will forget Diane’s love for them.


But Diane will be remembered for more than love.  If we think back through the stories that I just shared with you we saw fun, faith, faithfulness, dedication, tolerance, an infectious and consistently positive attitude, and an incredible abundance of courage.


A little while ago, I said people lose sight of the heroes with whom they live because of the ordinariness of everyday life and I think that’s what’s happened here.  Although in the middle of the everyday, day-in and day-out struggle, it might have seemed ordinary, upon reflection we realize that Diane spent years of her life fighting one of humanity’s greatest super villains.


Although they may not wear capes, we are surrounded by heroes


And clearly, Diane Thomas was one of them.


Obituary for Diane L. Thomas


Diane ThomasDiane L. Thomas, age 56, of Salem, passed away at 4:33 p.m. Saturday, February 8, 2020 at Salem Regional Hospital.  She was born May 22, 1963 in Alliance, Ohio to Hugh E. and Helen Marie (Taylor) Kiel.

A graduate of Alliance High School, Diane also graduated from Mount Union College.

She had been Financial Secretary at Christ United Methodist Church and Assistant Director of Public Affairs at Mount Union College, before retiring as Digital Content Specialist for Coastal Pet.

A member of Christ United Methodist Church, Diane was an avid reader; she loved animals, and spending time with her family and friends.

Survivors include husband, Bradley D. Thomas, whom she married January, 22, 1990; children, Heather Thomas, Scott Thomas, and Rachel Thomas; siblings,  Walter Kiel of Gratis, OH, Marilyn (Will) Omodt of Kingsport, TN, Phillip (Juanita) Kiel of Smithsburg, MD, Paul (Debbie) Kiel of N. Canton, OH; and many nieces and nephews.

Diane was preceded in death by her parents.

Services will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 13, 2020 at Cassaday-Turkle-Christian Funeral Home. Friends may call from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday.

Interment will be at Alliance City Cemetery.

Memorial Contributions may be made to the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation for Breast Cancer Research, 16133 Ventura Blvd., Suite 1000, Encino, CA 91436.

Arrangements are by Cassaday-Turkle-Christian Funeral Home, 75 S. Union Avenue Alliance, OH 44601.

Because… God.

“Because… God.”

July 08, 2018*

By John Partridge



2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10              2 Corinthians 12:2-10                       Mark 6:1-13


What is it that makes a human being weak or strong?


Weak people tend to be forgotten by history so let’s think about people in history that we would describe as strong.  Abraham Lincoln was often attacked from both sides as he guided our wounded nation through the Civil War.  Winston Churchill held the British Empire together during the darkest days of the blitz.  George Patton demanded nothing less than excellence from every person under his command and they rose to his expectations and did things that many believed to be impossible.  Often, the parents that watch over a sick child demonstrate an incredible strength.  Athletes can demonstrate incredible strength of will.


We say that these people are different because they have character, or strength of will, or unusual determination, or stubbornness applied in the right direction.


But what about the people who have done great things for the kingdom of God?


What is it that makes the heroes of scripture notable?  Why was David a great king and Saul a bad one?  Why was Paul great after he meet Jesus on the Damascus road but evil and misguided before that?  And why was Jesus reliably wonderful everywhere, but nearly unable to do anything at all when he visited Nazareth?


Let’s take these examples in historical order and begin with David.  We begin this morning with 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 where we hear a simple summary of his coronation and his life:

5:1 All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’”

When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.

David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces inward. 10 And he became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him.

First, David was a shepherd. Then he was anointed by God’s prophet as the king of Israel, but it took many years before God’s anointing could be recognized.  In the meantime, he was a musician to the king, a warrior, a soldier, a military leader, and then he was on the run from the king, even when he was keeping the borders of Israel safe with his own militia.  Finally, David was made king over the tribes of Judah, and even later, united the twelve tribes when he was also anointed as king over the tribes of Israel.  During all that time, he remained faithful to God and grew in power.  But our scripture is clear in saying that David “became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him.

David didn’t become powerful because he was handsome, or virtuous, or a great warrior, or personable, or likeable, or charismatic, or determined, or stubborn, although I am certain that he was all those things.  Scripture tells us that David became powerful and did the things that he did because God was with him.

Last week we were reminded that it is God who does the doing, and we see that same theme in these scriptures today.  David wasn’t great because of chance, and David wasn’t great because of David.  David was great because… God was with him.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” But sometimes we feel paralyzed by the situations in which we find ourselves.  Other times, we allow our fear to be an excuse for our inaction.  In “The English Wife”, author Lauren Willig, says, “I don’t believe anything’s really inevitable until it happens. We just call it inevitable to make ourselves feel better about it, to excuse ourselves for not having done anything.” And Mehmet Murat ildan distills that idea further by saying, “Inaction is the worst action of human beings.”

But when we read the story of Mark 6:1-13, sorting out who is doing what, and who is doing nothing is not at all what we expect.

6:1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Although Jesus had been going throughout Israel healing the sick and performing great miracles, when he arrives in his hometown of Nazareth, he really doesn’t do much of anything.  But the reason that Jesus doesn’t do much is that the people have no faith.  They have fallen for the great lit.  They have fallen for the lie that “people like me can’t.”  That lie is just as common today as it was then.  They were thinking this way: “Since we know Jesus’ parents, and his siblings, since we watched him grow up, since we watched him learn his trade, since we grew up with him, since he is like us, and we know that people like me can’t, people like me can’t be great, then we know that he can’t be the Messiah.”  So deeply have they bought into this lie, that they were offended at him and Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.

But that didn’t stop Jesus.  It didn’t even slow him down.  He continued to preach from village to village and then he also sends out his disciples, two by two, and they go from village to village teaching, and preaching, and healing, and casting out demons.  When Jesus is faced with the lie that “people like me can’t” he turns the lie on it’s head and sends out even more ordinary people, even more “people like me,” to do the extraordinary work that he was doing.


Not because these guys were well bred, or because they had a great education from an ivy league school, and not because they had mad skills.  They didn’t have any of those things.

So, why could they do what they did?

It’s simple.

Because God… was with them.

The Apostle Paul was an amazing preacher. And Paul did come from the right kind of family, and he did have all the right connections, and he did go to all the right schools.  But when God decided to use him, God left some imperfection in him that haunted him for his entire life.

Reading from 2 Corinthians 12:2-10, we hear these words:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul was that blue-blood, ivy league, know the right people, kind of guy.  But when God called him, he made sure that Paul would always remember that it wasn’t any of those things, and it wasn’t Paul, that made Paul great.  Even though a lot of ink has been spilled by theologians arguing about it, we don’t know what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was.  But what we do know, is that it was enough.  Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, for him, a constant reminder that he had been sent by God, was being empowered by God, and all his success had to be attributed to God.  Whatever Paul accomplished through his own strength was pointless, but everything that he accomplished because of his weakness pointed to God.

God relishes our weaknesses because it is in our weakness that his strength becomes obvious and the world can see Jesus most clearly.  That’s why Paul said, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  God seems to delight in using fishermen, and carpenters, and farmers.  He uses demon possessed people, and prostitutes, tax collectors, enemy collaborators, foreigners, lepers, and yes, God has even been known to use dead people from time to time.

Don’t ever believe the lie that people like us can’t.  Or that God can’t use people like us.

David was a shepherd.  Jesus was a Carpenter.  Paul had a thorn in the flesh.  And all of them remembered that the things they did weren’t because of them but because… God was with them.

The truth is, God delights in using people like us.  People like me.  People like you.

All we need to do, is to have faith.

Remember, people don’t do great things because they’re great.  People do great things for God’s kingdom because…

…God is with them.

We are called by God.  This church is called by God.  And every one of us needs to remember that we can do great things for the kingdom of God because…

…God is with us.





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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at   These messages can also be found online at h All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Justice, Power, Gentleness

“Justice, Power, Gentleness”

January 08, 2017

By John Partridge*


Isaiah 42:1-9                                      Matthew 3:13-17                                           Acts 10:34-43

 How much do you know about Elon Musk and his rocket company, SpaceX?

I know that most of you have heard of Dr. Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon.

What you may not know, is that these two very different men, from different generations, and entirely different backgrounds have a dream for humanity that is surprisingly similar.

Buzz Aldrin has been a tireless advocate for the support of manned spaceflight and Elon Musk has made it his goal to make spaceflight cheaper by several orders of magnitude.  Okay, I know I lost a few of you with that comment.  I’m an engineer and a math geek so that language is natural to me, but for those of you who have never been especially friendly with math, an “order of magnitude” means something that is divided or multiplied by ten so that when describing it you are moving the decimal by one place.  For example, if something costs $1000, reducing the cost by one order of magnitude would make the price $100 and two orders of magnitude would reduce it to only $10.  So what Elon Musk is attempting, is to reduce the cost of a rocket launch from something like $100 million per launch to $10 million or even $1 million per launch.  That’s a really big deal.

In any case, the vision for humanity that is held by both Buzz Aldrin and Elon Musk is that we, as a species, should attempt, as soon as possible, to land men on Mars and, shortly thereafter, attempt to establish a human colony there.

Not surprisingly, science fiction writers have been thinking about what this would be like for generations.  One thing that is presented as a problem for a moon colony or a Mars colony is that since the gravity of the moon is one-sixth the gravity of Earth, and the gravity of Mars is only one-third that of Earth, when children are eventually born on such a colony, their bones won’t grow the way that our do.  Without a stronger gravity, their bones won’t be as strong as ours and they will likely never be able to come “home” to Earth.

But with that in mind, what I want you to think about is really the opposite.  What if humans were to somehow build a colony on Saturn or Jupiter, or somewhere else where the gravity is much greater than ours?  When those colonists, or their children, returned to Earth, they would be a little bit like Superman.  They would have incredible strength because, to them, the gravity of Earth would affect them the way that the moon’s gravity affected Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and the rest of the Apollo astronauts.  These people would be incredibly strong but would they also remain capable of gentleness and tenderness?  Superman can lift an airplane, but he can still catch Lois Lane without hurting her and Clark Kent can still buy groceries without crushing the eggs in his basket.

I admit that this discussion is a little strange for a Sunday morning, but bear with me because I hope that it will help us to understand a greater truth before we’re done.  We begin this morning once again in Isaiah, this time we are reading from Isaiah 42:1-9, where he continues to look ahead and to describe for the world what the coming messiah will look like.

42:1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
    he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”

This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

“I am the Lord; that is my name!
I will not yield my glory to another
or my praise to idols.
See, the former things have taken place,
and new things I declare;
before they spring into being
I announce them to you.”

Isaiah says that the Spirit of God will be put on the messiah so that he will be able to bring justice to the nations.  But Isaiah also draws for us a dramatic contrast from our natural expectations.  If we are honest with ourselves, whenever we think of someone who is powerful enough to conquer the world and to bring justice to all of the evil and terrible things in the world, whenever we think of a person that is great enough to bring justice to the Adolf Hitlers and Julius Ceasars of the world, and powerful enough to overcome the Roman Empires and the ISIS-es of the world, we almost automatically think of someone who is not only strong and powerful, but also ruthless and perhaps a little wild.

But that is not the picture that Isaiah paints.

The messiah that Isaiah describes is powerful enough to overcome all of the evil in the world, but will not shout, or raise his voice, he will be so tender that he will not break a bruised reed, or snuff out a smoldering wick.  In these two examples, Isaiah describes two things that are more fragile than an eggshell.  If you’ve ever held a candle that was sputtering and drowning in its own wax, you know that one jostle in the wrong direction will smother it.  Likewise, a bruised reed needs only the slightest touch to break it the rest of the way.  And so, what Isaiah describes for us is a messiah that not only has indescribable power, but who is also so self-controlled, so gentle, so caring, and so compassionate, that he will care for even the most fragile among us without breaking them.

Also worth noting is that Isaiah also says that God will make the messiah to be a new covenant for the people and that, while he is sending this incredibly powerful messiah, who will be filled with the Spirit of God, God will not yield his glory to another.  And so, while the messiah is powerful, and filled with God’s Spirit, and is a new covenant for the people of God, he is not someone who is other than God, but perhaps in some way, is God himself.

I am certain that this was a puzzle for everyone who has read this that did not know of Jesus the messiah or who does not believe in what we now call the Trinity.  In this passage, God speaks of himself, of his Spirit, and of his messiah in ways that sound as if they are all somehow separate, and yet are all one God.  And then with the coming of Jesus, we hear these words in Matthew 3:13-17:

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

And again, in that moment, we hear the voice of God, we see the Spirit of God descend, and we also see Jesus who is the object of God’s praise.  And yet again, we remember that God said that he would not yield his glory to another.  And so where does that leave us?  It is a puzzle, but before we’re done let us also consider Peter’s explanation in Acts 10:34-43:

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Peter again emphasizes that Jesus was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and with power and was able to do all the things that he did through the power of God that was with him.  Peter then goes on to say that Jesus died, was raised from the dead, by God, after three days, that Jesus was the messiah that all the prophets had testified about, and that human beings were able to receive forgiveness through the name of Jesus.

 This is an impressive list.

 But nearly all these things are impossible for someone who was no more than just a human being.  No one else, in all of scripture was able to raise the dead simply by commanding them to do so.  No one else was raised from the dead by God in the way that Jesus was.  No one else could ever fulfill the prophecies that were written about God’s messiah.  And if you remember the objections of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, no one has the power to forgive sin, except God himself.

 And again, here we are faced with a puzzle.  How can Jesus be all these things at the same time?  How can God be all these things and yet not yield his glory to another unless Jesus is, himself, God in human flesh?

 The conclusion of countless theologians throughout history is that these three things, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, must somehow, be one and the same, and yet, somehow, exist separately.  I remind you that this word that we use, “Trinity,” appears nowhere in scripture.  It was invented in the first century after Jesus in an attempt to describe the relationship that we’ve been reading about this morning.  But two thousand years later, when we are faced with the facts, from the Old Testament, the Gospel stories, and from the testimony of the New Testament eyewitnesses, we are compelled to come to the same conclusion or one very much like it.

 Jesus is the messiah, sent by God, to bring justice to the nations.  He is the one who has been given supernatural power to overcome evil and bring righteousness to the world.  And yet, he is so in control, so gentle, so compassionate, that even while yielding this incredible, indescribable power, he will not raise his voice or break the most fragile and damaged among us.

There is no alien from another world like that.

There is no human being like that.

The only conclusion is that Jesus…  is… God.

Thanks be to God.



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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at   These messages can also be found online at All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.


Ruth L. Miller – A Celebration of Life

Eulogy for Ruth L. Miller

April 30, 2016

by Rev. John Partridge

Every life has a story.  And when I stand in the front of a group of people at the end of someone’s life, I try to tell their story.  To be honest, there are times when it’s easier than others but telling the story of Ruth Lovina Miller is only difficult in the sense that I have more stories than I can use, and even if I tell a few of them, you might accuse me of making Ruth sound like a superhero.  It is not without reason that Tom Brokaw referred to our parents as our “greatest generation.”  In recent years we have watched people like Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray do so many things at once that it makes us tired just watching them.  But the truth is that people like Ruth Miller make Martha Stewart look a little lazy.  And if you had ever asked Ruth about it, she probably wouldn’t have found anything in her life to be particularly remarkable.

Ruth Allen was born into a Mennonite family in 1922 and was eventually one of seven children.  As such, each of the children had responsibilities in the life of the family and one of Ruth’s was to do the dishes.  That doesn’t immediately jump out as anything extraordinary except that one day each week was her mother’s baking day.  On that day, Ruth’s mother would bake… all day long.  She would bake bread, or sweets, or anything that they might need for the entire week.  She baked one thing after another all day long.  Few if any of the dishes were used more than once, and none of them had been rinsed and so all of them had hard crusts of one sort or another forming on them.  And when Ruth came home from school, it was her job to do all of the dishes that had piled up.

Ruth’s father was a bricklayer, but with the coming of the Great Depression, like many others he had a hard time finding work, and so to feed his family, they sold their home and bought a farm in Perry.  Ruth was always smart.  When she attended Louisville High School she earned a college scholarship but decided that instead of pursuing her dream of going to college, she would stay at home and help to care for her father who was losing his battle to terminal cancer.  Ruth also wanted to do something nice for her siblings, and so she would occasionally make brownies for them.  But to be sure that her mother didn’t give them to someone else, after Ruth made the brownies, she would wash all the dishes, divide up the brownies, wrap them, and hide them in the dressers of her brothers’ and sisters’ bedrooms.

Ruth always felt very strongly about family.  In fact, her mother started the Allen Family reunion and later caring for that reunion, and making sure that it happened every year on the 3rd Saturday of July became Ruth’s responsibility.  There were some years when they were afraid that the whole thing might wither away, but it always happened.  Of course, in recent months Ruth was worried that the reunion might not survive her passing, but her children and grandchildren are already at work making sure that it continues.  In fact, the pavilion at Baylor Beach has already been reserved, and paid for, for the next two years.

In addition to the summer reunion, Ruth and her siblings took turns hosting a Christmas dinner celebration.  In this way the entire Allen family got together two times every year until the year 2000.  For Ruth, family was always an important priority.

Not long after her high school graduation, Ruth married Joseph D. Miller (who was always called Joe).  Joe had been raised Amish and was a long distance truck driver.  At first, the Mennonite preacher at Ruth’s church refused to marry them.  Not because Joe was Amish, but because he smoked.  But Ruth wasn’t so easily put off.  If her pastor wouldn’t marry her, she would ask his boss.  And so Ruth and Joe were married in her home church but what we would describe in our church as the District Superintendent

Ruth and Joe started attending Trinity Church in 1947 while the church was still worshiping at the Genoa schoolhouse.  They chose Trinity because, at the time, the church had a class for young married couples, and they were looking for something like that.  Eventually, they would raise all of three of their children, Jim, Kathleen, and Ken, here at Trinity church.

They bought a basement house together, lived there, and started their family there for six years before they were able to take out a loan and build a house on top of the basement.  Ruth was a stay at home mom until the kids were all old enough for school, and then, to help make ends meet, she began to clean houses in Canton while the kids were in school.  Now, at first, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but remember that Ruth didn’t drive.  And so, every day, Ruth would get the kids off to school, walk two miles to Lincolnway where she could get a bus into Canton, then typically several more busses to the houses where she cleaned, then back to Perry, and walk two miles home, all before the kids got home from school.  Every day.

Finally, about the time that her son Jim was almost old enough to drive, Ruth decided that there was no way she would let him drive before she did.  And so she got her driver’s license first.  But even before that, when Kathleen was only five years old, and while she was working days cleaning houses, Ruth started back to school.  She started in a special night school that was a wartime program to train teachers because so many school teachers and so many young men who might have become school teachers, were all being drafted into the military and going off to war.  Night school turned into summer school and, after two years, Ruth got a “cadet certificate” that allowed her to teach for four years before it had to be renewed.  But just like she did when Jim was ready to drive, Ruth made a decision.  She told everyone that before her certificate expired, she would earn her degree and her teaching certificate.  And she did.  She graduated from Kent State in 1964… the same year that Jim did and she taught until 1985 with a Master’s Degree from Akron University thrown in along the way.  We aren’t exactly sure of the math since she started teaching before she graduated, but that means that Ruth taught for somewhere between 23 and 25 years.

In 1969, only a few years after Ruth graduated from college, Ruth lost Joe, the love of her life.  But with the kids all older, and now armed with her degree and teaching certificate, Ruth was equipped to survive on her own.  And she did a lot better than just survive.  Since Jim earned a commission in the military upon his graduation from Kent State, he travelled the world at his various duty assignments.  And each time he moved, Ruth went to visit.  And that, in turn, got her started travelling everywhere.  Ruth travelled all over the United States, Canada and Europe often using Jim’s house as a base of operations while she traveled. On top of that, Ruth became the lay delegate from Trinity Church to our Annual Conference at Lakeside, Ohio for many years.  While she was doing all of those other things, she was also active in everything at church.  She was in the women’s group, and the sewing group, and she was also active with her support of the Canton Symphony, the Perry History Club, and the monthly meetings of the Perry Book Club even up to just a few months ago.  On top of all that, since 1985 Ruth has been going to her water aerobics class every week despite the fact that she has always been a non-swimmer who was afraid of the water.  She had a friend that picked her up every week and she only stopped going last year because after thirty years the Myers Lake YMCA stopped having that class.

And somehow, as if all of that wasn’t enough, Ruth also supported all of her kids.  Ruth made almost all of the clothes that Kathleen wore, and when she got too old for that, Ruth made clothes for her grandchildren.  Kathleen said that even though she might not have had as many dolls as some of the other kids, she, and later her kids, was the only one who had doll clothes that matched her own outfits.  Ruth made everything.  Ruth even made the wedding dresses for many of her family by mixing and matching parts from different patters that the brides would pick our at the pattern store.  Some of the in-laws were worried that a homemade wedding dress would be too simple or too plain, but they were all blown away by Ruth’s handiwork.  One dress in particular was covered in cloth roses, and each rose was lovingly cut, petal by petal, sewn together, placed on the dress, and decorated with beads.

There are so many stories that I just don’t have time to tell you.  There’s the story of how Kathleen forgot the ivory rose, necklace, and earrings that she wanted to wear for her wedding.  Joe, being the good father, went home to get them, but all Ruth could do was worry that he would get stuck on the other side of the railroad tracks by a train and be late for the wedding.  Or how Ruth taught everyone to clean, by regular inspections, and re-cleaning until the job met her exacting standards.  Or how she taught her family to save money by making their own cleaning supplies instead of buying all the expensive stuff that the commercials try to convince you to buy.  Or the story of how she managed to leave a homemade banana bread on the piano bench for our organist, Janet, every Christmas without ever being seen doing it.  Or the punchbowl story, and so many more.

When Kathleen and her family were driven out of their home by carbon monoxide, they lived with Ruth for a while and then, more than ever, she became like an extra parent.  Ruth was very conservative but always available to help whoever needed it.  She freely gave of herself, of her time, her money, and whatever else was needed.  She was definitely a student from the “old school” and she was never afraid to speak her mind and tell you exactly what she thought.  Sometimes that was refreshingly honest but sometimes it scared people a little bit.  At school she was known as “Killer Miller” but she was also the one who was always available for almost anything at church.  She supported her grandchildren in whatever ways that she could and sometimes made them little loans when they needed it.

Even toward the end she was, as she always was, her own woman.  Ruth was the one who decided, on her own, that she would quit driving and give her car to someone in her family.  She had always been a good storyteller and a collector a dolls from all over the world, and when she decided that it was time to give away her stuff, each doll, and each keepsake, came with a story about where it came from and what it meant so that they would stay with the family.  And she was the one, at the Brookdale nursing home, who helped to establish an institutional recycling program, and encouraged them to start serving water in the afternoon.

We could literally stay here and tell stories about Ruth Miller all afternoon.  But, in the end, they all seem to boil down to just a few themes that have changed us all and will have an impact on all of our lives.  First, for Ruth, life was always about family.  Just listening to all of the things that she did to make a home for her family is enough to make you tired. But she did it because family is just that important.  Second, a big part of her life was about church.  Church was a place to feel at home, to have a second family, and a place where she could help others who needed it.  Third, life was about doing the things that you loved.  Ruth did a lot of things but she didn’t waster her time doing things that she didn’t like unless she was doing it for someone that she loved.

Ruth Miller was always her own woman but her passion for her family, her love of Jesus, and her passion for life had an impact on everyone around her.  I know that all of Ruth’s children became who they are today because of what Ruth taught them and because of the life that she modeled for them.  Michelle decided to become a teacher, largely because of Ruth’s influence.  In know that everyone here at Trinity has been changed because of Ruth’s influence and I know that all of you who have gathered here today have done so because of what Ruth’s life has meant to each of you.

Compared to Ruth Miller, Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray don’t look all that impressive. I’m sure that Ruth wouldn’t want anyone to describe her as a superhero and she probably never thought of what she did as anything particularly remarkable, but then again, in a lot of ways that “greatest generation” label doesn’t really go far enough either.  If any of us can manage to do half as good, or do half as much, as Ruth did, we would be pretty proud of ourselves.

There is an old saying that absolutely rings true of our relationship with Ruth:

“We stand on the shoulders of giants.”



Ruth L. Miller

November 11, 1922 – April 26, 2016

Ruth MillerRuth Lovina Miller, age 93, long time resident of Perry Heights went to be with the Lord on 4-26-16.

She was born in Canton, Ohio on 11-11-22 to William J. and Mary Ann Allan. She graduated from Louisville High School and was married to Joseph D. Miller on 10-19-41 at the First Mennonite Church in Canton.

She was preceded in death by her husband Joseph D. Miller and siblings: Euphemia Miller, Elizabeth Wood, William Allan, Paul Allan and James Allan.

She is survived by her sister Lois Hamilton and her children James Miller, Kathleen Casey and Kenneth Miller. Grandchildren: Todd, Patrick, Joe and Kate Miller; Michelle Rose, Angela Thompson, Brenda Boomhower and Luke Miller. Her great grandchildren Jody and Reid Miller; Zoe, Bija and Josephine Miller;
Ruby and Otis Terrell; Patrick, James, Sara and Alex Thompson; Tyler, Brittany and Thomas Rose.

She graduated from Kent State in 1964 with a Bachelor’s in Education with her son Jim. It was a double proud day for her. She completed her Master’s at Akron University in Middle School Curriculum.

She retired from Perry Local Schools in 1985, where she spent most of her teaching career.

She has been an active, contributing member of Trinity United Methodist Church since its inception in 1947.

She loved to travel and visited many countries in Europe and many locations in the US and Canada. She especially loved to travel to new locations to visit her grandchildren. She also loved music (especially the organ) and a was a lifelong supporter of the Canton Symphony Orchestra.

After her retirement in 1985 she remained very active.  She attended a weekly water aerobics class until she was in her 90’s. She was an Ombudsman, who advocated for residents in nursing facilities. She was an active member of the College Club of Canton and many book clubs.

Ruth could be described in many ways: adventurer, world traveler, a fair landlord, a knitter and seamstress, teacher of many and the matriarch of our family. She created and sewed the wedding dresses for many family members.  She was a strong advocate of the importance of family and was always there to provide support. She was active in the Perry Historical Society and was a supporter of the efforts to restore the one room school house next to the Genoa Elementary School.

There will be a Celebration of her Life on Sat. 4-30-16 at Trinity United Methodist Church at 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, OH 44646 at 3 PM. The services will be from 3-4 PM with a reception immediately following the services at the church, 4- 6 PM.

In Lieu of flowers please send a donation in her name to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way East, Massillon, Ohio, 44646 or the Perry History Club Inc., PO Box # 80575, Canton, OH, 44708-0575 to restore the one room school house next to the Genoa Elementary School.

Remembering Delmar Jarvis

Delmar Jarvis


Delmar L. Jarvis

July 4, 1922 – March 12, 2016
Resided in Massillon, OH

Delmar L. Jarvis, age 93 passed away on Saturday, March 12, 2016. He was born on July 04, 1922 to the late William and Jesse (Craigo) Jarvis. He married Arlene Wiandt on March 01, 1941 and they just celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.

Delmar was a Warehouse Superintendent for McLain Grocery until his retirement. He was a member of Trinity United Methodist Church. He was active in Freemasonry and was active with Clinton Lodge #47, Scottish Rite-Valley of Canton, The Massillon Shrine Club, York Rite- Hiram Chapter #18, Massillon Commandery #18 and Canton Council #35. Delmar was a recipient of the Meritorious Service Award with the Scottish Rite and he was a member of the Massillon Football Boosters Club.

Delmar is survived by his wife Arlene; his sons Keith (Betty) Jarvis, Kenneth (Jeannine) Jarvis and Joel (Sandi) Jarvis; his grandchildren Keith W. Jarvis, Elizabeth (Jack) Jarvis-Whitehouse, Allison Hiser, Amy (Jeff) Tillar, Ashley Jarvis, Matt (Kelly) Jarvis, Corey (Lindsay) Jarvis, Brandon Jarvis and 11 great grandchildren; a sister Wilma Mae Levengood, as well as a host of relatives and friends. In addition to his parents, Delmar was preceded in death by his sister Frances Davidson and a brother Wayne Jarvis.

A Celebration of his life will be held on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 11a.m. at the Paquelet & Arnold-Lynch Funeral Home in Massillon. The family will receive friends on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 from 6 to 8 p.m. and 1 hour prior to the service. Masonic Service to be held on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Donations in Delmar’s memory can made to Harbor Light Hospice. 25 S. Main Street, Suite 7, Munroe Falls, OH 44262


Memories of my Grandfather

March 16, 2016

by Matt Jarvis

Good morning. My name is Kelly Jarvis and I am reading this for my husband, one of Delmar’s grandson’s, Matt Jarvis.

My grandfather lived a life that was full of pride, joy and happiness.  He had a very successful career, was a member of the United States Navy, was very active in Freemasonry and was active with Clinton Lodge #47, was a member of the Massillon Shrine Club, was a recipient of the Meritorious Service Award with the Scottish Rite, was a member of the Massillon Football Boosters Club, and the list goes on and on and on.

On March 1, 1941, he married my grandmother, Arlene, and amazingly enough they just celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary just over two weeks ago.  After marriage they had three sons, Keith, Ken and my father, Joel.

My grandpa’s generosity, work ethic, humility and selflessness are all qualities that I admire him for, and qualities I myself aspire to.

The oldest of three boys, I have so many memories of Grandpa Delmar that I don’t even know where to start.  But I have to start somewhere, so here we go, in no particular order:

  • One of the fondest memories and one I’ll never forget are the two summer vacations that just Grandpa and I took to Fayetteville, North Carolina and Las Vegas. I played AAU basketball in high school and we made it to consecutive National Championships. While my parents probably would’ve made it work to take me, Grandpa generously volunteered and before I knew it we were road tripping down to North Carolina one summer and flying to Sin City the next.  My entire team (the players, the players, parents and my coaches) all absolutely LOVED Grandpa.  And just like my Dad would have done, he did an amazing job of cheering me on from the stands, only Grandpa did it from the first row behind our bench, so it was very loud and clear.  Looking back, agreeing to take me on these week long excursions was not a small commitment at all, but he agreed without hesitation because he knew how important it was to me. I am fairly confident that those are trips that not only I will cherish forever but that he did as well.
  • Breakfast with Grandpa – it was one of the main reasons why I looked forward to our visits with my grandparents, whether in Massillon, in Wisconsin, or anywhere else that we happened to be vacationing with them. For a good number of years it was usually just Grandpa, my Dad and myself because my brothers, let’s just say they “valued their sleep”.  But as my brothers got older they saw the tradition in it and began to cherish the valuable time with Grandpa.  But being the oldest, I did have a few more opportunities to hang out with Grandpa in the mornings as we made our way running errands through Massillon.  After breakfast, it was always to the Masonic Lodge because Grandpa had to make coffee for everyone. After that, like clockwork, it was a stop at the post office, where he ALWAYS had something to mail.  By that time the barber shop had opened, so whether I needed it or not, I usually got a haircut.  And then, before heading home, he never, ever forgot to stop somewhere to get grandma either a blueberry muffin or bagel – showing both his love and generosity for others.
  • Gatherings for Easter with Grandma and Grandma in South Bend, Indiana are something that’ll stick with our family forever. We met there because it was about half way between Massillon and our home in Wisconsin.  We would spend the extended weekend swimming, hot tubbing, having Easter egg hunts, walking the campus of Notre Dame, playing miniature golf, and more.  And of course I can’t forget my brothers and I hitting Grandpa up for quarters to play video games after our parents had cut us off.  After a few years, he just started bringing the $10 paper rolled stacks of quarters and giving each of us one when we asked for it.  And if I forgot to say it at the time “Thank you Grandpa.”
  • My Dad ran a United Methodist Church camp in central Wisconsin for about 15 years. Grandma and Grandpa both loved coming to camp to visit.  The name of the camp was “Camp Lucerne” and they single handily helped support his camp store with all of the sweatshirts, jackets, hats, and anything else that my Dad sold that said “Camp Lucerne”.  And while they truly loved the camp, it became very clear later how much love and support they were giving to their son, and how very proud of him they were for the job he was doing.  And a memory that’ll stick with us all forever are the years that Grandpa came to the “Father-Son Camp” and we were able to have three generations represented.  And because my Dad was in charge of the camp and had many additional responsibilities, Grandpa at times had to take on roles as Father and Grandpa to us, a task that he had no problem accomplishing.

Just as most of you here could, I could go on all day with stories about my Grandpa Delmar.  He will be missed dearly.  I hope to someday become half the man that he was, because people like my Grandpa are one in a million.  Anyone who was around Grandpa Delmar knew of his generosity, work ethic, humility and selflessness.  Anyone who knew Grandpa Delmar also knew how much he love his wife of 75 years, his three boys, his 8 grandchildren, his 11 great-grandchildren, his sister and everyone else in his family.

Albert Einstein once said, “Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation.  For they are us, our bodies are only the wilted leaves on the tree of life.”

And one more final thought: “Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.”  Grandma Arlene has assured us that Grandpa is now happy and looking down smiling on us, so let us celebrate his life and continue his legacy.

Thank you Grandpa.  I love you, I love you so much, and will miss you forever.




 Eulogy for Delmar Jarvis

March 16, 2016

by Rev. John Partridge

This may sound like an unusual question, but on your way here today, how many of you saw any horse and buggies on the road?  As you crossed the railroad tracks, did you see any steam engines or Pullman passenger trains go by?  All of us would likely say that we did not.  But more than a few of us saw the First United Methodist Church in Massillon that’s been there for so long that one of its previous pastors was one of the Union soldiers that took part in the great locomotive chase during the Civil War.  Some of us have been places where some of those great old steam engines are in museums or are still running on local excursions.  The reason that I mention these things is that while some things became outdated and faded away, there are places that we can go where we can find these monuments to a different time.  There are buildings and other artifacts that remind us of another time.

And so, as we remember the life of Delmar Leroy. Jarvis, I think we are doing something that is very similar.  In his own, quiet and humble way, Delmar Jarvis was, for us, a great monument to a better time.  Not surprisingly, Delmar was a member of what has been referred to as our “Greatest Generation” and, knowing him, he fit that description in spades.  Delmar served in the United States Navy during WWII as a radio man on the destroyer, USS Kephardt in both the Atlantic and the Pacific theaters.  He was not only justifiably proud of his service, he lamented just a few years ago, after more than seventy years, that he had finally forgotten Morse code.

But the Navy wasn’t all the he was.  Delmar Jarvis did what he said that he would do.  And the things that he did, he did with extraordinary passion and commitment.  The four great loves of his life were the Church, the Masons, the Massillon Tigers, and his family.  To these four things, Delmar gave all that he had.  It wouldn’t have occurred to him to just show up to church a few times a month.  Delmar went to church every Sunday and volunteered as the church treasurer for a great many years as well.  When a renewal movement called the Walk to Emmaus grew within the United Methodist Church he and Arlene drove to Columbus to be the first in Ohio to become a pilgrim so that he could be a part of the core group that brought that movement to this area.

That same commitment was given to the Masons lodge.  Showing up once in a while wasn’t enough.  His grandsons remember that whenever they visited Delmar would take them out to breakfast, but before they could go home, they had to stop at the Masonic lodge because it was Del’s job to make the coffee.  Every. Single. Day.

Third, Delmar loved to watch the Tigers play football.  But once again, not just once in awhile.  Once in a while wasn’t how Delmar Jarvis did things.  Instead, Delmar bought season tickets and attended every single game, every single season, year after year, decade after decade, until he simply, physically, couldn’t do it anymore.

And finally, Delmar’s fourth, and biggest, passion was his family.  As I met with his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren yesterday, they told me more stories than I have time to share with you today.  But those same threads of dedication, humility, loyalty, passion, and love flowed through all of them.  First of all there is Arlene the love of his life.  They met roller skating because Delmar was a regular at roller skating races.  I have no trouble imagining that Arlene was captured by Del’s infectious smile and the way that he could make everyone feel like they were the most important person in the room.  Arlene was Delmar’s constant companion and just two weeks ago they celebrated their Seventy-Fifth wedding anniversary together.  In a world where everything seems to be increasingly temporary and where the institution of marriage sometimes seems to be an endangered species, Delmar and Arlene built a monument so that the rest of us could remember that some things were meant to last.

With a son living in Wisconsin, despite the fact that Del had a habit of getting lost whenever he drove somewhere, they decided to meet halfway to visit one another each Easter and so, every year they would meet at a hotel in South Bend, Indiana.  Every year they would find places to go together, they would take walks on the Notre Dame University campus, and since the Amish restaurant that they liked was closed on Sunday, they would have Easter Sunday dinner together on Saturday evening. But some Easter weekends were different because when he was in college, grandson Matt was playing basketball and so on those Easter weekends, Delmar and Arlene drove all the way to Wisconsin to share Easter together and to watch Matt play ball. That too was a recurring theme.  If his children or grandchildren were in it, Delmar and Arlene did whatever they could to be there.  Whether it was working at camp, or watching basketball, or the marching band, or something else, they were there.  As you already heard today, Delmar even volunteer to travel with Matt to Las Vegas, but when he was in town, Del would drive Matt to every single baseball card shop in all of Massillon, Canton, and the surrounding area until they found what they were looking for.

If any of the family were in town, they did everything together whether it was going to the grocery story or anything else.  Delmar Jarvis had a way of making everyone smile, Kelly said that even the first time they met, he made her feel “like he’d known me forever.”  While Elizabeth was in the Massillon band, Del took her to school, every day and when she was in Elementary school near Delmar and Arlene’s house, she came “home” to their house every afternoon.  When Brandon was the last child at home, he remembers that he would travel from Wisconsin to Ohio and have his grandparents all to himself.  When a grandchild was being baptized, Delmar and Arlene travelled to Alaska to see it and to visit Jeannine’s parents.

Over and over again, the life of Delmar Jarvis revolved around his family and the people and the things that he loved.  And although he made a habit of getting lost, and mispronouncing words, his passion, commitment, his sense of humor, and his love for the people around him always showed through.

The term, “Greatest Generation” only begins to describe the life of Delmar Jarvis.  His life was a monument of genuine compassion, concern, dedication, passion, commitment, and love.  In his own, quiet and humble way, Delmar Jarvis was, for us, a great monument to a better time.  And just like those great old churches and museum steam engines, whenever we remember him, whenever we remember the monument that he built in his life, in his family, and in each of us, we can remember how he made us feel.  We can remember what lives can be like when they are truly well lived.  And we can do our best to become more like that.

Men like Delmar Jarvis don’t come around every day.  “Greatest Generation” doesn’t really go far enough, and although it would be embarrassing to Delmar’s humility, describing him as a “Super Hero” would be a lot closer to the truth.  He was indeed, a monument to a better time and testimony that we can be better than we are.



What Power is Within You?

“What Power is Within You?”

January 10, 2016

(Baptism of Jesus)

By John PartridgeU


Scripture: Isaiah 43:1-7                      Acts 8:14-17               Luke 3:15-22

Here is a question that might seem odd at first.

Where does strength come from?

Certainly we get physical strength from the food we eat and mental or moral strength from the way that we were raised, the life experiences that we have had, and the struggles we have survived.  But what else is there?

Clark Kent was able to be Superman because he came from a planet with stronger gravity and a different sun.  Billy Batson was able to become Captain Marvel because of the magic word that he had been taught.  Dr. Donald Blake was able to become the Mighty Thor because tapping his cane caused it to transform into the enchanted hammer Mjolnir.  And lately, if you watch the show Limitless on CBS, Brian Finch (played by Jake Dorman) becomes the smartest man on the planet whenever he takes the mysterious drug NZT.

But that’s all just comic books, fiction, and storytelling isn’t it?

Or is it?

In the summer of 1984 (or thereabouts), I entered the United States Army and reported to Fort Dix, New Jersey for basic training.  While there we were regularly pushed to our limits physically as well as emotionally in all sorts of ways.  We did things that we had never done before and we discovered that we were able to do things that we never thought we could do before.  But one afternoon, I experienced something spiritual that opened my mind and my heart to a whole new set of possibilities.

After weeks of training and uncountable numbers of push-ups and sit-ups, I had grown to understand what my body could do and had become much better at listening to what it had to say when it was tired, hurt, or just getting warmed up.  But one afternoon, after several nights of little or no sleep and, again, an almost uncountable number of push-ups, we were, once again, pulled out of class because too many of us were falling asleep.  When we were pulled out of class for sleeping, our drill sergeants would form us up in ranks outside and we would do calisthenics for as long as they thought necessary to wake us up.

They seemed to last forever.

And at some point, I ran out of whatever I had that kept me going.  In the middle of doing a set of push-ups, I collapsed.  I had done enough push-ups, and had felt enough pain, and knew enough about listening to my body, that I knew I did not have another push-up in me.  I was at the end of myself.  I was so frustrated that I almost wept.  I knew that my failure would cost my friends even more push-up and even more pain.

And, laying there on the ground, at some point, I began to pray.

I prayed for myself, but I also prayed for my friends.  And although it might sound strange to those who haven’t been in that kind of a place, I prayed that God would give me strength to do more push-ups.  I prayed for strength so that I wouldn’t get yelled at and so that I wouldn’t be a target for the drill instructors because I was the one who had failed.  But I also prayed because I didn’t want to let my buddies down.  I didn’t want it to be me that caused them to endure even more than what we already had.

And something happened.

I struggle to find the words to describe it.  The word that I want really isn’t “unexpected,” or “unexplainable,” or “amazing,” even though all of those adjectives hold a piece of the truth.  But all of a sudden I had the strength to go on.  Suddenly I began doing more push-ups, first one, then another, then five, ten, and on and on.  I don’t remember how many more there were, but I remember, clear as day, that I marveled at how many it became.  I was sure that I could do no more push-ups with the strength that I had left, but even allowing that I had a short break of several seconds, I thought that a short rest might allow me to do a few more, but our set of push-up went far beyond what I would have ever called a few, and I kept up.  I knew that I had been filled with strength that I didn’t have, strength that didn’t come from me but seemed to come from somewhere outside of myself.

For one brief moment in time, I felt God’s strength flow through me in a way that I previously could have never imagined.

So what does all of that have to do with everyone here?  Let’s begin once again by reading from Isaiah 43:1-7 as God reminds his people what he has done for them and why their relationship to him matters.

43:1 But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”

God reminds his people that he is powerful, but also that each of them are not alone, that they are each known by God, protected by God, valuable to God, loved by God and will, ultimately, be reunited with their sons, daughters, and all of the family of God.

That was then, and remains today, an important message and it is one worth remembering about our own relationship with God.  But then, 800 years later, with the coming of Jesus, our relationship with God grew even closer.  In Luke 3:15-22, we read these words…

15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.

21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

In this short picture, John tells the crowds that the Messiah will baptize the people with the Holy Spirit and with fire and then moments later he describes for us a moment when all three members of the trinity appear together, Jesus in the water with John, the Spirit descending like a dove, and the Father speaking, “You are my Son, whom I love.”  And once again, we have an image of a God is powerful, but also a promise that Jesus will baptize his people in the Spirit of God.

What exactly does that mean?

To find out, let’s keep going and look at Acts 8:14-17 where Luke describes this scene:

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

I want you to hear that again.

Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

After the coming of Jesus Christ, God is no longer a god who is far away.  Instead, God becomes a god in whom we are baptized, dipped, immersed, and who becomes a part of who we are.  After the coming of Jesus, the followers of God receive the Holy Spirit.  And while I cannot tell exactly how that happens, what it means is that the creator of the universe, in some way, takes up residence inside of each one of his followers and that means a lot more than just giving us the strength to do more push-ups.

This isn’t just the stuff of comic books, stories, and legends.

Because we are baptized by, and filled with, the Spirit of God, we are able to do far more than we ever could by ourselves.  I consider myself blessed because, for one brief moment during Army Basic Training, I was able to feel the presence and strength of God and know that what was happening wasn’t me.  But being filled with the Spirit of God is bigger than that.  Being filled with the Spirit of God means that, through his strength, we are given the power to do what we could never do alone.

Because we are filled with the Spirit of God, we are able to do the work of God, according to the will of God.

When you receive the power of the Spirit of God, then you will, through his power, do the things that God does.  You will do the things that Isaiah saw. You will help others to know that they are known by God.  You will help others to know that they are not alone, that they are valuable, protected, and loved, and that one day, we will all be reunited with brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, and all those who have been adopted into God’s family.

That power lives and breathes inside of each one of you.

Use it wisely, use it well, but be certain that you use it.


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U You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at   These messages can also be found online at John Partridge. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Eulogy for Diane Day

Eulogy for Diane Day
August 03, 2015
by Rev. John Partridge

This is the day.

This is the day that we knew was coming.

For months (or longer), we knew that one day soon, we would be here but no matter how much we knew, today still came faster than we expected and far faster than we wanted it to. Despite our knowledge and anticipation of this day, our pain is undiminished. Nothing the doctors said makes today any easier. And realistically I know that likewise, little or nothing that the preacher says is going to make it easier.

We have lost a friend, a wife, a sister, aunt, great-aunt, coworker, bowling buddy, and many other things. It is as if a light has been extinguished in an already darkening room. Diane Day was many things to many people, but to everyone who knew her, she was a light that brightened the room and the mood wherever she went. It was almost as if she was a star, and all of us who knew her had been pulled into her orbit. As she has been lost to us we feel as if we have been cast off in some way, we have lost the pull of her gravity, and we are adrift.

For Ronnie, Diane was his world, but much the same is true of Jan and Joan and the rest of Diane’s family. They have all lost the pull of her gravity, the anchor of her faith, the light of her smile and her sense of humor and so many other things. We will all struggle to find a new “normal” but the struggle will obviously be harder for those who knew her best.

Diane’s sister Joan shared this with me yesterday:

Diane was our older sister. I remember growing up always thinking she was the smart one. She did very well in high school; it seemed to come easy for her. She took French and many years later she could still speak it. Anything she wanted to do she would teach herself to do, sewing, cake decorating, canning, gardening, figuring out how to work the mechanics of things. She loved to read, loved the Indians, the Browns and always her cats. She was independent, disciplined, a hard worker, faithful to her friends and enjoyed cutting up with family. She was always willing to pitch in and help whatever the need. Her most outstanding quality was her love of her family. She didn’t have children of her own but loved all of ours. She took pride in her abilities to calm a fussy baby, crawl on the floor with the toddlers, play games with the younger, take the older bowling or play in the pool with them. My kids only saw her once a year or so but grew to know, love, and appreciate Aunt Dee. She is my big sister and she will always be loved and missed.

    Diane’s niece Julie remembered that, on her wedding day, she forgot the wedding license at her house and it was Diane who, typically, volunteered to retrieve it. This, Julie said, “was the essence of Aunt Dee.” She was always giving of herself, always trying to help others. Several people told me that even though Diane never had children of her own, she loved on her nieces and nephews, all 13 of them, as if they were her own. Honestly, we saw the same thing at church. I don’t know of anyone who didn’t love Diane, or anyone that Diane didn’t like. Even when Diane was well, it took her a while to get in and out of the sanctuary at church because she had to get a hug from just about everybody. And during those times when Diane was not doing so well and was in a wheelchair, or simply not quite as mobile, everyone came to where she was. There was a line of people waiting to give Diane a hug.

And there is something else worth noting about that scene. Some of us realized just how much of an accomplishment it was for Diane to even be there. Each week, Diane wanted to be in church. Even during those times when she wasn’t doing especially well, if she cold possibly get out of bed she wanted to be in church. Ronnie would help her to get ready, help her to the car and bring her to church. At the back door Jan, or Wade, or both, would be waiting for them, help Diane to the door, up the elevator and into her spot in the sanctuary. Sometimes there were a few of the ushers and other folk who helped out too. It took a team effort of love to make sure that Diane got to spend time each week with her church family, but especially with her Jesus. No one on that team begrudged the extra effort it sometimes took because of all the love that Diane had poured into their lives over the years.

Diane had just a few great loves in her life, Ronnie (of course), for whom she would do almost anything, her family, work, bowling, and, again, her Jesus. Diane loved to work. Even when she didn’t feel well and when many of us would have called in sick, Diane pushed herself to put one foot in front of the other and went to work anyway. And when she was well, she was pretty much unstoppable. Regardless of what it was, like Julius Caesar, she came, she saw, she conquered.

And through it all, Diane loved her Jesus. I know I’ve already said that a couple of times but this is an incredibly important thing. Earlier I said that little or nothing that the preacher says is going to make it easier. But if I have anything helpful to offer, this is it. Those of us who have put our faith, hope and trust in Jesus Christ receive great comfort in knowing that this world is not all that there is. We know that the world that God created has been distorted and perverted by imperfect human beings. We know that the world that God created, and the world in which we will one day live, is a world in which there is no pain, no suffering, and no death. We know that Diane has gone ahead and is already in that place. Diane is no longer in pain, no longer suffering, and, if Jesus knows how to bowl, she has probably already challenged him to a line or two. Even more importantly, we know that if we have put our faith, hope and trust in Jesus, we will one day join Diane in Jesus’ house. In that place, we will all be reunited with the people that we love, and we will live there together forever. As we lose the pull of Diane’s love, may we all fall farther into the orbit of Jesus’ love.

I know that my words will not make your pain any less. But my prayer is that in the words of scripture, and the words of Jesus, we can all find hope. Diane believed that. She had that kind of faith and hope, and I am certain that she would want you all to know that you can too so that you can join her someday in her new, and eternal home.


Diane F. Day

December 16, 1949 – July 29, 2015
Resided in Massillon, OH

Diane F Day, 65, of Massillon passed away on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. She was born December 16, 1949 in Meadville, Pennsylvania.

Diane was employed by K-Mart in Massillon for 30 plus years and loved bowling. She was a member of Trinity United Methodist Church.

She was preceded in death by her father, Carl Rohleder and brother, Kenny Rohleder.

Diane is survived by her husband, Ron; mother, Dolores Rohleder; sisters, Linda Stanley, Joan (Ed) DesCombes and Janet (Wade) Gash; brother, Charles (Patricia) Rohleder; sister-in-law, Sandra Rohleder and a host of nieces, nephews, family and friends.

The family will receive friends on Monday, August 3, 2015 from 1pm to 2:30pm at Reed Funeral Home Canton Chapel, 705 Raff Rd Canton with funeral services to follow at 2:30pm.