Instead of a normal Feed Back article today, I want to take this opportunity to introduce you to the person who had the greatest influence on me. Willie was born 90 years ago today on Oct 22, 1921 in southern Illinois.
Willie was not a famous politician, actor or businessman. He never wrote a bestselling novel or play. Although he was a star quarterback in high school, he was never a professional athlete. In many people’s eyes, Willie was just an ordinary person.
To me, he has always been my hero and inspiration. You see Willie Eugene Jolly is my dad and today is his 90th birthday.
Other than being my dad, what makes him so special to me?
He had a rough childhood. His father had a small farm and his mother was a school teacher. When he was 5 years old, his mother died at home of tuberculosis. He remembers her reading to him and his younger brother up until a few days before she died. When he was 5 years of age and his brother only 4 years old, their father shipped them up to Carbondale, Illinois, to live with their maternal grandmother, as they were not much help on the farm,
Grandma was relatively poor and the boys grew up having very little. One summer, the brothers had to share a pair of shoes. Another winter, the window pane was broken and they woke up with snow on their bed on more than one morning. As they grew a little older, they ran trap lines to help earn extra money for the household.
Wanting to be as successful as possible in his trapping, Willie learned everything he could about animals, plants and the outdoors in general. He learned how to track animals, identify their droppings and even the sounds they made. He learned to look through the woods and see animals standing perfectly still. Willie became a very skilled outdoorsman and a successful trapper.
I remember many times when he told me that he didn’t think he had much school learning, but he did know the outdoors and he taught me what he knew best. He taught me how to hunt, fish, trap and stalk animals. I learned how to live off the land and survive out in the wilderness if I had to. He instilled not only a love of nature in me, but he also taught me to respect nature.
It was this background in animals and the outdoors that developed into my love of animals and biology. I went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology (with both wildlife and fisheries options) and a master’s degree in biology (population genetics).
Willie loved to play football, but grandma wasn’t fond of the idea. The only way she would let him play on the high school team was if he didn’t get hurt. Willie was the smallest guy on the team. From half way through his freshman year through his senior year, Willie played quarterback and did the punting and kicking on offense. In those days, the late 1930s, you played both offense and defense. Believe it or not, he played a guard on defense. Being so small, he would dive for the opposing lineman’s ankles and tackle him at the line.
Several games into his senior year, Willie had his wrist broken in a game. He knew his playing career was over if grandma found out so he never told her or anyone else. He instantly converted from being a right-handed quarterback to a left handed quarterback. Then during the last game of the season, he broke his left wrist. He still never told her.
In 1939, dad enlisted for 6 years in the US Navy. He spent most of that time on board the AKA Fomalhaut. For the first half of the war, the ship was the largest cargo ship in the Navy. In 1943, it was converted to a munitions carrier, making it the largest ammo ship in the Pacific. Dad was just an enlisted sailor, but over the 6 years on board ship was able to build a close repoire with the ship’s captain. Dad made such an impression on the captain that when they moth-balled the ship in 1946, the captain presented dad with one of the ship’s flags that flew at the battles of Saipan and Guadalcanal. This was virtually unheard of in those days.
In 1960, my dad developed a calcium deposit inside his lower spine. The doctors operated mainly to save his life. After the surgery, they told my mom that he would never walk again because of the amount of damage to the spinal cord. Not walking was not an option for him and it was only a couple of days that he was starting to stand and walk. It took him months to recover. I watched him walking and building up his strength. The pain was so intense that he was almost brought to tears a number of times.
The doctors advised him to move away from the cold Illinois winters, so in the January of 1961, we moved to Arizona. The doctors had warned my dad not to do anything very physical for some time as his lower back was still very weak and unstable. In March of that year, dad got a job as a labor with the utility company. The work was almost more than he could bear, but he knew he had to persevere in order to provide for the family. I learned that life is not always easy, but that when we have certain responsibilities to uphold, like providing for a family, one has to do what he has to do, no matter how much it hurts.
It was his example that taught me to live and work with pain and illness and to persevere when it is easier to give up.
Dad also taught me the importance of family. Growing up, I watched him do everything for family. There were times he worked two jobs just so he could take us hunting, fishing, camping or take a vacation drive up to Yellowstone Park or along the northern California coast. Dad would go without some of the niceties in life so that we could drive around the state exploring old mining towns and remote mountain canyons. No matter what he did, it was always done for family.
Dad also taught us to respect other people and their property. We never played in or walk across someone else’s lawn without their permission. He also said to treat others and their properties the way you want to be treated. When I first got a position as a supervisor in the working world, dad told me to remember two things. One was always treat your employees the way you want to the treated and two, never ask someone working for you to do something that you would not be willing to do yourself.
Much of who I am today are because of the morals and values my dad taught me growing up. He was also responsible for my love of biology and nature, which eventually led me into creation ministry. I owe so much to my dad as he truly is my hero and inspiration.
So on this day, I want to take this opportunity to wish him a very happy 90th birthday.
Psalm 127 says that God gives us children as a reward, not just because He loves us and we want them for ourselves, but because He is equipping us to do what He has called us to do as His warriors: build and guard. Build the house of God and guard the city that has foundations in the very midst of His enemies. This psalm tells us, so beautifully, how that will happen: by filling the earth with offspring—children—who have been brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and who themselves have caught the vision to reestablish the righteous rule of God on the earth. They will in turn produce offspring who have the vision as well, and on and on until the knowledge of the glory of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).
The picture the psalmist uses is that children are “like arrows in the hand of a warrior.” What does this mean? It means that our children are the primary weapons God has given us to do what He has asked us to do—to build and to guard. But they obviously are not ready for that task when they come out of the womb. In other words, if we are to build and guard successfully in the world, we must first build and guard in the lives of our children! Hence the task of parenting; we are preparing our weapons of war for battle! We have been given 20 or so years to accomplish the task of extending our influence for the kingdom of God into the next generation.
So, successful parenting is ultimately not to make us, as parents, look good to the other families in our church, to make life easier for us, or even to prepare our children to grow up and be successful. No, children are ultimately for God and His purpose of extending his righteous rule over the whole earth as His Son Jesus Christ becomes in experience what He is in fact—King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
The Family, God’s Weapon for Victory is an encyclopedia of information about how to move your family toward being what the title declares, including a theology of family, the husband-wife relationship and training children from birth to marriage. Filled with illustrations from the author’s own life, including his myriad failures, the book is a fascinating read.