He was born in a little town in Pennsylvania in 1915. He was a teenager during the Great Depression. He lived through World War II and the Korean War.
He converted to Catholicism. (Not sure what it was he converted from.) He married a raven haired beauty named Mary. They had five children, the youngest was named "Jimmy." He worked at the same desk in the same office for almost thirty years, as a draftsman.
He drank too much. He didnít smile very much, at least not in my direction.
At his wake, I learned that he was an accomplished baseball pitcher. He had a tryout with the Pittsburgh Pirates Farm Team. His athleticism was news to me because, as I was growing up, he was deteriorating in health. He developed a rare form of bone disease. He fell and broke his hip just getting out of bed one day. An ambulance took him to the hospital. Because he was a chain smoker, and because he was an alcoholic, his system was weakened. As he lay in bed awaiting surgery, a blood clot formed in his lungs.
My mother got us all gathered around his bed. As his breathing became more and more labored, I was struck with the fact that I really didnít know him at all. His last words to me before he slipped into a coma were, "Get a haircut." One week before I was to leave for the Merchant Marine Academy, Dale Jenkins breathed his last. He was 54. I had just turned 18.
It occurred to me this past week that I have never eulogized him, or honored him, on Fatherís Day. I suppose it was because I had this sense that he never really liked me that much. He didnít single me out one way or the other.
This past Sunday, as I was standing on the platform at the Church on The Way, I had an unusual feeling steal over me. I was bedecked in my academic regalia. I was on the platform with the former Chaplain of the United States Senate, Lloyd Ogilvie. I was next to two pastors who have changed the ministerial landscape of the nation, Jack Hayford and Bishop Kenneth Ulmer (His church of 15,000 bought the "Fabulous Forum," the arena where the Los Angeles Lakers used to play.)
Dale Jenkins sacrificed a lot to raise five kids during hard times. We never wanted for food or shelter. He stayed married to my mother even though they had great conflicts. He saw to it that we were in Church every Sunday. He gave me life. I honor him.
Copyright 2008 by Jim Jenkins. All rights reserved.