By Bruce Stambaugh
I stood in the background with my camera capturing the unfolding, tender moments. I did so out of appreciation and gratitude for this gracious, gregarious family.
I had known Betty Findley and her late husband, Bud, for a long time. We lived just blocks away from one another when we were all much younger. Now here we were celebrating her 100th birthday in a different place and century.
Her son, Dave, shared a timeline of his mother’s life with the assembled friends and family. It was ironic that her birth came as World War I, the war to end all wars, began.
If ever there was a peaceable woman, it was Betty. She loved her family, community and church, and expressed that love in faithful graciousness. Betty was and is equally loved and respected in return.
When our granddaughter heard that our friend was turning 100-years old, Maren asked my wife if Betty was a giant. Her four-year-old logic reckoned that the older you get, the bigger you become physically.
There is a kernel of metaphoric truth in that innocent comparison. If you hit your 100th birthday, you most certainly are a giant. Not too many people live that long and get to see the world change the way Betty has.
In reality, age has a way of humbling you physically. Notwithstanding, Betty may not be a Goliath in stature, but she sure has been by nature. Her son tearfully ticked off her fruitful lifelong achievements.
Betty canned and baked and sewed, and was a favorite room mother in my elementary school days. She made the best heart-shaped sugar cookies a kid could conjure.
Betty does exhibit one minor flaw, however. She has always been a faithful follower of the Cleveland Indians, and still watches them on television.
The morning of Betty’s birthday bash, I heard another shocking descriptor. The speaker at church called Paul Roth, another senior citizen friend, a rock star. Everyone in attendance chuckled, but nodded their heads in agreement. I think modest Paul enjoyed the flattering hyperbole, too.
The speaker said her two sons referred to him that way out of admiration and reverence. After all, he was the doctor who brought them into the world and treated them for childhood illnesses and bumps and bruises. It was most appropriate that this kind, humble country doctor be elevated to Mick Jagger status.
I concurred with that assessment. Dr. Roth, as he was most commonly addressed, had brought our daughter and son into the world as well. He treated patients of all ages kindly and compassionately, even making house calls. He usually charged less than he should have, too.
He was the consummate small town doctor. In his many years of service to the community, Paul, too, was and is a gentle giant.
Our granddaughter’s literal pronouncement spoke volumes. Persons born early in the 20th Century have experienced major transformations in their lifetime, the wars, the Great Depression, the herculean jumps in communications and transportation, the advances in medicine, and so much more.
To honor these two titans is to also celebrate all other productive individuals of what Tom Brokaw has labeled “The Greatest Generation.” Their work ethic, devotion to family, friends, community and country set the solid foundation for society to advance, as it never had before.
I bet you know genuine giants and rock stars, too. Let’s celebrate their magnanimous contributions to the world while we can.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2014