Robert 'Bob' Kingsbury
September 17, 1928-December 3, 2018.
Dad died a week ago today.
He was 90 years old, which up until his death, I would have said was a good long life, but now it seems so short. A friend told me yesterday that she understands my pain, that my head knows that it was time for him to go, but my heart aches. My mother and sister were with him at the moment of death. My brother-in-law and I were there a few minutes later. His passing was very peaceful, he simply stopped breathing and was gone. It was a perfect ending for a very peaceful man. Why doesn't it surprise me that his life ended the way he lived it, peacefully surrounded by loved one?
Dad was born on September 17, 1928. He was the third child born to Augustus and Anna Kingsbury. Three siblings followed Dad so altogether there were six children in his family. His father, a construction worker on the Bonneville Dan, died on the job, leaving his wife and children not only bereft but extremely poor. Dad's youngest sister, Ruth, was only a few weeks old at the time. The three oldest children (Dad was only seven years old at the time) had to pitch in and help make ends meet for the family to survive. Though quite young Dad held several jobs: unloading produce for a company, sweeping the floor at the local grocery store, and scooping ice cream into tubs at the same store. He also helped his older brother, Richard, deliver magazines to subscribers.
Even though he always held down at least one job, Dad was considered Mr. Milwaukie (Oregon) by his friends in high school because he did so much. In addition to being the valedictorian of the Milwaukie High School class of 1946, he also played football, basketball, and baseball, he was a thespian, was on the honor roll, and was involved in his church's youth group. He got into college, University of Oregon, on a full-scholarship and joined the Theta Chi fraternity. He met my mom at the Wesley Foundation at UO where Methodist students gathered for fellowship and worship. She was eighteen, he was nineteen at the time. My mom remembers when they first met that both she and her best friend thought he was so good looking that they agreed one of them needed to marry him. Mom won and has been with Dad since that time. They married in 1951. This past summer they celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary.
|Photo taken during college|
During his junior year in college, Dad's mom died. She'd had poor health due to a bout of rheumatic fever as a child. When she died, Dad's three younger siblings -- Betty, Jack, and Ruth -- were still at home. Their older sister, Fannie, was already married with a young child, so Dad and Richard decided they would split the responsibility of caring for their younger siblings until they could be launched. Richard took a leave from college and stayed with them first, then once Dad graduated college, it was his time. Once their sister Betty was in college, brother Jack was safely in the Navy, and Ruth was settled with foster parents, the two brothers could get on with their own lives. Never in my whole life did I ever hear my Dad talk negatively about the sacrifices he had to make for his siblings at such a young age. Surprisingly, the six siblings stayed close throughout their lives without living parents to gather them around. With Dad's death, all the siblings but one, Betty, are gone now.
My dad taught 4th grade at an elementary school in Portland for two years after he graduated from college. In 1952 he felt called to Christian ministry and enrolled in Boston School of Theology. For the three years it took for him to earn his Master of Divinity degree, he and mom lived in Boston. Mom worked as a nurse, and dad as a custodian in the evenings for the Boy Scouts of America. The time they spent in Boston was very special to them and they always talked about it fondly. While there they both became lifelong Red Sox fans. After returning to Oregon Dad pastored at several churches and in other capacities for the United Methodist Church for nearly forty years before retiring in 1993.
Dad was really focused on working with young adults in a campus setting and he served as a Methodist campus minister in Eugene from 1958 to 1966, as a missionary working for the World Christian Student Federation in Liberia, West Africa from 1966 to 1969, and as a campus minister at Oregon State University in Corvallis from 1969 to 1984. Dad relentlessly worked on causes that would further peace, equality, civil rights, and fairness. He was vehemently opposed to the war in Vietnam, yet often found himself having to counsel young men who were called to serve their country as soldiers. Dad was always a great listener, a skill he honed during his many years providing pastoral counseling but also because of his advanced degree in counseling, earned in 1971 at OSU.
|Favorite teams: UO Ducks, Boston Red Sox|
Mom and Dad were always involved with foreign student programs where ever they lived. Even when we lived in Liberia, Dad started a foreign student group for students from other African countries. This really got us all laughing when we saw a photo of one the gatherings that group had at our home in Liberia. Certainly WE were the foreigners in the room, but Dad never saw it that way. Mom and Dad have remained friends with many of these foreign students over the years, In fact two of them, one from Germany and the other from Iran, contacted Mom after Dad's death. Elmar, the German who now lives in Switzerland, said that Dad was one the kindest most thoughtful persons he knew, welcoming him and his wife so that they felt like family. Lloy, a girl whose family came to the USA from Uganda, dropped by to see Mom the day after Dad's death, mourning the loss of her American "grandfather."
Dad was very kind to everyone and he never talked badly about anyone, even behind their backs. Never. If he got angry or frustrated with me or one of my three siblings about the worst thing he'd say was "Nuts!" or "Oh Fudge!" If he disagreed with a decision we'd made he'd ask, "What'd you do that for?" There was usually no good answer to that question, but it would make us stop and think. When I took, and later taught, a parenting class I realized what a good parenting technique that was.
Photography was one of Dad's passions. When we were looking through photos to include in the slideshow for the memorial service, my brother quipped that we should start the show off with fifteen slides of South Sister, the mountain that overlooks Elk Lake, our favorite family vacation spot in Central Oregon. For many years, Dad didn't take photos, he took slides. When it was no longer popular to set up a slide projector, jerry-rig some sort of viewing screen, and invite friends over to view them, Dad was stuck with over 4000 slides of our years in Liberia and his travels to Europe and closer to home. A few years ago my brother gifted him the service of changing 400 of the slides into digital copies to be saved on a computer. Apparently Dad really agonized over his decision of which slides to choose and eventually, even though my brother warned him not to, selected mostly landscapes, among them several views of South Sister.
|View of South Sister and Elk Lake, Central Oregon, Cascade Lakes|
Camping was another passion for Dad, though not the type of camping you think of when you hear the word. When our family says the word "camping" we mean church camp. When we were younger Mom and Dad would take us with them when they were camp counselors or camp directors all around the Oregon/Idaho Methodist conference. Dad proposed to Mom when they were at the Methodist camp at Suttle Lake in the Cascades. Our family attended a family camp at Magruder Camp on the Oregon coast every year for many years during Labor Day weekend with other members of our Corvallis United Methodist church. Each one of my siblings and I attended summer church camp at least once each summer from junior high on. One summer I went to three different church camps. In fact, my husband and I almost met during a junior high ski retreat weekend at Suttle Lake camp. We were both there, we just didn't know each other. My memories from camping are some of my favorite growing-up memories that I hold in my heart. Thanks, Dad, for making it such an important part of our lives.
Dad was always a willing participant in family traditions, too. Every Christmas eve our family would gather around the Christmas tree to read the Christmas story in the Bible, found in the second chapter of Luke. Then Dad would settle in to read How the Grinch Stole Christmas
to us kids, or our kids after we were grown. He did the best voice impersonations.
Though he was obviously a Christian, Dad was never preachy or judgmental. He tried to find ways to be inclusive not exclusive with people of other faiths and walks of life. One thing that always seemed to bother him was when Christians tried to shove their religion or their particular brand of Christianity down your throat. When a relative distanced himself from his own children because they weren't living according to his own Christian ideals, it just made my Dad very sad. He often talked about the love of God, not the judgment of God. "How can a person discover the love of Christ if his followers aren't loving?" Dad would ask.
|Ian and his Great-grandpa|
Dad suffered a small stroke in late April and his health had been compromised since that time. Mom cared for Dad at home, but it was getting increasingly difficult to do so the last few weeks of his life. Prior to his death, Dad made a few small goals for himself. He wanted to attend the wedding of his granddaughter Rachel in June. He made it and enjoyed the event very much. He wanted to celebrate his 67th anniversary with his beloved wife and to see his sister Betty, again. He did both. Next up, Dad wanted to make it to his 90th birthday. In September both he and his first (only) great-grandchild, Ian, have birthdays. We celebrated with Dad and Ian one very special weekend in September, Dad with his 90 candles, Ian with just one candle. That was the last best time I spent with Dad. Every time I saw him after that date, it was clear that time was catching up to him. It is likely that he suffered a few more small strokes because he speech became very garbled and he had a hard time making his pesky legs work any longer. Eating became a chore, soon the only thing he really liked was the daily milkshake Mom made for him to drink.
On the night before Dad died he was very restless and confused. Mom tried to keep him calm by reciting scriptures with him: the Lord's Prayer and the 23rd Psalm. She also got Dad to sing a few lines from favorite songs and Christmas carols. She said he even laughed when she tried to sing the high notes of one of the songs. In the morning, an ambulance was called to carry Dad to the hospital and from there he was transferred to a new, lovely hospice facility, The Pete Moore Hospice House. An x-ray was taken to determine if any further treatment would help Dad feel better. The x-ray showed an enlarged heart and fluid build-up in his lungs. Dad was dying from congestive heart failure. It was time to let go. My sister's first husband, David, dropped by the hospice house to say goodbye. He prayed over Dad and told him it was okay to let go. He was the first person to say this. When David stood up, he told the nurse that Dad was more of a father to him than his own dad. My brother-in-law, Tom, concurred. He said that Dad was a better father to him than his own, too. This made all of us cry. The nurse admonished us to quit crying and to start telling funny stories. "He can hear you, you know. He doesn't want to hear you crying," she said. So we did. We told our funny growing-up stories like the one about the time my sister and I were horsing around before bed and after we turned off the lights she thought I'd thrown something at her. When I assured her I hadn't thrown anything at her, she asked, "Then what is on the pillow next to my head?" It was a lizard. Ha! That memory is always good for a few laughs.
It was decided that Mom and Kathy would spend the night with Dad. Everyone else left for the night. Almost as soon as we did, after the room got quiet, Dad breathed his last breath. It was as if he needed it to be quiet so he could just slip away.
My younger sister and brother, Grace and Tony, made their way to Eugene to join Mom, Kathy, and I. We were all together again for a short while, missing Dad, though we certainly felt his presence when we gathered together to plan and prepare for the days to come and the memorial service which will be held in two weeks, after Christmas. It was a tender time being together. We did a lot of crying but probably more laughing.
Dad is survived by his
wife, Shirley, of 67 years; his sister, Betty Aldrich; sisters-in-law, Dee
Kingsbury and Barbara Parr; his children, Kathy Kingsbury (Tom Buhler), Anne
Bennett (Don), Tony Kingsbury (Becky), Grace Ruddy (Rock); nine grandchildren,
Jeffrey Edson, Rachel Edson (Michael Beardsworth), Rita Adams (Daniel), Carla
Bennett, Samantha Kingsbury (Basti Kunkel), Andrew Kingsbury, Kaylyn Powers
(Bobby), Mitchell Ruddy (Star), Brent Ruddy (Alethea); one great-grandchild,
Ian Adams; and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by a grandson, Kyle
Edson, and four of his siblings, Fannie Stevens, Richard Kingsbury, Jack
Kingsbury, and Ruth Sanford.
Dad's guiding scripture comes from the Old Testament, Micah 6:8 "What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God
." Dad did all of those things. I am sure Dad is now with his heavenly Father who is saying to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
A memorial celebration of Bob’s
life will be held on December 27, 2018 at 2 PM,
at the First United Methodist Church of Eugene, with a reception to follow.
Donations can be made in Bob’s
memory to Campus Ministry at OSU, Wesley Center at UO,
or your local Habitat
for Humanity chapter.
Do Justice, Love Kindness, and Walk Humbly