A column dedicated to the folks in the pews.
Written by Dale Buchanan
After playing phone tag for a bit, Gayle and I met Judy at Starbucks on a recent Wednesday morning. I was anxious to do this interview and was not to be disappointed. We chatted for about an hour and a half. I asked a few leading questions. Gayle made copious notes and Judy was able to almost uninterruptedly share her memories of a rich and fulfilling life. The following narrative more or less wrote itself.
“I was born and grew up in Dayton, Ohio. My earliest memories take me back to the small family farm and working behind the counter in Dad’s grocery store. We were a working family and my siblings and I received from the beginning a strong work ethic.
My mother was a quiet introvert who devoted most of her life to home and raising four children. She loved music—particularly opera—which played beautifully from her radio. Along with the radio there was always a current book on the stand.
I had one brother ten years old and another five years old when my twin sister and I were born. When my sis and I arrived, we lived in an upstairs apartment above the grocery store. Dad was so proud of his twins that he put in a glass window so customers could see his girls.
I have so many memories of Dad and the store. He kept the store open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. A fun time for me was getting up at four or five on Saturday mornings to go with Dad to the market to get chickens, vegetables, and canned goods; and then having breakfast with Dad in the cafeteria. A not so fun time involved glass soda bottles that were refundable in those days. Customers were allowed to mix their selections and their returned bottles had to be properly sorted for pick-up and refill. Those empties went to the basement—a dark, damp, musty room that I hated—but it was there that my sis and I had to sort the soda bottles for the vendors.
My clearest memory of childhood is Christmas Day. I understand that it was a German tradition for Santa to decorate the tree. How my parents managed it considering the long hours in the store I don’t know, but we children went to bed Christmas eve and awoke Christmas morning to a beautiful tree standing over a snowy yard—complete with a nativity manger scene.
Well, Dale, my sis and I were fraternal twins. We were not close growing up. She was a tomboy and I played with dolls. It was required that we dressed alike and were always in the same class. Once she got a spanking in front of the class and refused to cry, while I sat at my desk crying my eyes out. My brothers arranged fights for her before school, and for me they once arranged a bucket of water to spill on me when I opened a door. Despite our different personalities, my sis and I would grow to be fast friends.”
I must interrupt Judy’s narrative here. I would like to allow her to mention a favorite grade school teacher, a boyfriend named Butch who drove her home in a snow storm because he was afraid of her dad, and a host of other fascinating memories all of which have a rightful place in this chronicle. Space will not allow the entirety of this narrative, however you might ask her to tell you these stories. I, as your scribe, am determined that you get a sense of Judy’s great love story.
“While teaching school in Dayton, I met Abner Frost when he came to my church as a guest speaker. ‘Frosty’ served as a traveling minister to migrant farm workers and worked side by side with them as they followed the harvest season. We met in September and were married in June. I fell in love and became a preacher’s wife. That first summer a migrant couple came to us in camp asking to be married. Frosty married them and I baked them a German chocolate cake one layer at a time in a tiny toaster oven. It was a happy occasion. Sadly we learned later that this woman and her first child died at childbirth from lack of health care.
Exciting as migrant ministry was, we wanted to settle down and raise a family. While at a church in Alexandria, Kentucky, our two girls Lisa and Michelle were born. Then in Cincinnati while ministering at an inner city church, Paul was born. We arrived in Fresno in 1980 where Frosty was the first hospital chaplain at St. Agnes Hospital. Later he did a couple of interim ministries before pastoring Zion Congregational Church.
My husband passed away twenty-four years ago. I have continued teaching and now four days a week I work as a Reading Intervention Specialist at Roosevelt Elementary School, and Sunday mornings you will find me teaching at the Big Red Church. The highlights of my life remain the joy of ministry with Abner and the blessings we shared raising our children.”
Dale Buchanan is a member of FCCF with a passion for stories and writing. In between penning his own memoirs, he is helping us get to know our members, one pew at a time.