Harry L. Scribner
February 8th, 1946-November 15th 2019
Meditation – Eulogy for Harry Scribner
November 18, 2019
I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to reflect on Harry’s life. I know that many others of you here could do that as well.
Harry planned for this time several years back. He took an honest view of what his body was doing and what it was not able to do anymore, and in typical Harry fashion quickly assessed the reality of his situation. I was amazed at how readily he accepted the inevitability of death and how he prepared for it.
In fact, after Harry had set his house in order, he became impatient that death didn’t come when he thought it should. As in all of his life, Harry seemed to always find a way not to be helpless!
I was always taken by a story Harry told me about his early life. By the time he was 13 an absent father and conflict with his mother led to life on the streets of New Jersey. Several scrapes with the law wound up with him in a New York courtroom with his future in the hands of a Judge. By that time he was known by the term of the day, a “Juvenile Delinquent”.
As the judge ruminated about what to do with Harry, a hand went up in the back of the courtroom. And the man spoke,
“Your honor, please send him home with me, I’ve got a place for him.
That man was Winfred Roelke, better known as “Uncle Win” to anyone who knew him. You see, Uncle Win had a residential school for troubled youth called Hopetown School. And Uncle Win believed he knew what Harry needed. The Judge consented.
At times of death, we often hear the scripture read in John 14 with Jesus’ words, “I go to prepare a place for you.... and when I come again I will take you to that place.” What is it about that word “place”? It’s the same word Uncle Win used with the Judge. “Sen Harry with me Judge, I’ve got a “place” for him,….. I’ve got a “place” for him.”
For the rest of Harry’s adolescence and early young adult life, Hopetown was Harry’s home and Uncle Win was effectively his Dad. And I’m convinced that the rest of Harry’s life was shaped by the ways of Uncle Win. Harry told the story of Uncle Win’s dream to build a swimming pull for the kids at Hopetown. The first donation came from one of the kids at the school. It was a total of $3. Uncle Win took that 3 dollars, and went out and bought a sack of concrete mix. Does that sound like anybody we know? (Sounds to me like Uncle Win had as much patience with planning committees and business meetings as Harry did!)
One time when Harry was about 14 years old he got into some scrape with one of the guests at Hopetown. You see, Uncle Win also housed missionaries while they were home on furlough. One of these missionary couples had the responsibility of being dorm parents in the residence Harry, and his buddy Frank were in. Harry never confessed to me the specific mischief he got into with these dorm parents but it came to a head when the dorm parents went to Uncle Win and said, “We’ve had it with Harry. Either he goes or we go.” Uncle Win didn’t hesitate, “Harry stays. “.....” Harry has a ‘place’ here.”
It strikes me, that for the rest of Harry’s life, his passion was creating a place for people.
Who else would walk into a room, without judgement, without pretence, and you know it was okay to be there?
When I read the words that Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutzman had printed on the Key to the City that was presented to Harry last year about this time, I knew, from the words printed there, that this was not just a generic one size fits all honor. The mayor know who he was talking about.
And I quote in part, “You are a valued friend to countless residents. You have the great ability to reach out to all generations, recognize a need and creatively fill it. There is no greater gift in a community than a helping neighbor....”
When most of us looked at the old Holiday inn in Goshen sitting empty, we envisioned a mountain of necessary dumpsters . When Harry looked at that place he saw 100s of mattresses, and pillows, and TVs and microwaves, and laundry equipment, and even boxes of paper cups and logo pens. And Harry made sure they all had a place.
While I never heard Harry claim the term “Environmentalist”, I would be willing to argue that Harry single handedly kept more things out of the landfill than the rest of us in this room combined!
(Get Plaque) I mentioned Fran’s name in that caper with the missionary couple. Frank was another lost street kid that Uncle Win scooped up into Hopetown. Harry’s obituary lists Frank as his surrogate brother. When Frank turned seventeen he wanted to join the Army. You couldn’t join the army at seventeen unless you had a parent signature and Frank had no parent who could sign. So Harry forged Franks mother’s signature and Frank joined the Army. Frank served stateside for most of his tour of duty but then was shipped off to Vietnam. Whithin the first month of his deployment, Fran was killed in combat.
Ever since that time, Harry has carried this plaque with him. He was Frank’s only family as I understand it. Harry saw to it that Fran’s memory had a place. When Harry realized that he would no longer be able to provide a place for Frank’s memory, he asked me to take it. And I was honored.
And I know as Harry is looking down from heaven on us today, he is happy that we are holding a space for Frank to be remembered too.
You know, when we remember our loved ones, we often only talk about the good stuff. Harry would be the first to laugh at that little exercise in dishonestly. Harry would want us to acknowledge the truth of his struggles too. That’s the only human thing to do.
And if there was one area that I believe Harry would wish he could rewrite in his life, it was his struggles as father to his children. -------------------------- Tony, Nick, and Angela, I want you to know how many times I heard Harry speak of his love and concern for you. He also grieved that some of his choices early in life affected his ability to provide a place for you. May your fathers memory grow into a source of strength for each of you.
Finally a word to Carol. You could not have known what all you were saying “I Do” to some sixteen years ago! But we are glad you did. Harry may have brought the adventure. But you brought the steady hand. And between the two of you, you were fun to watch. Speaking of place, I think you provided a place for Harry that allowed for the best instincts to thrive. And we are all the beneficiaries!
We will miss that mischievous smile with a twinkle in the eye, we will miss that Italian laugh that always reminded me of the Bob and Ray on Click and Clack. Those guys who just enjoyed laughing because it was fun to laugh, like Harry. And most of all we will miss the place that Harry provided for us, to be alright, to be OK.
Harry we release you to the arms of God. I asked you recently to let me know more what heaven is like when you got there. I don’t know how you’re going to do that. But knowing you, you’ll find a way.
God’s Speed Harry! God’s Speed.
The support you provide to Children’s Bible Fellowship is a true blessing, and one which allows us to help guide so many along their walks with Christ. We understand your charity is an outward expression of your faith and love, which makes sharing the following news with you all the more difficult. In recent weeks, leadership has discovered some accounting irregularities while reviewing our financial records. Sadly, a former member of the CBF family has admitted, to our Board, responsibility for some of these trespasses. With prayerful consideration, we promptly referred this matter to the New York State Police and we are in full cooperation with their ongoing investigation. Please rest assured that we will act in a transparent manner throughout this investigation, as well as in all of the organization’s financial matters going forward. Already, stricter standards are being established with the guidance of our Board and independent professionals. We sincerely appreciate your continued generosity and support for the work of Children’s Bible Fellowship.
Yours in faith,
Sean Stewart, CEO