"I believe that two and half years is hardly enough time to get to know someone...especially when that person is Will Rodgers. The first time I met Will, he stopped me before church for a little conversation (in his back pew) He shared a few things about himself, proud that he was one of the oldest attending members of blessed old St. John's. He asked me a question about myself. I think he wanted to know more about my family. But before I could respond...he uttered those famous words...Whatever...at first I was taken back, and it probably took me a month or two to learn that "Whatever" was more habit then anything else. But I grew to love those words. It made me laugh...chuckle inside... I had never heard someone sound so endearing when their response was "Whatever." In two years of serving Will as his pastor, I grew to love that phase...Rachel and I started using it around the house. It is amazing to think about, but I am going to miss hearing Will say that. And people may look at me rather oddly if their response of "whatever" brings a tear to my eye.
Will Rodgers had a very good life, but I wonder to myself, if these last two year that I knew him, may not have been his best. I visited him more times in the hospital then at Menge's or Columbia Cottage. I heard stories about his wife and kids growing up, more then his grandchildren going off to college. I learned that a piece of Will was missing when his wife Helen died, and that much of his life was already well lived. I didn't know that Will had served on the Conawago School Board for so many years...I didn't know that he was both Captain and President of the local fire department. I didn't know Will was a self-employed truck driver...To tell you the truth, I suppose I didn't know Will Rodger all that well, But a part of me feels like I have been his pastor going on twenty years.
You know why that is? It's because of you. Will is connected to each and every one of us and his presence will remain forever. His impact on his children, grandchildren, in-laws, cousins, friends, even acquaintances is a window in to the true greatness of his life. When I look at you, when I listen to your stories, when I see the way you live out your lives each and every day, I can see the man that Will was. The strength, the compassion, the work ethic, the kindness, the open hands, open hearts, do anything for yea type of people that you are....I know that - at least in part - that came from him. I didn't know Will in his prime, but I look into the faces of his family and friends today and I know what kind of man he was.(This was a portion of my homily shared with the family)
A loving husband to Helen. After courting her through letters while he was in the service, they were married in 1946. They were married for 49 years, until she passed away. He has missed her terribly since then and was ready to go and be with her again.
A wonderful father of four—starting parenthood with his final child at the young age of 45.
A grandfather to 8 grandchildren, 3 grandchildren-in-laws, and 3 great grand children, known as Grandpa and Great Pa Paw.
A brother to his two “baby sisters” Miriam and Frances.
A proud World War II Navy veteran. He was a Water Tender 2nd Class on the USS Noble, a troop transport in the South Pacific. Up until 2 years ago, he regularly attended reunions with other sailors from his ship.
A volunteer firefighter, serving the Abbottstown Fire Company for fifty years. He was fire chief for 22 years and served as president for 5 years. He gave up many nights of sleep to help others in need.
A truck driver with over 30 years and 2 million miles on the road. He was an independent trucker and later worked for Hanover Brands. He loved his time on the road recently saying, It was a great experience, one I’ll never forget.”
An active community member, serving on the Abbottstown-Paradise Sewer Authority for 12 years and a school board member for the Conewago Valley School District for 23 years.
A lifelong member of St. John’s Lutheran Church. He loved his time as a member of Luther League, was a council member and helped to build the educational building.
A friendly patron, flirting with waitresses and nurses, making conversation with others in restaurants, on the boardwalk, or in the bathroom.
A pilot, obtaining his private pilot’s license as a young man and flying an airplane owned by his dad.
Famous for his phrases, including “Fire at Will” , “Whatever will be, will be,” “Sold American”, and the most recent, “Such is Life”. His most famous phrase will live on in his family and the workers at Columbia Cottage—“Whatever”
A great driver, getting his first ever speeding ticket in his mid-eighties---on his way to the eye doctor.
Not a great passenger, giving even his adult children advice on when to go, what to look out for, and reading every sign along the way.
An amazing navigator, always being able to give directions to anywhere including exit numbers, mile markers and directional cues.
A willing chauffeur, waiting in the driveway or parking lot in the Cadillac. Don’t worry – if you didn’t see him, he’d lay on the horn until you did.
Not a fan of the beach, not enjoying the sun or the sand. When he was dragged there by his wife and daughters suited up from head to toe, he could still manage to get his feet sunburned.
A television connoisseur, in his younger years enjoying MASH and Hogan’s Heroes. His tastes changed in his later years to classics like Matlock, Bay Watch, and Walker Texas Ranger.
A jokester, always picking on his grandkids, using his cane as a weapon, pretending to be hurt when receiving high fives, and constantly teasing. Calling his nurses “blood suckers” and asking his family and friends, “Who are you?” were common occurrences.
A member of the Breakfast Club. He went to Menges’ Diner each week day for many years to start his day off with some healthy food and socialize with his dear friends.
Patient, rarely raising his voice and never complaining when his daughter chose to practice her instruments each night after he went to bed.
Hardworking, waking many nights at 3:00 a.m. to head off to work, only to return home 14 hours later and do it all over again.
An amazing person who lived a very full life. He taught those around him about love, the value of hard work, and the importance of family. He was a role model for selflessly giving yourself in service to your country and your community. He was loved and will be missed.