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Junior Grows Up
The Continuing Adventures of E. Lewis Case
by Patty Case Roberts
In honor of his 80th birthday
May 11, 1998
Lewis Case graduated from Wilson High School in Witchita Falls, Texas, in1936, and went to work right away to help support his family. He worked for the Witchita Falls Poultry and Egg Company for the next four years as a night watchman and poultry buyer. At the 10th and Austin Church of Christ, he met a vivacious young brunette named Georgetta Branscom. They were married there on August 1, 1940, with the congregation¹s minister, Robert C. Jones, presiding over the ceremony. Soon after the wedding Lewis went to work for an oil field equipment manufacturer.
With the war in Europe raging, Lewis decided to enlist in the Navy in 1942. He did his boot camp training at Great Lakes Naval Base. In 1943 Lewis was assigned to Machinist Mates School. The training lasted 16 weeks and included mechanical drawing, machinist shop, and mechanical engineering. Lewis was the only recruit to earn a 100% on his steam engineering final. Based on that score, he was offered the opportunity to stay on as an instructor. But, Lewis and Gerogetta did not enjoy living on the base, so Lewis asked to be transferred; he and Georgetta "shipped out" to Syracuse, New York to enroll Lewis in refrigeration school. The school was just being opened; Lewis attended classes for one week and became an instructor the second week.
After their arrival in Syracuse, they looked up the local church of Christ. George Gurganus was serving as preacher to a congregation of 12 (his paying job was with American Airlines). With Lewis and Georgetta it grew by 1/6th! George and his wife, Irene, were to play a big part in Lewis' future. They encouraged him at this stage to do some preaching, which he did from time to time at that congregation.
In September of 1943, Georgetta was killed in a car accident, after only 3 years of marriage. Her death was instant. Lewis suffered a concussion, and of course much trauma of the heart. The small community of the church rallied around him and helped him get through. The funeral service was held back in Duncan, Oklahoma where Georgetta¹s family lived. Robert Jones preached the funeral.
Soon after Georgetta's death, the church held a campaign with students from Harding and Lipscomb canvassing the area and recruiting people to attend the tent meetings. One of the speakers there was Charles Brewer, who would become a lifelong friend of Lewis and his family. Three young sisters from Syracuse attended the meeting. Their names were Peggy, Bea and Jean Roderick. These girls were members of the Baptist church, but because of the compelling teaching of the evangelists, they decided to commit to the church of Christ and were all baptized. Peggy and Lewis hit it off particularly well. So well, in fact, that he asked her to marry him. She was also being courted by one of the college students in town for the campaign, C.W. Bradley. C. W. had confided to Lewis that he planned to ask Peggy to marry him when he returned to Syracuse for next summer¹s campaign. Lewis beat him to it. from She was 17 years old, he was 25. Her parents were not very excited about Peggy taking off with this old guy, but she was determined. After graduation (at which she was the valedictorian) she told them, "I'm 18 now. I can do as I please!" They were married June 30, 1944, in Syracuse. The honeymoon was - where else? - at Niagara Falls. But, right off the bat, preacher work got in the way. They had to postpone the honeymoon two weeks because Lewis was "ordered" by his superior officer to preach a memorial service for a naval officer, and the service kept getting postponed. But, the honeymoon finally accomplished, Lewis and Peggy returned to Syracuse to set up housekeeping in an apartment near the church. In January 1945 they went where Uncle Sam sent them, namely Norfolk, Virginia, where the Navy planned to start another refrigeration school. There they lived with a family that had a lot of boys. A popular pastime with this little group was playing horseshoes. They would often invite their friends from the Norfolk church, Eugene and Adelou Martin, to pitch shoes with them. This couple was from Texas, and the four of them often talked together about past experiences and about what they would do after getting out of the service. Eugene and Lewis wanted to serve as ministers, but felt they needed another career to fall back on. Lewis thought about becoming a lawyer.
It was during a game of horseshoes that they heard the big news that the war in Europe had ended. Lewis came very close to being shipped out, but the skipper said uh-uh, he couldn't do without Lewis down at the refrigeration schoolhouse. But then, the skipper got shipped out! Fortunately, the new C.O. didn't know a thing about refrigeration, so Lewis' post state-side was secure.
In November, 1945, Lewis got his discharge. George persuaded Lewis that he should take up the ministry with him in Syracuse, and to go to the university. But first he and Peggy took the opportunity to take a trip to Texas. They drove with Eugene and Adelou to Sulphur Springs, where the Martin¹s family lived. They visited with Lewis' family in Texas and with Peggy's sister and brother in law, Eleanor and Lloyd Guild, in Pittsburgh on the way home.
Back in Syracuse, full of hope and zeal for the future, Peggy and Lewis began a great enterprise. Along with George and Irene, they got the idea to start a summer camp for needy kids in New York City. They wanted to give the kids a chance to experience life in the country and to learn about Jesus. They obtained some property in Hubbardsville by buying old houses for $100 each. They demolished the houses and built cabins and a camp kitchen. Then they went to the city and just reached out to kids on the street, enrolling those whose parents allowed them to come. Upon arrival at camp the kids were deloused, and with that their new life began. Peggy cooked while George and Lewis ran the camp. At the end of the summer, forty transformed children were delivered back to their homes, singing hymns all the way. Camp Hunt was no doubt a wonderful liflelong memory for all of them. For many, Peggy and Lewis hoped, it was a life-changing experience. The camp went on every summer, and Lewis and Peggy were part of it each time, as were George and Irene and other church members. Eddie Grindley, Lew remembers, would head for NYC.,load up a carry-all with kids, and bring them to camp. He and George raised funds while Peggy, Lewis, Irene and others ran the camp. According to Lewis, George even wrote a book about their experiences called, not surprisingly, Christian Camps. Barney Moorehead, a freind and colleague, had a Christian bookstore in Nashville at the Lipscomb campus, and the book was sold there.
As Camp Hunt closed after the first season, Peggy and Lewis moved into the building that housed both the church in Syracuse and George and Irene, on West Kennedy Street. Lewis fixed up the attic by adding rooms and built-in cabinets and such so he and Peggy could live up there. George and Irene occupied the upstairs, and the church met on the ground floor. The couple lived on the GI bill, while Lewis did some preaching and went to school. They also made an investment with some of the insurance money from Georgetta¹s accident: a gas station. Lewis¹ parents, John and Elsie, were not making it too well on their own at that time, so the gas station helped provide a living for them too. John and Lewis¹ younger brother Carroll both worked there, as did Lewis. It was called ³Case Brothers.² Pumping gas, preaching, going to school, and then, the couple¹s first baby was born. Margaret Elaine came into the world on April 27, 1947. Oh, how the church members enjoyed visiting with her - some of them would walk into her room anytime they felt like it to visit with her! So, it was time to find a place with more privacy. On to the next adventure....
Four hundred dollars bought Peg and Lewis 20 acres of land near Baldwinsville! But, small problem - there was no house. So, they rented a place nearby, and Lewis began construction. He started with the garage, building it out of lightweight blocks. Next thing you know, they were flooded out of the rental, so they moved into the unfinished house. Meanwhile, a new soul joined the family: David Roderick was born September 25, 1949. He was a colicky little guy, and times were a little stressful. Lewis was building the house, working nights at the gas station, taking a full load at college, and preaching full time. He would hold David on his belly and jiggle him while he studied until one or two in the morning. He slept on the bus. Something had to give, and apparently it was his sermons. The church began to politley hint that they wanted to replace him - seems they felt his sermons were a bit weak. That was OK - they made some extra money by selling off some lots from their 20 acres. (Years later, in the 60¹s, Peggy and Lewis still owned some of that land, and sold it with a net of $11,000!)
Their friend, Eugene Martin, rounded up a preaching job for Lewis in Emory, Texas, and they decided to go for it. Peggy was pregnant with baby #3 at that time, so Lewis put her and the two kids on a plane in the summer of 1951 while he set out with the car and the trailer - a 20 year old affair with bald tires that he¹d bought from Peggy¹s Uncle Arthur. They stayed one year in Emory, and Patricia Jean was born there on September 17, 1951. It was 117 degrees the day she was born, they say - too hot even for a diaper. They enjoyed Emory, but the congregation could not afford to keep them. So the church at Hearne tried Lewis out and hired him in 1952. The family had a nice house there, and was pretty well satisfied. But, conflict arose. One of the members took offense at a sermon Lewis preached on adultery. (The writer does not know if he was for or against it, only that there was disagreement.) The elders wouldn¹t back Lewis in the conflict, so, in 1954, Peggy and Lewis accepted a position in Texas City, down by the gulf. They spent the first night in town with Henry and Effie Bobo, who very graciously, but unwittingly, put them up in a room with a bed that had no sheets. They never let on and made the best of it. The church in Texas City was strong and committed to growth. Under Lewis¹ and the elders¹ leadership they were able to expand the building. The expansion was financed by selling bonds to the members with a coupon to collect interest. The bonds sold right away and there was plenty for the task at hand. To save money, Lewis drew the design for the spire himself. It was a wonderful three years.
Lewis got a call in 1957 from the church in Pittsburgh, Pa. They asked him to come preach a meeting there, which he did. The congregation didn¹t have a preacher, and they were having a big fuss about some matter or other. They pressed Lewis to move his family to Pittsburgh and become their full time preacher. Peggy¹s sister and brother-in-law, Eleanor and Lloyd Guild, lived in Pittsburgh, so it was tempting. But Lewis and Peggy refused to come until the congregation settled their quarrel. Word came back-
³we¹re all done fighting now,² so, with a 3 year sponsorship committment by the Texas City congregation, Peggy and Lewis moved with Margaret, David and Patty to Pittsburgh in 1957 to work with the congregation there, and taking up residence in the parsonage at 206 Broadmoor Ave.
From the point of view of the church and Lewis¹ career, this was a time of struggle. He felt ³out of the loop,² and he had to spend most of his time repairing the old building and the parsonage. There were no elders, and the congregation was truly run by one domineering family. Lewis just never could break their grip, and the church failed to grow. (When Peggy and Lewis lived in Eugene, 20 years after this time, this couple came to visit. They had never been to a movie, and one of the kids had the bright idea that they should see 2001 A Space Odyssey. That one movie probably kept them satisfied for the rest of their lives.)
The ³big church² in Pittsburgh was served by a man named Don Gardner. He was recruited for the job of president during this time by Ohio Valley College, a new Christian college with a student body of only about 30 or so, located in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Don recommended to the board that they hire Lewis as dean of the college. At that point, Lewis was almost finished with his masters from the University of Pittsburgh and was beginning work on his doctorate. Dr. Matthews was chair of the speech department at U of P, and his recommendation to Lewis was to take the job. The family had been happy in Pittsburgh, but after three years, the church was not growing. Peggy and Lewis decided to make yet another move, this time to Vienna, West Virginia, in the summer of 1960.
The family attended the 34th street church of Christ in Parkersburg. Lewis preached there occasionally, but his chief task was working for the college and planning for growth. He served as dean for two years.
On June 18, 1962, after a difficult pregnancy and delivery, another baby joined the family. Her name was Paula Beth, and she was the darling of the family, the church, the town - just about everbody who saw her - she was that cute and eventually that spoiled. Peggy pleaded in vain for the older siblings to stop encouraging her when she flirted and threw her milk on the floor and batted her eyelashes at anyone who would look at her. It was impossible to not spoil her. (Fortunately, she grew up relatively sane - at least she appears so.)
Don left OVC around 1962. In 1964, Lewis was named President of OVC. During the 2 and 1/2 years that Lewis held that office, the student body grew to 100 students, and several dorms and administration buildings were added to the campus.
But, all was not well at home. Paula¹s birth had taken a lot out of Peggy, and they were beginning to have serious problems with Margaret, who was now a beautiful, extremely talented teenage girl. After the move to West Virginia, Meg couldn¹t make friends - the schools were clannish, and she began to gravitate to the mavericks. She had develped a strong soprano voice, and had the lead role in The Fantastiks, which was produced by the local community theater. She also starred in The Telephone, an operetta which was performed on a showboat that the college towed up river from Charleston as a fund raiser. These activities were helping her ³grow up,² as it were, perhaps a little too fast, and there was gossip around the church community. Also, during those years, Lewis was out of town almost all the time, raising money for the school and preaching out of town. They didn¹t have friends over much because Lewis was away so many weekends. Peggy¹s unhappiness finally reached a breaking point, and for Lewis the turning point came one day when he called home and Paula said, ³Daddy, when are we ever going to see you?² In spite of the fact that he loved his job and felt successful at it, and the fact that he was earning over $10,000 a year - more financial comfort than they had ever known- it was time for another big change. He announced to the board that he was going to resign. They thought he was joking. But no, he meant it.
Lewis wrote up a resume and asked his secretary to look through church papers for possibilities. Then, out of the blue, he got a call from Dale Parnell of Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. He and Dale had a mutual acquaintance who was the Director of Adult Education in Washington D.C. Dale was recruiting Lewis to be a speech teacher at LCC. As luck would have it, Peggy and Lewis had a neighbor, Mr. Hunter, who had attended the University of Oregon, so he regaled them with wondrous tales about the Emerald City and the Great Northwest. Lewis asked Dale to let him think about it, but to go ahead and send along the contract just in case. He signed and was hired without an interview with a salary of $8500 for nine months.
The great trek to Oregon commenced in the summer of 1966. The first week after their arrival in Eugene, the family camped at Armitage Park while Peggy and Lewis looked for a home. Then the family moved in to 3074 Sorrel Way, and immediatly took off for Crater Lake to go camping again. The most memorable thing (besides the lake) about that trip for some of the family members, was how grouchy Meg was because she couldn¹t smoke. Peggy and the kids kept house without any furniture for most of that summer while Lewis went back to tie up the loose ends at OVC. (He had to ride the bus back to Vienna because there was an airline strike going on.) After a couple of months Lewis drove the loaded van back to Eugene. That was a truly exciting reunion!
When the family was finally all settled in, a new challenge arose. Peggy¹s sister Beth and her husband Ed were having problems and needed help, so Peggy and Lewis took in their girls, Joyce and Debbie. This caused a financial strain, so Lewis borrowed $100 a month from a dentist friend of his in Ohio. That got them through the first year. During that time the Associate Dean and Assistant Dean positions became available at LCC. The assistant job was more academic, and the associate¹s job was more training for technical skills. Lewis accepted the assistant dean job, and continued to teach at the same time. His salary went to $15,000 a year. He stayed in that job for the remainder of the school year, until the job of Dean of Instruction became available. That job was awarded to Lewis in 1967. He held it for the next 5 years.
While Lewis was Dean of Instruction, Dale Parnell left the school to become Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the board conducted a search for a new president. Dale approached Lewis to see if he was interested, and pressed him to at least take the interim job. Lewis said no, he preferred the dean job. He knew what it was like to be a college president. Lewis recommended a candidate, who was consequently hired. The new president did a good job, too. As Lewis put it, ³He let the deans run things and kept the peace.² Then the board hired Pickering, who served less than a year. Next the board hired Eldon Schaeffer. During the month between Pickering and Schaeffer, Lewis was Interim President. He wrote a memo announcing his presidency that concluded, ³If I, your President of the Month, can do anything for you, let me know.²
During the first couple of years as Dean at Lane, Lewis campaigned hard to the board to set up a planning department. He couldn¹t get much support for it, even when they finally agreed. He created the position of Dean of Planning in 1971 and held that job until the department was dropped 5 years later. The purpose of the department was to evaluate the programs that were already in place and do forecasting for future needs. He hired Julie Lamberts to head up the evaluation department, and Paul Colvin for the forecasting. While the department was active they were able to get a state grant for an independent study program with a lab and an instructor on site. They also did a study for the State Department of Education on planning systems for community colleges. (Lewis met his future wife, Rosemarie Lambert, when she worked on that project as part of her doctorate.)
After the planning department was dismantled, Lewis wanted to teach again. But the president, Eldon Schaeffer, was of the opinion that the teaching staff would not be comfortable working with a former administrator. So, for Lewis it was either retirement or take another position. He became Director of Facilities and built the PE building. Then he retired in 1979.
Peggy had never graduated from college, although she had earned some credits at William and Mary while Lewis was in the Navy. So, in the early 70¹s, she decided to go for her degree. She started at Lane and then finished up at the U of O, graduating with honors in 1975. She also did a lot of volunteer work in the community, including delivering meals for Meals on Wheels and as President of the Society for Hearing Impaired Persons. (Peggy had a hearing loss as a result of a childhood bout with scarlet fever, and the loss grew progressively worse over the years.) The SHIP group gave her a plaque which said, ³We the officers and members of the Society for Hearing Impaired Persons present this scroll to Peggy Case, with gratitude and thanks for her devotion and service to our organization. Peggy gave us leadership, the energy to survive, and the growth to be successful. Her goodness always shone through in her concern for the hard of hearing. Peggy, you¹re #1!²
In the fall of 1977 Peggy was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma and was given only a
couple of months to live. But, she fought back with all she had and lived three more years. She died on January 13, 1981, at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene. The couple had pulled up stakes after Lew¹s retirement and moved to Newport on the coast, where they enjoyed one year of remission from Peggy¹s cancer. They set up a coffee roasting and retailing business, and Lewis began to get serious about opals. He could cut them and polish them and set them and sell them, and he really enjoyed that. After Peggy died, Lewis became reacquainted with Rosemarie Lambert, and they were married on August 1, 1981. The couple lives now in Anacortes, Washington, where they run a reading school called The Reading Skill Center. They also are the proud parents of the most stunning garden in town. And Lewis is the proud grandparent of : (in order of appearance) Grant Law, Karl Peters, Myra (Roberts) Wolfe, Claire Case, Saul Roberts, Henry Roberts, Patrick Roberts, Sam and Tyler Bezodis. The great grandchildren are on their way now! Grant and Oona Jenkins had Arden Jenkins-Law in November 1996, and Myra and Thomas Wolfe are expecting a baby girl, Sophie Margaret, in June of 1998. The latest news? Another grandchild is due to arrive in October 1998. Another blessed twig on the E. Lewis Case family tree. Little Junior from West Texas has truly made a wonderful difference in this world.
© 2004 Patty Roberts.
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