On Sept. 15 my father, Bob Josey, drew his last breath. He was an extraordinarily ordinary man by any measure.

The oldest of nine children, he became the de facto man of the household by the time he was thirteen. His father was killed in an industrial accident (a boiler explosion) when Dad was barely an adolescent and a few short years later his stepfather died a lingering death following a stroke.

To keep the family together, his mother delivered a paper route for many years and kept other people’s children while they worked. The church where my grandfather was pastor, and where Dad met my mother, also helped the family to keep food on the table.

Dad worked odd jobs through high school and his first “adult” job was in the machine shop at the plant where his father had died.

It wasn’t long before Dad was apprenticed in the machine shop at the Union Bag. Dad loved machinery and how it worked. By the time I graduated high school, Dad was designing machines that made parts of cars, primarily the chrome design pieces. He took great pride in pointing out the fruits of his labors as we drove down the highway.

What I did not remember, until my brother reminded me, was that while raising seven children and working 80 hours a week, Dad also managed to find a way to get his qualifications as an engineer, long before the days of online classes. Apparently the University of Chicago and Chicago Polytechnic were way ahead of their time in offering distance learning. Dad would work late into the night reading texts or hunched over his drawing board doing design drawings for class and mailing them off to his instructors.

Dad just flat out loved learning!

He was one of the best theologians I’ve ever met, as well as one of the best Bible teachers. He would spend as much time studying to teach a Sunday school class as he did in getting his qualifications as an engineer. And when the “new technology” came along, Dad embraced it, using AutoCad on the computer for his design work.

Because he was a learner, Dad encouraged us all to love learning. Dinner time in our household was sacrosanct — very few acceptable excuses for not showing up for dinner. When Dad was working 80 hours a week, my mother would get all of us children cleaned up and fed and we’d all pile into the car and take Dad’s dinner to him at the shop. Whether dinner was at the table or on the loading platform at the shop, Dad would often throw out challenges to us: he’d give us math word problems to solve. Or he’d challenge us to build an electric motor. Or to read a particular book. Most of all, he encouraged us to learn, to think for ourselves and not be afraid if our thinking took us in different directions from the crowd.

I miss him dearly and wish everyone could have been as fortunate as we were to have such a father.

The Rev. Camille Josey is the pastor at Silver Creek Presbyterian Church.


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