We gather this afternoon to mourn the loss and to celebrate the life of Herbert H. Pennock. As we do, we turn to the Lord for His comfort and strength.
In the Bible we read these words,
O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise, you perceive my thoughts from afar. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. [Psalm 139]
Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my fathers house are many mansions; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. You know the way to the place where I am going…Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me. [John 14:1-6]
God’s presence with us and His promise for those who believe is our anchor today. Will you pray with me?
Our Father, we come to you as the one who holds the keys to life. We turn to you and ask you to help us during this time. Help us to celebrate Herb’s life. Help us to remember and to give thanks. But also help us as we grieve. Grant us the strength we lack. Help us as we search for you. Help us to understand that this life is but a prelude to true and abundant life with You. So, lead us in our time we ask in Christ’s name. Amen.
Herbert H. Pennock was born on March 7, 1933 near Durham, IL. He was the son of Audrey B. and Lucille I. Sherman Pennock. He was a graduate of Dallas City High School
Herb served in the army during the Korean War. He served two different stints in the Army from 1953 to 1965. He served a number of years in Germany.
On September 26, 1970 he married Nancy Osburn Thompson in Lomax, IL. When Herb married Nancy he also gained a step son and four step daughters as well as having two children of his own that did not live with him. Kevin was in the service so Herb suddenly was living in a house with five women. Of course, he had plenty to say about that. Herb and Nancy just celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. It was a day Herb “held on for”. And it was a milestone he was proud of.
Herb had a number of different jobs. He had many different jobs in medical related fields. He worked for many years at the Shuttle Coordinator between the Veterans Administration Hospital and University Hospitals in Iowa, retiring in 1995.
Herb was a member of the American Legion and the Dallas City Christian Church.
He is survived by his wife; one daughter, Audrey Queen of Keokuk IA.; one son Ralph Anthony Pennock of Fort Madison, one stepson, Kevin Thompson of Lake City, Fla; four step daughters, Rhonda Foley of Cedar Rapids IA, Melanie Evans of Lomax, Leana Yard of La Harpe and Andrea Thompson of Anamosa; 16 grandchildren; 10 grandchildren and Teresa Englebart who was like an adopted daughter.
He was preceded in death by his parents and one granddaughter.
Herb Pennock was a man who experienced many ups and downs in his life. If you were to sit down with him he would be the first to tell you that there were many things in his life that he was ashamed of. But he would also have many good things to tell you about as well.
Herb was born with a case of cerebral palsy which affected the feeling that he had on the left side of his body. But . . . that certainly didn’t stop Herb from living his life to the fullest. He was an only child and some would say he was spoiled rotten. His father died early in his life and he was left to help his mother with Pennock’s Coffee Shop.
In High School Herb was a popular young man. He was ornery but it a fun way. He had lots of friends. Some of his “friends” during his Freshman taught him about “Snipe” hunting.
The one thing everyone remembers about Herb is his great Baritone singing voice. He sang in a Minstrel group which was a touring group that traveled around from place to place giving performances. Often, as in the style of the day they would sing spirituals in black face.
Herb was best known for the song “Waterboy”. It was a black slavery song that Herb took to State Competition three years in a row. Each time he was awarded first place.
Herb also enjoyed singing in Barbershop groups. The boys used to sing in Niota, at Flora Thumbs. Whenever many of you hear “Sugar Shack” or “Danny Boy” or “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” it will be hard not to think of Herb.
Herb knew he had a good voice. In fact he walked around with an Elvis “swagger” and the same kind of hair and sideburns.
While Herb was in the service and stationed in California he began to raise roses.
Perhaps because of his service in the Army and in fighting in the Korean War, Herb developed a great fascination and love for History. He had always been smart but he was really knowledgeable when it came to things historical. He used to go to auctions and enjoyed finding great history books on sale. His favorite channel on television was the History channel.
He loved Western Movies (especially starring John Wayne). He also loved to play pool and enjoyed spending time with his friends. One of his favorite “hang-outs” was Tapken’s Station. He and his friend Dean used to have fun seeing who could tell the biggest lie.
Herb also liked to collect pieces of Slag. As I understand it, Slag is a fused glassy material that is produced when a metal is separated from its ore during smelting. Herb liked the way slag looked and was always glad to add a piece to his collection.
When Herb married Nancy it was actually the second time they were together. They had dated in High School and then went their separate ways. After bad relationships they found each other again. Herb would have told you that he wished he had had a better relationship with his own children. I’m sure he also would have told you that he made some mistakes along the way. But he would have also told you that he loved being a step dad for 30 years.
Herb didn’t want Nancy’s children to call him “Dad” because they already had a father. So they called him Herb or “Herbie Baby”. Herb was always ready to play a game or have some fun with the kids. And no matter how ornery they were (and they were (and are)ornery at times), he was understanding because he always remembered where he had come from. He frequently covered for the girls with their mom. He loved each of the girls just the way they were.
Herb insisted that the kids respect their mother. He also insisted that they take turns washing dishes and encouraged them to get jobs so they could do the things they wanted to do. He taught them responsibility and yet he was always willing to give them some money for something extra special.
He liked to have fun with the girls. They remember being pulled on a sled in the snow behind the Red Rambler. They remember how he always stuck up for them. And how he told them that if they were going to smoke or drink they should do it in the house . . . with him by their side.
Herb was fond of telling the kids, “Don’t do as I do . . . do as I say.” And in an argument with the kids he would often say, “Shut-up now . . . you don’t have to have the last Word!” He was a man who was good at expressing his love.
Herb loved the role of Grandfather. He adored the young kids and they adored him as well.
Herb always had a dog. For the last twelve years his faithful companion has been Sasha. She looked forward to her morning and evening walks. She especially liked going to the cemetery because Herb would let her run a little out there. It was especially hard on Sasha when Herb got real sick. She often would just lay at his feet or lay in her chair. She, along with the rest of you are left to wonder how to fill in the huge gap left by Herb’s death.
Herb Pennock was a man who saw and experienced a lot of things in his life. Some good and some not so good. But those who knew him had their lives enriched by him. We thank God for the blessing of his life.
As a way of honoring Herb’s memory, it seemed that the best song that could be played was the song “Waterboy”. Thanks to the help of some friends, a recording of the song was tracked down. It’s not exactly the way Herb sang it . . . but it’s still his song.
As I was thinking about what passage of Scripture to share I words from the Apostle Paul in his letter to his friend, Timothy. As you may or may not know, Paul had a past he was sometimes embarrassed by. He was so zealous for his faith that he eagerly persecuted Christians. In fact, he was coming to Damascus with death warrants when he encountered the risen Christ. In all that Paul did and experienced in the years that followed, he never forgot where he had come from . . . and he always lived grateful for the grace and the forgiveness extended him by the Lord.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life [1 Timothy 1:15-16]
Please understand, I did not know Herb Pennock. But from what I have heard, it sounds like he was a man who was very conscious of mistakes he had made in his past. He certainly enjoyed his life but in the back of his mind he was always aware of the bad things that happened. He never stopped regretting that he didn’t have a better relationship with his own children. And I’m sure, like most of us, there were many days in his life he wished he could have back.
Every day Herb felt like he deserved any painful thing that came his way. But Herb made changes in his life. He learned from his mistakes. He started over. And as he faced death, he drew on what he had learned earlier in his life. He looked to Jesus Christ and the offer of forgiveness He extends.
The Kingdom of Heaven will be filled with people who have deep scars. Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife, Judah was guilty of incest, Moses killed a man; Samuel was a failure as a Father, David committed adultery and had a man murdered to cover it up. Peter denied the Lord, and Paul had a Nazi-like hatred of Christians and sought to exterminate them. But all these people will be Heaven. They will all be in Heaven for the same reason . . . not because they were good . . . but because they entrusted themselves to the mercy of God extended through Jesus.
The Bible tells us that God became man for two reasons: to communicate with us in a way we could understand, and to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. Jesus lived a perfect life. He lived a life where He honored God with every breath and then He willingly traded His good standing with God for our sin. He took our place on the cross.
That’s the gospel. That’s why we have hope today. And I think that’s why Herb was able to die in peace. He was made right with God. He didn’t feel he deserved Heaven . . . .but that’s where He is. Not because of His goodness . . . but because of Christ’s.
The resurrection of Jesus (which many people who have never even examined the evidence quickly dismiss) proves that there is life beyond the grave. The resurrection proves that Jesus was telling the truth. The resurrection proves that there is forgiveness. . . for Herb and for you and me.
So, even in death Herb continues to teach us. From the other side of the grave he wants us to know that there is life beyond the pain, the failure, the tragic times. There is life beyond the fractured relationships, the stupid choices, the hurtful acts. That life is in Jesus.
Herb had an advantage over us. Many of us feel that we’re pretty good people. We feel that perhaps, if God grades on a curve, we will go to Heaven. But we are deluded. We fashion ourselves much better than we really are. God sees our hearts. He knows what we are thinking. We’re not fooling him. But Herb didn’t have that problem. He came to Christ as a man in need. And the Lord welcomed him. Herb reminds us that we must come to Christ as well.
So, it is appropriate to be sad today. You’ll miss Herb’s spirit, you’ll miss his love, you’ll miss the hard time he would give you. You have suffered loss.
But it is also appropriate to be reflective. We must ask, “Have I made my peace with God?” Have you turned to the forgiveness that Herb discovered? Use this time to do some personal soul-searching. Use this time to take stock of where your life is headed and make the changes necessary. The Bible says, if we will believe (trust, cling to, rely on) on the Lord Jesus Christ (who He was, what He death accomplished and what He resurrection verified) we will be forgiven and given a place in Heaven. And God will begin the process of changing us. I hope you will settle that issue in your heart. And in the sadness and reflection I hope you will also be grateful. Grateful that Herb touched and enriched your life, grateful for God’s grace and forgiveness, grateful that as a result of God’s gift through Christ, Herb lives on in God’s house. And grateful that if you also trust Christ . . . you will see him again. And when you do . . . don’t be surprised if he introduces you to Jesus and then asks if you’d like to sing a song or play some double deck Pinocle.
SOLO: LORD’S PRAYER
Father we thank you for the rich talent you gave to Herb Pennock. We thank you for his spirit, his love, his understanding of our weaknesses and failures. We thank you for the faith that you placed in his heart. And we thank you that he is now with you.
Lord, we also ask for your help. We pray that you would be with Herb’s family. Assure them of Herb’s love. And also assure them of your love.
We pray especially for Nancy. We ask that you would fill this huge hole in her life. Provide for her and love her.
Father, we now leave Herb with you. Welcome him warmly into your Kingdom. And then so work in us that some day we might be there too. Amen.