I stand here today with Rick because we know that nothing would have made dad more proud than to have us say these final words over him. For my dad, family was most important.
On behalf of our family, I want to thank the many of you who have been so kind, understanding and generous over these last 10 years or so since dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Some of you took him to meals, golfing, bowling, and played games with him even though he didn’t talk much and sometimes wasn’t “socially appropriate”. Others of you stopped by to encourage mom or my sisters. Some drove mom to or from the Nursing home and hospital over the years. Some of you may have been involved in direct care to him. Many of you supported us with your prayers. Because of you we have a new understanding of friendship. Thank you. Your kindness and compassion can never be repaid but will also never be forgotten.
Over the course of the last decade my dad was not himself. At the beginning, he still enjoyed the family and our family gatherings but we watched as he gradually lost his sense of recognition except for occasional and wonderful moments. He did his puzzles, he counted his coins, he enjoyed bowling, but even these things finally slipped away. We all know how he died. This morning we want to help you remember how he lived.
The story is told (by his siblings) that dad was the favorite child of his family. I guess since dad had a paper route when he was younger, he also had a bicycle and his siblings did not. The rule was pretty simple: don’t touch Rich’s bicycle or else!
Dad actually grew up not far from the church on a farm at Higgins and Canfield. He graduated from St. Paul school in a class of four in 1948. So, I guess that he could boast that he was in the top four of his class. He went on to graduate from Lane Tech High School. He had a variety of jobs over the years.
Dad met mom on a blind date at the age of 15. Dad was fixed up with mom through Leonard and Annette (Garthwait) Zoellick. Their first date was at the Riverview Amusement park. It was actually a triple date (in fact all of mom and dad’s dates were double or triple dates or an outing with my Grandfather, since dad didn’t actually have a license or a car until after he was married and had two children!) The three girls on the date really liked going on the rides at Riverview that spun around. Mom couldn’t figure out why the boys kept leaving after each of these rides; it was because dad needed to throw up (he didn’t care for the spinning rides – but apparently he liked mom). She didn’t find out about this for another week. Mom was dad’s first (and last) date, first kiss, and first and only love.
Their second date was dad’s surprise 16th birthday party. At this time Mom met the whole family — but she kept dating him anyway.
Dad proposed to mom at the wedding of Bob and Sandy Bartman. Dad was standing up as a Groomsman but had a bad tooth. The tooth had to be pulled the morning of the wedding. So, picture the scene. Dad was lying on a bed with an ice pack on his mouth and decided that this was the moment he should propose to mom. Mom, always a sucker for romance, said yes.
They were married in 1954. Dad was three days past his 19th birthday and mom was 18 for another two months. Nine months after the wedding . . . I was born. About 14 months later, Donna came along. Six years later mom and dad were surprised (and delighted) by their third child, Janis. I never remember them going to bed without kissing each other good night.
Dad began working at Sargent Lundy Engineering at 18 years old. He got his job because of a contact through his mom. He began in the mailroom and worked his way up to a project manager and for one period of time he had some 900 people reporting to him. He worked for Sargent Lundy for 42 years. It seemed like every Tuesday and Thursday dad worked overtime and he usually worked a half day on Saturday. We always used to look down Menard toward Milwaukee Avenue every evening when we saw a bus stop at the corner to see if dad had gotten off the bus and was coming home.
I remember watching dad play softball with his friends when I was young. He enjoyed playing sports.
Mom and Dad worked hard to always live within their means. They spent carefully and saved diligently. It was several years before they had their first car, it seemed like forever before we had our first color television, and I remember getting my first bicycle from a Police auction. Because of their careful use of money our Christmas was always magical. We would wake up before the sun on Christmas Day (with our flashlights) and there would be a seeming mountain of gifts waiting for us. I’m sure now that mom and dad sacrificed so we could have these moments, and I am grateful.
All of us remember that Dad was the disciplinarian. I remember a spanking or two along the way. At our dinner table you always asked, “May I be excused?” Manners were important. Even on the golf course dad was concerned that proper etiquette be observed.
We also enjoyed a number of fun vacations. We took the train out to California and saw the Redwoods, Yosemite, and rode the cable cars in San Francisco. We even took the boat out past Alcatraz to Catalina Island. We went to the Wisconsin Dells where we road the Ducks. We went to South Dakota and saw the Corn Palace, Mount Rushmore, the Bad Lands, and we remember seeing the devastation that was left from a flood in Rapid City, South Dakota. We came back on that trip through Colorado where we enjoyed the Air Force academy and the great mountain views. We went to “Red Arrow Lodge” in Wisconsin several times and there was even a trip to a Dude Ranch in Colorado (I missed that one). There were a couple of trips to Florida. The first was with Aunt Lois and it was quite an adventurous trip. One night we left the keys locked in the car, another night we left the windows open and it rained soaking the inside of the car, and at one stop at a gas station Jay got her head washed by the attendant. But all we remember is having a lot of fun.
Mom and Dad lived in Korea for a couple of years. As most of you know, mom doesn’t count this among the highlights of her life, but dad seemed to enjoy being in a new country and seeing new things. Donna came out to visit in Korea and had a great time seeing the sights. They went to the DMZ, a German Restaurant (???), saw the Olympic Village and visited the military base in Seoul where Donna learned how to play the poker machines. Jay, Hiram, Maggie and I met mom and dad in Hawaii on their way home from Korea. We walked up Diamond Head (in our swim suits and “flip flops”….not the best idea!) enjoyed the beach at Maui and went snorkeling in Hanauba Bay. Dad really wanted to snorkel but he was always afraid of putting his face in the water. He wanted us to have the experience but was not interested himself. In all these vacations dad picked up all or most of the tab.
There was a trip to Ocktoberfest, in Wisconsin and for my 8th grade graduation, dad and I had a memorable trip to New York City with the Chicago Cubs. We stayed with the Cubs in the same hotel and went to all the games at Shea. It is a great memory. I have pictures with Leo Durocher, Ernie Banks and Ron Santo.
When Dad traveled (like most men) he liked to get to his destination. He didn’t like having to stop for bathroom stops and so those stops were few and far between. It seemed like dad usually wanted to drive what seemed to us like 1500 miles a day! When we would get to where we were going there was always an extensive itinerary of things we were to do. As kids, all we wanted to do was swim. Now, we look back and are grateful for all the things we were forced to go see.
One of the things dad looked forward to in retirement was the chance to travel. He and mom did get to go on several vacations and a few cruises over the years but he never had the chance to travel in the way he had hoped.
Family was a big part of dad’s life. There were many family gatherings. There were the guys in the kitchen playing Pinochle while the ladies sat in the living room visiting. There was always lots of food. There were 4th of July gatherings at Uncle Hank’s farm, horseshoes, ballgames, family reunions, birthday parties, anniversary parties with the various mock weddings (where dad often served as the Pastor), and the robust singing of Schnitzel Bank. I used to love watching mom and dad on the dance floor doing a Polka or a Schottish.
When Grandma Ingers could no longer stay at her home he was eager to have her come live in our home. Dad also went to visit his mom every Sunday to help her with her checkbook and other things. He continued faithfully visiting her every weekend when she moved to the Lutheran home. Dad care of Uncle Wally’s needs and tried to care for other family members as he could.
Many holidays we “made the rounds”. We would have a celebration at home and then travel around to the various homes for the holiday. For a number of Thanksgiving days we went bowling as a family.
Dad enjoyed the people in the neighborhood. He played poker with many of them and really felt blessed to have such good neighbors and friends over the years. Some of those neighbors proved to be special help to mom these last several years.
Each of us has our special memories with dad. Donna remembers her Sunday bike rides with dad and dad’s loving counsel on several occasions. Donna enjoyed her exploits with dad in Korea. Dad was the one who pushed Donna to learn how to drive. He even enrolled her in the Easy Method Driving school. She appreciated being able to move back home for a period of time and the help dad was always willing to provide. Dad also helped Donna get a job at Sargent Lundy. As a result of this, Donna met Mike. Most days….that is a good thing.
Mike knew dad as a friend at Sargent-Lundy before he ever knew him as a father-in-law. Mike remained a good friend and a caring son-in-law throughout dad’s illness. Dad always looked forward to his Game Night with Donna and Mike every Wednesday night game night. Dad usually had the games all set out before they ever arrived. It will always be a special memory.
Jay remembers Hiram’s first visit to our home. Dad was, let’s say, less than enthused about Hiram. Hiram saw that dad was watching Golf on television and commented that he thought golf was a stupid game. Dad informed him that he loved to golf. Jay also remembers various adventures with dad as he was trying to teach her how to drive. Eventually dad gave up and told Hiram that he should teach her. On the day Hiram asked dad if he could marry Jay . . . Dad made him sweat for as long as possible. It wasn’t because he no longer liked Hiram . . . he had grown to love and respect him . . .he was just yanking his chain. On Jay’s wedding day she was standing at the back door of the sanctuary, a woman was there “helping” and Jay was getting frustrated. Dad reached in his pocket, gave the lady some money, thanked her for her service and told that her service was no longer necessary. By the way, Hiram became one of dad’s favorite golfing companions.
I have a host of great memories: I remember getting up at 4:30 in the morning to go golfing (to this day I don’t understand the joy of early morning golf in the dew). One of the times I think I shot a 180 for the 18 holes! I remember dad taking me to try out for Little League and then he brought me home after I was told I wasn’t good enough. I remember him taking a Saturday off so he could watch me get embarrassed in a district hurdles race. He was always there to encourage.
I also remember the awkward sex talk. Dad took me to Rosedale Park for a movie (or film strip) on the basics of male and female “anatomy”. Afterwards we sat out in the car and dad wanted to know if I had any questions. As I recall I had no idea what was going so I didn’t have any questions. It was one awkward moment but I have to give him credit for at least trying to do what is right. I’m not sure who was more relieved to have the night over, him or me!
I will always be grateful that mom and dad made it possible for me to go to college. Dad knew I felt called to the ministry but I sensed he was less than enthusiastic at first. Later, he became my biggest cheerleader. I remember mom and dad traveling to hear the College choir whenever we were in the area.
I had the privilege and joy of being the Pastor to my parents for a year. I will never forget the night dad came down into the basement and said, “I need to talk to you.. . . not as my son but as my Pastor.” That expression of respect will always be a cherished moment. Dad always built us up.
I have three vivid and extra special memories. First, I remember the night that my Grandfather died. I always knew dad loved me but we weren’t a very expressive family. That night I remember putting my arm around my dad and telling him that I loved him. I don’t think we ever ended a conversation after that without expressing our love for each other.
The second special memory was the night I called home to tell mom and dad I was engaged to Maggie. I asked dad to be my Best Man and he was stunned. In my mind my dad was also my best friend.
The final special memory was the night I told mom and dad that they had a Grandson and we had named him after dad. I wasn’t with dad at that time but I heard he cried.
Dad was wonderfully supportive of our mates. He enjoyed and counted on Mike and Hiram. They had home repair abilities that dad lacked. I am so grateful that they were here while I have spent half of my life living several hours from home. Dad loved Hiram and Mike as sons and they treated him with the respect and honor of a father. Dad loved Maggie and at one memorable family gathering a couple of years ago dad (who was having severe memory problems) started talking to Maggie and told her that he thought she should meet his son who lived in La Harpe because he’s nice and he thought she would like him. He had good taste.
Dad was a very proud Grandpa. We will remember and cherish the pictures of dad holding and playing with our kids. Dad was always eager to do something for his grandchildren and his greatest regret would have been that he didn’t get to do more.
One of the lasting blessings dad gave to us was a faith that was real and deep. We understood that Sunday was church day. We were taught that if you were going to be part of the church, you served in that church. Dad served in many different capacities. He was on just about every committee; our family served as janitor for period of time, and dad served many years as Moderator of the church and of our are organization of churches. Dad was never comfortable speaking in public but he did it. He usually said the prayer at the Koehler Picnic. He was always willing to make a toast. He was willing to read Scripture at church. He even took part in various skits. Dad wanted to be a better speaker so he got involved with Toastmasters. I don’t know that it really helped! After Toastmasters, Dad became very deliberate when asked a question. I both appreciated his thoughtful approach to answering questions but was also exasperated by how long it took him to answer a question!
I am grateful for the influence my dad had on my life. He taught me to respect people. Our home seemed to always have someone visiting and staying for dinner. Dad saw past a person’s color and ethnic background and treated each person with the dignity that God intended the person to have.
Dad taught us to work hard and to strive to live with the measure of integrity he had in his life. He encouraged us to buy only what we could pay for and to save for the future. My dad and I talked many times about faith issues. I know where my dad is today because I know that his faith was not placed in his goodness or character. His faith was in Jesus and what Jesus has done on his behalf by dying on the cross and rising from the grave. Dad understood that he was a sinful person in need of God’s grace. He embraced and celebrated that grace.
When dad was in the nursing home he didn’t talk much. However, he would cry and smile in those moments of recognition. His love for family remained right up to the end. There were a few times when dad told us that he wanted to go “home”. We were pretty sure that dad was not talking about his house on Menard. He was ready to go home to Heaven to meet Jesus. On two other occasions dad sat alone with me in the activity room at the Nursing home. He pointed across the street to the cemetery and said, “Cemetery. . . I want to go there!” Dad was ready to go home to be with His Lord. Graciously, God took Him home last Tuesday evening, and I am confident that the first hand that reached out to Him was the nail-scared hand of Jesus.
My dad was a good man. He was a gracious man. He was a faithful man. Even in his diminished state he continued to be kind. The leader of our family has gone home to be with his Lord but he has equipped us well. May God give us a portion of his spirit and use us to influence our families and to influence the world in simple but significant ways, just as he has used our dad, Richard Goettsche.
Message by Rick
This morning, I get the chance to tell you a little bit about Richard Goettsche from the perspective of his grandchildren. Our grandfather thoroughly enjoyed the time he got to spend with us. He made it seem like there was nothing he would rather do than spend time with his grandchildren. When I was little, I always loved to go into Grandpa’s office, because there was always something neat to play with—and Grandpa loved to play with me; whether we played with the cool globe that lit up or he spun me around in his chair, Grandpa made sure we had a good time.
Grandpa also had a tradition of collecting change for us. I think the tradition started with the change he would have in his pocket after a day at work. At the end of each day, he’d put it in a bank shaped like an elephant. Then, at Christmas time, he’d cash it all in and split it among the grandchildren. Even after he retired, he continued to put change into the elephant, and as his memory began to go, he still remembered that he wanted to put change (or “pieces”, as he came to call it) into the elephant. Every day, he’d take out his pieces and count them. I know that for Father’s Day one year, Lauren gave Grandpa some pieces to count and put in his bank. He was thrilled with her gift, and kept telling her that she “was good”. Grandpa also loved attending Kati and Lauren’s dance performances, and seemed to thoroughly enjoy watching them perform and clapping along with the music.
Grandpa loved to have all of his family together. On several occasions, he took all of us on vacation together, and we all have fond memories of those times. He also loved to just take us all out to eat. It became somewhat of a tradition to go out for breakfast as a big group to the Blue Angel. Grandpa made it clear that he loved having his grandkids around. If you came into his room at the nursing home, you would see that his bed was surrounded by pictures of his family, along with cards Lauren had made him and poems Kati had written for him. Our grandfather always wanted us to know he loved us, and he did a good job of showing it.
This morning we grieve because we’ve lost someone we all love—someone who made sure we knew that he loved us. You might think that because we’ve seen Richard slowly slipping away over the course of many years, today would be easy, but you’d be wrong. Any time we have to say goodbye to someone we love, a hole remains in our hearts—and we feel pain knowing that we won’t see them again in this life.
I’d like to read you a passage from the Bible that gives us hope. The day before Jesus died he said these words to his disciples:
“Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s 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.”
This morning we have hope that even though Richard’s life on earth has ended Jesus has gone to prepare a place for him, and he is now home. There were several times where Grandpa told us he wanted to go home, and it seemed apparent that he wasn’t talking about the building he owned on Menard Street. We can rejoice today because he has finally received his wish—he is now home.
I need to make something clear though. We have talked a lot about the good things my grandpa has done—about how he cared for his family and worked hard at whatever he did. But make no mistake, this is not the reason that we have confidence that he is home. He is not in heaven today because he was a good man, or because he worked hard, or even because he went to church on a regular basis. The reason my grandfather is in heaven today is because he understood that he didn’t deserve to be. He understood that no matter how many good things he did, no matter how much he went to church, there were still things that he had done wrong. He understood that he was not perfect—and he understood that because of that, because of his sin, he didn’t deserve to go to heaven.
Grandpa also understood what Jesus told his disciples, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” He believed that his only hope was to trust that Jesus had died in his place, allowing his sins to be forgiven, and allowing him to spend an eternity in heaven. This is an important point to understand. Richard Goettsche is not in heaven this morning because he was good, he is in heaven because he took Jesus Christ at His word, trusted Him, and then lived his life for Him.
We rejoice today because Grandpa is now home. But we also rejoice because his life was lived well. He lived his life for God’s glory, and it showed. The day that Grandpa died, he could say what Paul said at the end of his life,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. “
Through all the trials and hardships, through Alzheimer’s, Grandpa lived for God. And he has now finished the race, he fought the fight until the end, and he kept the faith. Because he has trusted Christ, he is now home, and because he has finished the race, he has heard God say to him the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
The fact is that while we rejoice that Richard is home, we are not. We are still here and we must now live our lives without him. While we rejoice for him, we still mourn for ourselves—and that’s ok. When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, he mourned too, because he knew that he would miss him. We can take comfort though, in knowing that we don’t have to rely on our strength alone. Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Let’s face it, there are going to be times when the grief seems to be more than we can bear; moments when we will be exhausted from missing Richard. In those times, we have the assurance from Jesus that we can come to him, and he will share the burden with us. He will give us the strength we need to carry on. Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song that reminds us of this promise. The chorus says, “His strength is perfect, when our strength is gone. He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on. Raised in His power, the weak become strong. His strength is perfect. His strength is perfect.”
I would encourage you that as you grieve for my grandfather, you would turn to the Lord for your strength, because even when you feel that you can’t carry on, he’ll carry you through, because His strength is perfect.
I would also encourage you to learn from Grandpa’s life. Certainly, I hope that you would learn to love your family and take care of them, as he did; but more than that, I hope that you would learn that if you have trusted Jesus Christ to save you from your sin, acknowledging that you can’t do anything to earn your way to Heaven, then you can face death without fear. I pray that you would place your trust in Jesus Christ, and that as your life nears to an end, you can long to go home just as my grandpa did—not to go back to your house, but to be in the place that Jesus has prepared for you.
Will you pray with me? Father, we bow before you this morning and honor you as the only one who can determine the number of our days. You determine when we are born and when it is time for us to die. You are also the only one who can forgive us for the things we’ve done wrong. Father, today we mourn the loss of my grandfather, but we have assurance that because his faith was in you and not in himself, he is now home. Help us to remember and celebrate his earthly life and help us to rest in your perfect strength as we grieve. We ask these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.