We have gathered today to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Robert Eugene Wetzell. As we do so we remember the promises of God,
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. (John 14:1-3)
In Psalm 23 David said the Lord would guide us THROUGH the dark valley of the shadow of death.
The Apostle Paul said in Romans 8
I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Please pray with me,
Father, today we want very much to hold to the truthfulness of Your Word with all of our heart. Help us to find hope in the midst of sadness. Help us to focus on the blessings of Bob’s life rather than the sadness of his death. Draw us together. Grant us the comfort that uniquely comes from You. Amen.
Robert Wetzell was born November 13, 1926 in Bentley, Illinois the son of Roscoe and Leona Simmons Wetzel. He married Mary Lou Wright on December 22, 1946 in Rushville, Illinois. She was the light of his life. They had four sons: Johnathon, Jeffrey, Jerry, and Steven. Unfortunately, she preceded him in death on January 31, 2009.
Bob farmed in the Fountain Green area until 1967 when he moved to Blandinsville when he started working with a Fertilizer company. Bob served in the U.S. Army in Germany during World War II from 1945 until 1946, he was a member of the American Legion Post 424 in Blandinsville. He served as a 4-H leader in Hancock County and was also a former member of the New Hope IOOF Lodge #263, was the Village President of Blandinsville for 15 years, and was on the Village Board of Trustees for two and a half years.
Bob died on March 2nd at 90 years old. He leaves three of his sons, nine grandchildren, two sisters, two sisters-in-law, and several nieces and nephews. He preceded by his wife, one son (Jonathan), two brothers (Bill and Wendell), and a sister (Shirley Shafer).
I met Bob Wetzell several times but I can’t say I really knew him. However, I have learned a few things. He was a man who always tried to do the right thing. He could be ornery but he tried to be the kind of son, husband, father, and community leader he thought he should be.
He had skills and interest in drafting and architecture. He went into the army. While he was in Germany his dad died. When he got home he gave up any dreams he may have had because someone needed to run the farm.
Growing up, the family had a pony named Prince. One day Bob led the pony to school carrying Evelyn and Marilyn. At noon, the kids naturally wanted to ride Prince. Things went well until the teacher got on. Her dress was big and covered the flanks of Prince and he didn’t like it. The teacher ended up taking one wild ride. After that there were no more rides at noon!
Bob was an animal lover. He enjoyed Prince and even tried to teach him to plow the garden so he would not have to do so. He was unsuccessful.
On his 4th birthday the family added Teddy, a fox terrier, to the family. Teddy and Bob grew up together. Teddy died at 16 years old protecting Bob from a charging sow! They loved each other.
Bob met Mary Lou when his sister Marilyn brought her high school friend home. Bob took a liking to her and it is apparent that attraction was mutual. Mary Lou and Bob were partners in everything. Mary Lou had never farmed but she learned quickly.
They were childless for fourteen years. During this time, they regularly had nieces and nephews over to spend time with them.
They loved being parents and appreciated what a special gift it was to have children. They were 4-H leaders for many years. He served as a Sunday School Superintendent in the local Methodist Church where they were very active. Bob wanted to do right by his children.
He loved his family. Because he loved greatly he also grieved deeply when Mary Lou and Jonathan died. At that time, big chunks of Bob died with them. Losing Mary Lou left Bob lost. Part of him died with her. When she was at Wesley Village he visited her regularly.
Bob Wetzel loved to visit with people. He could sit and visit the day away. He would always greet you and say good-bye with a handshake. He believed it was the proper thing to do. It was a way of honoring others
Bob was not concerned about money. He was concerned about the community. The story is told that Bob was made village board President because he kept telling everyone what the Village Board should be doing when he was at Tinks so they decided to elect him Village Board President in Blandinsville. It was a post he held for 15 years.
Bob was skilled at wood-working. Like everything else, he gave his best to the things he made. He made some beautiful items.
He was honest. He had no trouble telling you what he was thinking. If he had something to say, he’d say it! His tact was not always as abundant as his honesty.
There are two kinds of people in the world: there are those who see all the negative things and try to defend against them; and there are those who see all the positive things in life and try to embrace them. Bob was on the more negative side. He tried to be prepared for all the bad stuff that could happen. He saw the potential for problems. Mary Lou was good at keeping him focused on the positive.
Bob had been involved in the church. He trusted Christ as his Savior and tried to follow Him as his Lord. He served in various capacities. For some reason, Bob became disenchanted with the church (or the people of the church). He never gave up his faith, but he never got involved in a church again.
Bob knew right from wrong and he tried to do what was right in life. He expected others to do the same. He worked hard. He wanted to make it to 90 years old and he did.
When you think of a good and decent man, you have a pretty good picture of Bob Wetzell.
When you read a great book, there is a measure of sadness that comes as you reach the last page. The story is over. Companions you have enjoyed for several hours of adventure are left behind. However, if the book you are reading is a part of a series of books it is a different story. In that case when you finish one book you eagerly look forward to the next installment.
Today we finish a “book”. But it is just volume one of a story that goes on forever. I believe Bob understood this.
Our task today is to try to comprehend that death for the believer is not the end even though it seems and feels like the end; it is just the end of the beginning. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; He who believes in me, will live . . . even though He die.” (John 11).
This is not just pie in the sky sentimentality. What Jesus promised is underscored by His own resurrection. He was dead for three days and then came back to vibrant life and said, “This is not the end”. This isn’t some philosophy or theory of what happens after we die . . . it is a belief based on eyewitness testimony. Christian belief is anchored to real events.
It is important to hear carefully what Jesus said. He does not say that everyone goes to Heaven (as is popularly believed). He said those who believe in (put their trust in) Christ will live even though they die.
No one can earn Heaven. Even the finest of men cannot earn it. God’s standard is perfection and we missed that a long, long time ago. When we ignore God’s commands, when we honor people or things more than we do Him, when we strike out in selfishness . . . we sin. “ALL have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory”. We need someone to rescue us. That someone is Jesus.
The Bible declares that those who give their lives to the Lord, those who put their confidence in what He has done rather than what we have done; those who surrender to His leadership in their lives; will be viewed by God as forgiven. Their sin will be washed away and they will live even though they die. They will walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death.
Death for the believer is not the end of life . . . it is the end of the journey TO life. Bob Wetzell was I believe such a believer. Think about it. Last Thursday Bob stepped out of this world into Heaven. Try to imagine what it would be like to step out of a broken and decaying body and suddenly be greeted by the open arms of Jesus! Think about the joy of seeing Mary Lou, Jonathan, his siblings and his mom and dad again.
At that moment, all of life reaches its destination. And though in comparison to God’s greatness we will see our unworthiness with greater clarity than ever, we will also appreciate, love and melt under God’s incredible love and His grace. Life will finally be complete. The long journey is over and the destination has been reached. What a moment!
Could anything be better than hearing the Lord Jesus say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”? To be someone who has lived his whole life seeking to do what he believed God wanted him to do and then to hear these words . . . what incredible joy Bob must know.
We do not grieve FOR Bob. There is nothing about his situation to feel sorry about. We grieve for OUR loss. Bob lived 90 good years here on earth and has forever to live with Christ. Grief is natural, it is appropriate, and you cannot truly love someone and not grieve when they are no longer with you . . . but remember the grief is about OUR loss, not his. Bob Wetzell has lost nothing and gained everything.
So grieve, shed your tears, acknowledge your loss, but do not be without hope. Dare to imagine the glory, the beauty, the blessing that Bob Wetzell now knows and put him gratefully in God’s hands.
And until that day, let’s remember some lessons from Bob,
- Always do what you believe is right
- Give to others
- Strive to be good at whatever you do
- Love your family.
- Trust in the Lord.
- Treat others with respect.
- Tell the truth.
- Work at choosing the positive things in life.
I know you will miss Bob Wetzell. You should miss him. You also should look forward to seeing Him again.
Father, thank you for the life of Bob Wetzell. Thank you for the way he lived his life and the integrity he demonstrated. Help this family as they remember and as they grieve. Grant that the stories would be many and the memories fresh. Help us to renew our faith and also our hope. Help us to live with integrity even as we look forward to someday being with you. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, and our hope. Amen