Winnie Fark

   We have gathered this afternoon to remember and pay honor to the life of Winnie Fark.  As we acknowledge our own loss we remember these words from Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

In the book of Proverbs we read a description of a Godly woman.  So many of the words seem to be a fitting testimony to Winnie Fark,

10     A wife of noble character who can find?

She is worth far more than rubies.

11     Her husband has full confidence in her

and lacks nothing of value.

12     She brings him good, not harm,

all the days of her life.

13     She selects wool and flax

and works with eager hands.

14     She is like the merchant ships,

bringing her food from afar.

15     She gets up while it is still dark;

she provides food for her family

and portions for her servant girls.

16     She considers a field and buys it;

out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

17     She sets about her work vigorously;

her arms are strong for her tasks.

18     She sees that her trading is profitable,

and her lamp does not go out at night.

25     She is clothed with strength and dignity;

she can laugh at the days to come.

26     She speaks with wisdom,

and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

27     She watches over the affairs of her household

and does not eat the bread of idleness.

28     Her children arise and call her blessed;

her husband also, and he praises her:

29     “Many women do noble things,

but you surpass them all.”

30     Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;

but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

31     Give her the reward she has earned,

and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

It is our intention today to thank God for Winnie’s life and for the things she taught us not only by her words, but also by her example.

Please pray with me.

Gracious Father, we bow before you this afternoon.  We acknowledge that you give life and you determine the time when life is to be surrendered.  Today we ask you to help us.  Help us in our time of sadness.  Help us to remember, appreciate and cherish some of the blessings you have given to us through Mrs. Fark. Grant us the presence and comfort of your Spirit.  We ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Mrs. Winnie Fark, was born July 13, 1916 in Riner, Virginia , the daughter of Dennis and Bessie Akers Reynolds. One of Winnie’s memories was of her mom laying the baby down and putting the bed post on her dress (so she couldn’t wanted off) so she could take her dad his dinner.

Winnie graduated from Auburn High School in 1934. On April 10, 1935 she married Harry R. Fark in Christiansburg, Virginia . She helped on the family farm by gardening and milking cows.  She always seemed to have a big garden to help provide food for the family. The family moved to the LaHarpe area a number of years later.  She also helped on the farm there and later she drove a school bus for the Bradshaw School and also served as a cook at the LaHarpe High School .

Her husband Harry preceded her in death on June 9,1992. Winnie passed away Sunday, January 13, 2008 at 4:15 A.M. at the LaHarpe-Davier Health Care Center. She was a former member of the Order of the Eastern Star and a member of the LaHarpe Union Church.

Surviving are two daughters, Dorothy Dobson of LaHarpe and Carole Butler and her husband, Michael, of Dallas City, Illinois, one son Harry Fark Jr. and his wife, Ellen, of LaHarpe, her son-in-law, Eugene Foster of Lockridge, Iowa, 11 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren, 2 great-great-grandchildren, one sister, Dora Gae Lester of Christiansburg, Virginia and two nephews. In addition to her husband, she was preceded in death by one daughter, Phyllis Foster.

Winnie Fark was a woman who was fascinated by life.  She loved to read, travel, and was a keen observer of life.  She loved to watch and listen to nature. When the kids were growing up the family took lots of camping vacations in various places.  After retirement she and Harry spent winters in Texas and went to Virginia in the fall.  Yet, even with all this travel Winnie always felt that she never was able to see enough or to travel as much as she would have liked.

Scarlet O’Rourke has written these words titled, “Long Gone” that seem to reflect Winnie’s heart,

Far off echo of a southbound train,

Killdeers screaming through the coal spring rain;

Bird dog hunting through the lonely brush.

Pointing at a partridge, flushing up a thrush;

Old hound baying at a big white moon

Mocking bird call in a long, low croon.

Hound dog howling in the lonesome wood

Bullfrog preaching, “You better be good!”

Long road calling- makes me want to roam

That old train whistle’s calling me back home.

Southbound rumbling on the trestle track

I want to get going and never come back;

This is the music that I love best

This is the music that gives me no rest-

[Scarlet O’Rourke]

Winnie always loved to learn.  She loved to ask questions. She would have welcomed the chance to go to college but her father did not feel it was necessary.  She possessed a razor sharp mind and college or not, she wasn’t going to stop learning. She often would start reading something and then have to “research things” to check out the facts that had been set forth.  She would start out read one book and it would turn into a pile of books and a pad of paper full of notes.

Winnie interacted with life.  She wanted to know why things were the way they were. She examined everything because she wanted to know the truth. The words of this poem which was in her book of thoughts expresses the kinds of thinking that went on within her.  The poem is unsigned and could have been written by her.

The Fields of Yesterday

I stopped by a place today that stirred a memory—

Had I been there before,

Or had I perhaps lived another life in another time

A hillside where cattle lay under a huge old oak…

A sunlit meadow inviting children to play…

Bluebirds on a low fence wire

A hound dog baying in the far off hills…

Then I knew

In memory I was seeing the fields of yesterday

Long ago and far away.

For much of her life Winnie was part of a team.  She had grown up knowing of Harry Fark.  He lived above the store his family owned.  He was known around town as the “boy who drove so fast”.  After Winnie finally met Harry, the two of them quickly fell in love.  They dated for 6 whole weeks and then they eloped.  The story they told was that she packed a bag, threw it out the window and then she and Harry took off in a milk truck to get married in town.  Winnie was afraid her dad might say no to the marriage.

Harry cherished Winnie.  She cherished him back.  Harry always called her “Sugar” and would often rub her ear lobes.  They worked together.  They camped together.  They even played pranks together.  Winnie was witty and Harry could sometimes be just silly. I suspect there was a great deal of laughter in the home.

Harry and Winnie were always together.  It wasn’t that they didn’t like people or weren’t sociable.  They simply enjoyed each other more than they enjoyed being with anyone else.

They were on opposite sides of the political spectrum.  Harry was a Republican and Winnie was a Democrat.  Harry liked President Reagan and Winnie really disliked him. There were many spirited debates about politics. However, they found a way to co-exist with these political differences.

Winnie always loved Virginia.  She loved the beauty.  Even though the work was hard, she was always singing and whistling.  Virginia seemed to energize her.  When Harry decided that the family should move from Virginia to west central Illinois, Winnie followed her husband.  She missed the mountains and always regretted leaving her family and taking the grandchildren so far away. The Midwest seemed like a vast wasteland to Winnie when she arrived. The singing and the whistling largely stopped once she arrived in the Midwest. However, she loved Harry more than she lovedVirginia.

When they moved to Illinois Harry’s mom also moved with them and lived with them. Winnie welcomed her graciously even though at times it was quite trying (as it would be for any of us).  Since she loved Harry she tried hard to love his mom!

When Harry died in 1992 Winnie seemed lost.  She was so very lonely.  She had not only lost her husband, she lost her best friend.  One of the things Winnie looked forward to was the possibility of seeing Harry again.  At times, she seemed almost eager to die.  Theirs was a wonderful love story.

SONG:  LULLABY

Winnie Fark was a devoted mother and Grandmother.  She loved taking care of her family.  She sewed clothes for the kids and always made sure the family ate well.  At family dinners Winnie (who was a very good cook) would never come eat with the family.  She stood and waited on others so she would be ready to provide whatever anyone needed.

Harry and Winnie didn’t have to have a lot of rules around the house.  All the kids knew that a certain kind of behavior was expected.  (There is some debate as to whether the expectations were as stringent when Harry Jr. came along.) Winnie always showed respect to her children and they returned the favor.

Winnie took great care for her family. When the family traveled they never stayed in a hotel until Winnie could check the room, the beds, and the sheets.  She saw her primary role as that of protector of her children.  The family remembers one hotel where she reluctantly agreed to stay only because everyone was so tired.  However, she refused to bring the suitcases in from the car!  She wasn’t going to take any chances.

When her children brought their mates into the household, Winnie welcomed them warmly.  Once her children got married she was always careful to respect their privacy.  I suspect her experience with her own mother-in-law made her especially sensitive to respecting the boundaries of her kids. She believed that you didn’t get involved in the lives of your children unless you were asked to be involved.  Some, perhaps, thought at times she was indifferent.  She wasn’t.  She was simply giving people room to live their own lives.

Don’t get me wrong, Winnie had her opinions and at times could be quite outspoken.  However, for the most part she tried to hold her tongue.  She knew that each generation had to learn just like she did.  Her one piece of advice to her children was this: “don’t worry about the dust in your house when your kids are young.  The dust will always be there, the children will not.”

Winnie never wanted to move in with her kids.  She had been on the other side of that arrangement and did not want to intrude on the life of her children.  It was her way of respecting their independence.  Her move to the Nursing home was hard but Winnie understood that it was necessary.  She was a resident of the LaHarpe Davier Care Center for 11 ½ years.

Winnie did not formally embrace any particular religious belief system.  Yet her lack of church involvement should not be construed as disinterest in eternity.  Here’s another poem from Rachel Henry Stoddard that perhaps captures Winnie’s heart.

The Flight of the Arrow

 The life of man

Is an arrow’s flight,

Out of darkness,

And out of light

Into darkness again;

Perhaps to pleasure

Perhaps to pain!

There must be Something,

Above, or below;

Somewhere unseen

A mighty Bow,

A Hand that tires not,

A sleepless Eye

That sees the arrows

Fly, and fly;

One who knows

Why we live—and die

            -Rachel Henry Stoddard

Winnie Fark had a passion for life.  When all is said and done perhaps the best way to describe her is as a Lady.  She believed in living a moral life, dealing honestly with people, and giving herself for her family.  She always wanted to look her best and present her best foot forward.  It was because of this that she tried to overcome her southern drawl.  She didn’t want anyone to think of her as an uneducated hillbilly.  She was far from such stereotypes.  She cared about her reputation not because she was concerned with pretense but because she felt you reputation was a reflection of your character.  She was a breed of woman that is becoming more and more uncommon.  She was a true lady.

Winnie was ready to die.  She had lived her life and was eager to discover the truth of eternity.  She looked forward to seeing her beloved Harry again.  She longed to see Phyllis, and I think she was relieved to think that all her questions would finally be answered.  So out of respect for her, we let her go.  But as we do, we cherish the wonderful memories.  Amanda Bradley writes,

Memories Are Treasures of the Heart

All the treasures of the kings

And all the gold on earth

Could not begin to equal

What our memories are worth.

Remembering together-times

Can warm a lonely day,

And thoughts of summer afternoons

Take winter’s chill away.

Lovely memories linger on

Of moments left behind,

And rain will seldom come to those

With rainbows on their mind.

And when life seems to get us down,

The thing that sees us through

Is thinking of the ones we love

And those who love us, too.

SONG: SHENENDOAH

Gracious Father, we seek your comfort today.  We smile at the way you have blessed us through the life of Winnie Fark.  I feel like I have been enriched just hearing others talk about her.  Thank you for the rich lessons you teach us through the people around us.

Lord, one of the greatest fears we have is that the memories will grow dim.  Please keep the memories sharp and clear in our minds and in our hearts.  Help us to recall the laughter in the times when we lose our perspective on life.  Help us to remember Winnie’s character and example when we are confused and don’t know which way to turn.  Help us to remember her many questions when we lean toward gullibility.  Most of all help us to remember her love; her love for Harry, her love for her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids and great-great grandkids; and her love for life.  Help us to remember all these things so that we can build on her example.

Grant your blessing to this family.  They have such a rich heritage.  Help them to continue to enjoy each other and love each other.  Help them to rise above the stresses of life and cling to each other with the knowledge that family is indeed the greatest treasure that you have given us.

And Lord, we also ask that you open your arms and receive Winnie to yourself.  In her own way she has been searching for you all her life.  Wrap your loving and gracious arms around her and by your incredible mercy grant that though her journey on earth is over, may her real journey just be beginning.  We ask these things in the strong name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

SONG: AMAZING GRACE