My first memory of Uncle Leonard was quite different. He was in the kitchen at the house on Washington Blvd on Christmas morning, making scrambled eggs. I remember having two thoughts, first was Wow, he cooks eggs like My Daddy …my second thought was yuck, he puts cheese in his eggs. That was the beginning of the tradition of Christmas mornings with the Williams house. Each year it was Christmas breakfast at the Williams’ and 4th of July bar-b-cue at the Abel’s. I can clearly see now that the only reason St. John and Allen Chapel had Easter sunrise service together was so Uncle Leonard and Daddy could find one more holiday to eat together.
These were men who had greatly influenced my life, and the lives of many of my “PK” friends…We were never allowed to call them by their first name, we would and will never be that grown, but we were given the honor of calling them Uncle or Dad, because that is what they were. These men had a friendship that went beyond today’s definition of that word. They had learned to agree to disagree, which today is a lost art form. They knew there were church issues and situations that were bigger than themselves, and yet they did what they thought was best for the Church of Allen. They knew that next to God, family came first and foremost, all other things, including church, were a distant second. They knew that even if they had opposing positions, and many times they did, deep down each genuinely believed in their individual point of view, respected the others opinion, and moved on towards making it all work together for the good.
They would travel all over the country, picking each other up along the way for these amazing road trips to church conferences…Uncle Leonard could weave such tales about these adventures that you just wanted to be around to hear them because you knew they were going to very funny and very grown up..…like the time they flirted so much with a waitress at the hotel restaurant, that she really became upset when Mom and Aunt Delores showed up to eat dinner with them. Or the time they flirted with a border agent, they and the car had to be searched before crossing over to go to the Canadian Conference. I remember wanting to always listen to his stories, that I would pretend to be asleep on my Mother’s lap listening and could almost get away with it until Uncle Leonard would say something that would inevitably make me giggle, and I was immediately banished from the room.
I learned many things from Uncle Leonard…Hymns that only he knew and would try to sing at every opportunity. I learned that if each one reached one, changes could happen not only at the corner of 11th and College, but in the whole wide world…I never told him, but that belief started my journey in the non-profit world. I also learned that I would never be in retail sales or any type of sales, because I never could sell those Daily Reports at General Conference, but I think that is where my sister got her killer business instincts, selling those papers. And I am not ashamed to say I learned that if you are going to play Bid Whist, follow the board, know what has been played, bid to make your books and play to win. That lesson particularly helped me out in college…
Uncle Leonard was part of a dynasty of Pastors that continued to build on the foundation that is now the Indiana Conference. Even today, when I go to conferences, I always think to myself, that is not how they did it at home.
When I got the call telling me that Uncle Leonard was gone, my first thought was that the final member of the “Three Amigos” had joined the party. Daddy, Uncle Bob Phillips, and Uncle Leonard are together again, laughing and having a great time. They are joined by Uncle JP Henning, Uncle AR Polk, Uncle Elmer Arnold, Uncles Walter (Reid and Parks) and Uncle Henderson Davis. If you were a preacher’s kid in the 70’s or 80’s you knew that these men were your safety and security.
These men drove us, and fed us. Housed us and Lord knows they financed us. They gave us direction and correction, prayed on, hoped on, hugged on and loved each and every one of us. They kept an eye on us to make sure that no harm came our way. If we found one of them, they answered for all of them. I can remember as a child, when I could not find my parents at a conference, I would stand still in the lobby and just listen…I knew I would eventually hear the deep voice and see the towering profile of Uncle Bob, or the laughter of Daddy. If I moved a bit, I would see Uncle JP would be sitting by his tape copying equipment, or Uncle Walter, Reid that is, standing right outside the building. And then when all else failed, there was Uncle Leonard. He would always just magically appear as if he knew we were looking for our Dad’s, and he would always know just where they would be. They guys were the best lobby lizards ever. We thought we were grown, charging meals to our hotel room with our little 6th grade signatures, because if one of us ate, we all ate. So while we got money to play pinball in the arcade. Or roamed the convention center, collecting buttons for people who became Bishop or those who never would, watching candidates cheerleaders do their thing, McAshan, McAshan, McAshan, McAshan Mac-A-Shan for Bishop… You always knew that no harm would come to you because one of them was always there, keeping a watchful eye…
So from Dorinda and Jackie; Audra and Aundra; Cherise, Duane and Valerie; Lydia and Martha; Laurie and Rodric; Pamela, Kevin and Buddy; Rene; and Trent, Reggie, Allycin, and I – along with the many others you took care of….We say thank you Uncle Leonard. We say thank you Delen, LeNette, LeNore, Linda, and Leonard for sharing your Daddy with us.
And so now Uncle Leonard, do me a favor and say hello to our fathers, and to some of our mothers too. We can see them all gazing over Heavens balcony looking at us…sometimes smiling, sometimes crying, and sometimes shaking your heads at some of the silly things we do. Because now you too join them Uncle Leonard, another witness in the gallery of heaven. You taught us many things, but the greatest lesson is this, found in Romans 14th chapter and the 8th verse: “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord, so then whether we live or whether we die, we are of the Lords.” Uncle Leonard, you have lived and you have died. And now Uncle Leonard are of the Lord.