A friend visited me recently and a few days after she returned home I received a package in the mail from her. The box was slightly heavy and it took considerable unpacking and unwinding of bubble wrap and brown paper to reveal the surprise gift.
Inside the carefully wrapped box was an alabaster apple. My first thought: why an apple? As soon as I tilted the apple to admire it I noticed the price sticker still on the bottom with the store name: Payne’s Gifts and Jewelry. The significance and sentimentality struck me. I looked at it again, closely, inspecting it to see if I could recognize Patsye’s handwriting on the sticker. I just know I could still recognize it after all of the years.
It was summer 47 years ago when I walked into Payne’s Gifts and Jewelry as a sixteen year-old for a job interview. I spoke with the owner, Joe Payne who asked me, “How tall are you?” I jumped to my feet and answered, “five three and three-quarters.” I didn’t get the job due to my stature, I got the job because my D.E. (Distributive Education) teacher, Mr. Dye sent me there and Joe, as he insisted I call him, was in the habit of hiring a student about every two years. As soon as one graduated, he hired a high school junior.
I worked at Payne’s Gifts and Jewelry for two years as a D.E. student and two more years post graduation with the privilege of “passing the baton” so to speak to the next D.E. student, Tonya. Passing the baton was more like, passing on the grunt work every D.E. student at Payne’s did as “head gift-wrapper” that included a daily walk to the post office a couple of blocks away in heat, or West-Texas dust storm, or snow, or ice. Imagine a young lady walking two blocks to the post office via an alleyway, with packages awkwardly balanced and stacked to her chin, trying to keep her too-short skirt in place in various weather conditions. I don’t think tote bags had been invented yet, or perhaps it was just part of the learning the definition of tenacity. Those were the days of strict dress codes for school and work. In other words, slacks were not allowed.
At Payne’s not only did I learn how to awkwardly keep a short skirt down on a windy day, I learned customer service, work ethic, and grace when I accidentally switched the mailing labels on two gifts a customer purchased to be shipped. The new parents received a silver-plated bowl and the newlyweds a silver baby spoon.
Joe and Patsye Payne were more than employers: they were another set of parents. They never had children of their own, though they mentored many. Patsye accompanied me to see a specialist. She taught me needlepoint and crewel embroidery. And of course she taught me how to tie hand-made bows for lovely packages!
Payne’s Gifts and Jewelry closed its doors in 1992 after 38 years in business. Joe died seven years later, and Patsye five years after Joe. I still reminisce about working at Payne’s every Christmas, seeing “everyone” who came home for the holidays, and Mavis’ homemade peanut patties.
These memories came flooding back when I opened a gift with a very old price tag. One thing for sure, this intriguing gift is not about the apple!
Today is more difficult because I am removing another piece of Daddy from my shelves. It’s time. It’s time to part with many of his books he used for reference while a seminary student, as a pastor, and as a university professor of religion and Greek.
I’d never considered the ripple effect of his love, his work, until a colleague spoke of it at his funeral. For decades Daddy taught ministerial students – preachers in the making. He counseled them, performed their wedding ceremonies, and sometimes buried their children.
He made an impact. Fred D. Howard was the greatest influence on my life. He was my daddy, the term that reflects affection, that’s who he was to me. I sure do miss him.
And now it’s time to pass on, to another “preacher-in-the-making” some of his books to produce more power to that widening ripple. Some of the books are profoundly marked with underlined text, notes in margins, insights. I’ve kept the numerous bookmarks, perforated strips of dot matrix print paper, right where he left them. The recipient will find them there.
I’ve kept a few books too close to my heart to let go. Though some I’m giving I could use in the future. They need to do more work than sit on my shelves to be occasionally opened. Most will go, to be used again for reference in preparation for a sermon, or Bible study, or perhaps insight for another writer.
Daddy was a prolific writer. I am blessed to have copies of the numerous books and commentaries he authored. I can no longer ask him a theological question, which he typically answered something like, “the Catholics interpret it as … the Presbyterians as… the Baptists as…” and left it at that. Those experiences taught me to think and to form my own opinion. Now when I want to gain a clearer understanding of a New Testament concept, I simply open one of his books. His writing style, his voice is right there. How blessed is that?
Greater than Daddy, is my Abba Father, God. When I want to spend time with Him I can sit quietly or I can pull out His Word, the Bible, penned by men inspired by God, and I can read it.
Though God has a book He continuously writes in:
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8).
I Have a Maker
by Paul Baloche
I have a maker
He formed my heart,
before even time began
My life was in his hands
He knows my name
He knows my every thought,
He sees each tear that falls
and hears me when I call
I have a father,
he calls me his own
He’ll never leave me,
no matter where I go
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
and hears me when I call
In the book of Proverbs, chapter 22, verse 6, the Lord encourages us to teach our children the right path, and when they are older, they will not stray from it. Eddy was a devoted son, brother, husband, father, friend and colleague, and the formative years of his life shaped him into the man we all know and love: quick witted and funny, caring, driven and a leader with a strong work ethic.
For those of you who may not know, Eddy was born in Amarillo and grew up in a large family. He was the third child of 7. In 1956, our family moved from Amarillo to Plainview. At that time, our parents were only 28 and 27 and already had a 5-year-old, a 4-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 16-month-old. By the time Susan and I came along, the Hogge family took up a whole pew at St. Alice Catholic Church.
Eddy went to school through the 6th grade at St. Alice and regularly served as an altar boy during mass. On more than one occasion, our mother watched with fear and trepidation as he lit the tiers of candles around the altar, which were precariously placed next to the burgundy velvet drapes. Legend has it that our priest took out an extra fire insurance policy when Eddy joined the ranks. I might have made up that last part.
A happy go lucky child, Eddy was always ready to take on new adventures. However, he didn’t like surprises. Every Christmas Eve, he went to great lengths to outsmart Santa by sliding a mirror underneath the living room door in the hope that he would catch a glimpse of Old St. Nick and the treasures he left behind. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, if presents were left unguarded beneath the Christmas tree, Eddy would wait until the coast was clear, unwrap every one of his gifts, wrap them back up and then deny that it ever happened.
Eddy was ultimately drawn to life in the big city, but one of the highlights of his childhood was visiting our grandparent’s wheat farm with our older sister, Becky. Every summer, they would help milk the cows, play with our Uncle Jimmy’s elaborate train set and invent new games to play. Unfortunately, one of their games did not go over very well with Grandad Hogge. When they were unable to successfully play a tune on their new harmonicas, they decided a good alternative would be to play a game they called “Toro” with the bull in Grandad’s corral. This involved using their harmonicas as horrendous noisemakers in an attempt to entice the bull to charge at them. Needless to say, that creative game landed them in a big heap of trouble, and they quickly realized that they better “pull in their own horns”, so to speak.
You see, Eddy was a bit of a thrill seeker, and he never really thought about failing. In his mind, missing the target was simply a bump on the road to success. This outlook on life played out vividly during one of our favorite family summer vacations to a private fishing resort in Red River, New Mexico. Just beyond the fishing pier, a single tree stump barely protruded from the surface of the lake, and our parents threatened us within an inch of our lives NOT to climb on it for fear that we would fall into the lake, which was very deep. But the stump beckoned. Confident that his skills were far superior to our parent’s concerns, Eddy fearlessly jumped from the pier to the stump…and promptly fell into the lake. This experience of being “dunked by a stump” was one of many that helped cultivate his spirit of resilience.
Eddy was extremely caring and protective of his sisters. Our neighborhood in Plainview consisted of 37 kids, the majority of which were boys. Always quick to create balance and equality, Eddy made sure that we were included in all of the typical front yard sports as well as Hide and Seek, Red Rover, Mother May I and Red Light Green Light. Unfortunately, his equal rights attitude did not extend to sharing the one bathroom in our home that was designated for all of the Hogge children. Let’s just be honest…Eddy hogged the bathroom. He took longer to get ready for his dates than all of my sisters combined, and he would not come out until his hair looked exactly like Tony Orlando’s. In fact, any time he wanted the bathroom and it was occupied, he would simply pick the lock with a bobby pin and pop us on the backside with a wet towel until we surrendered.
For as long as we can remember, Eddy was outgoing, popular with his peers and driven to succeed. During high school, he developed strong leadership skills as President of Student Council, Class President, and as a first string varsity player for the baseball and football teams. While he was president of the Key Club, he also demonstrated a genuine heart for serving others. For several years, he coordinated a Christmas food distribution initiative in partnership with the Plainview Salvation Army. It was a tremendous success, largely because of Eddy’s ability to inspire others to volunteer and then make it fun and rewarding for everyone.
In addition to extra-curricular activities at school, Eddy developed a strong work ethic and the discipline to remain laser-focused on achieving his goals. He mowed lawns in junior high, saved all of his earnings and bought a car for $500 long before he was old enough to drive it. Eddy’s first introduction to the health care field came through a class during his senior year that allowed him to work in a medical lab for half of every school day. He was so excited about this opportunity that he gave up his starting position on the varsity football team so he could accept it. He spent his high school summers paving roads and throughout college, he worked for an appliance company and still carried a full load of classes at Texas Tech University.
Eddy met the love of his life at Texas Tech, and the rest is history. We knew from the beginning that Jana was the perfect life partner for him, and for over three decades Eddy was fiercely devoted to their marriage and their two daughters.
Every person has a longing to be significant; to make a contribution; to be a part of something noble and purposeful. Eddy left us way too soon, but he definitely left this world better than he found it. He stayed true to the path he was shown by our parents and remained deeply rooted in unwavering loyalty to his family and friends. He was also firmly dedicated to his colleagues at Cardinal Health, and he embraced daily life with a sense of humor that was contagious to everyone around him.
On behalf of the entire Hogge family, thank you so much for being here today to help celebrate Eddy’s life – and more importantly, thank you for the countless moments of joy you shared with him throughout his life.
POST MEMORIAL NOTE: Eddy wanted all useable parts of his body to be donated. Prior to cremation, this request was honored and all body and skin parts were harvested.
Eddy is preceded in death by his father, William R. “Bill” Hogge and an infant brother, John Michael. He is survived by his wife, Jana; and their daughters, Caitlin Byrne of North Richland Hills and Jamie Hogge of Carrollton. He also is survived by his mother, Helen Hogge of Plainview, Texas; sisters Becky Disbrow of Eureka, Mont., Kay Hogge of Austin, Susan Atchley of Austin and Jeanne Marie Ellis of Lakeway; a brother, Larry Hogge of Silver City, N.M.; and son-in-law, Drew Byrne.
In an instant Eddy was gone. Heart attack. His sister Kay called with the news. I remember the first time I met Eddy and Kay and their three other siblings, Larry, Becky and Susan. It was Christmas 1960. I was six years old. The doorbell rang and when the door opened the Hogge family began singing Christmas carols. They invited me to join them in caroling around the block and I was ushered out the door by my parents.
The next half-dozen summers were spent with Kay and me shuffling back and forth between our houses in childhood play and sleepovers. We fought in army dugouts, rode in a wagon train, went to the moon, and lived vicariously through Barbie and Ken in my Barbie Dream House. Though Eddy was my age, I really didn’t pay much attention, he was simply Kay’s older brother.
When Jeanne was born in 1965 there were now six kids at the Hogge house and six belonging to the Howards down the street. I honestly believed the neighbors thought the Catholics and Baptists were having a contest and the Hogge’s evened the score.
My early exposure to Catholicism was on a Saturday afternoon when Mr. Hogge took me along with his kids to spend our weekly allowance at Perry’s five and dime. (Yes, those were the days when you could actually buy something for a nickel or dime.) Afterwards we stopped by Saint Alice Catholic Church for them to attend confession. I was perplexed by Kay and Becky scouring the floorboard of the station wagon to find anything white to cover their heads. Kay straightened a wadded tissue and placed it on top of her head and I waited in the car until they all returned from this unusual event.
The Hogge children attended private school until Eddy and I entered the seventh grade and then for the next half-dozen years Hogge and Howard were in the same homeroom. This meant every day of the school year we were in a short class period usually sitting in alphabetical order. Eddy eased right into public school and was immediately well-liked for his genuine affable personality.
The following year, Eddy was quite popular and our Student Council President. As part of his duty he was the one to reveal our Western Day Queen with a kiss on her cheek. He paraded behind the line of seated cowgirls with their cowboys all dressed in western attire. I was one of those cowgirls hopefully anticipating queenship yet knew it couldn’t possibly be me. Eddy passed behind me and on down the line of seated couples. I could only hear the sound of his footsteps and see the anxious crowd in the stands. He bent forward and kissed me on the cheek. My cowboy said, “I didn’t think you’d make it.” And Eddy said, “I never had a doubt.” That was the best thing Eddy Hogge ever said to me.
And forty-eight fast-flying years later he was gone at the age of sixty-one.
I asked Kay what I could do to help. “Would you go through the high school yearbooks and take photos of Eddy for the memorial?” Those books of treasured memories sit conveniently on the shelf. It took longer than I anticipated as I perused and reminiscence. Eddy was a class favorite, on the student council every year, president of the Key Club and sang in the school choir. He played varsity football, baseball and was an honor student. I thought of the contrast: choir boy and tough athlete realizing Eddy was true to himself. I did not remember all of the activities Eddy participated in school that are forever his history.
I remember that kid down the street who finally talked his mother into allowing him to have a dog. He had a summer job mowing lawns and had saved his money. He got a puppy and named her Dolly. After having her “fixed” Dolly kept chewing out her stitches and died. Eddy cried.
I remember the time he accidentally shot me in the eye with a rubber band. I went home embarrassed, crying. Shortly afterward the doorbell rang and there stood Eddy and his dad. Eddy apologized.
I remember how tan and tired Eddy looked the summers he worked paving roads. Eddy persevered.
I remember his smile, his cheerful demeanor, the “bubblegum” tunes like “Red Rubber Ball” Eddy sang.
I remember the redundant typical written phrase in everyone’s yearbook: “You will go far in life.” About Eddy Hogge: “I never had a doubt!”