ODE TO ISLA
We received a text today from Tom and Judy Price which reminded us that it was three years ago today that my mother-in-law Isla (Ila) Kercher passed away.
Isla was a truly unique and wonderful person and a faithful follower of Christ, loyal to her church, one who loved her family.Isla was a member of what is now Timberline Church for over 50 years. She and Debbie’s dad Elmer served faithfully and consistently during those 50 years. It may have been as a School teacher, deacon, greeter, helper or just someone who befriended others.
Elmer and Isla were committed to faithful service. Paul the Apostle wrote:
“ Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” 1Corinthians 4:2 (NKJV)
If you make your way to Fort Logan National Cemetery to Lot 11, the third row from the street and just south of a pine tree you will find the classic white military headstone that bears Elmer and Isla’s names.One that headstone with the names and dates and rank and years of military service you will find two word, “Found Faithful.”
This commitment in life had its origins in their relationship to Christ. Elmer and Isla were a classic couple representing the “greatest generation.” They both came from families of challenging circumstances. Not overtly Christian and not raised in an environment of love and acceptance. They were married at age 20 on a Sunday morning and the next day Elmer and Isla traveled to Paris (Texas that is) where he began his basic training after his enlistment for service in the army at Fort Logan.
When Elmer returned from Europe after the end of World War II, they attended Central Bible Institute in Springfield Missouri. As a young couple they made a commitment to live for God and establish a godly heritage for the generations that would come. That included their own family as well as those they would influence.
They were ahead of their time in feeling a call to children’s ministry. At the time it was more reflected in equipping Sunday School teachers, leading Vacation Bible Schools for churches and things that we take for granted now but were not as highly valued in the early 1950’s. I found it interesting that Becky Wickstrom remembered Elmer and Isla conducting a teacher training seminar at the church she attended as a teen. (Lynn and Becky Wickstrom became known for their life time commitment to conducting children’s crusades across the country)
When doors did not open up for their primary calling, Elmer and Isla served briefly as the Pastors of the Assembly of God in New Raymer, Colorado. One day I was visiting with Lola Spradley the former Speaker of the Colorado House. I discovered her family was from New Raymer. As we talked she told me her family had purchased the old Assemblies of God church building and converted it into their home.
After leaving New Raymer, Elmer and Isla return to Greeley where Elmer worked in the construction and Isla began her career in retail shoe sales. Her work led them to Fort Collins, where she managed the shoe department at the historic State Dry Goods building and Elmer eventually began his work with the US Post Office. Isla like to say that in those early days, “I knew everyone’s shoe size and Elmer knew their address.”
Isla was one the few working professional women when Sue and Debbie were growing up. When the State Dry Goods building burned down she began employment with the Pat Griffin Company. Pat Griffin pioneered the concept of self-service gasoline station service. That is something we take for granted now and the technology over time has facilitated the concept. Isla worked several years in Denver for Asamera Oil Company, of all things her duties included serving as the dispatcher for oil trucks.
When Isla “retired” she just worked part-time at the CSU Bookstore. But that was Isla always on the go and being active, making herself useful, working in her garden. She would call Debbie and the first words out of her mouth were, “what did you do today?” And then she would proceed to talk about all that she had accomplished.
When Debbie’s dad passed away Isla purchased the home we are living in now on White Willow Drive. She preferred this location because she didn’t “want just to be around old people.” She would say, “I like young people, as a matter of fact I collect them.” During their years some of the dearest lifelong friendships were those developed with students attending CSU.
There are many Isla memories and stories. From her opinion about shoes, fashion and colors and people. (She preferred white and sometimes off white, at least subtle colors) She would have adored her great granddaughters, even though her advice to her grandchildren was to stop having babies. But aside from great memories of the woman who became known as “geegee” (for great-grandmother) is the fact that the faith has been passed on to the third generation of a young couple raised up in the Great Depression, tempered by World War and changing times, yet they kept their wedding vows and commitment that “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
Picture above taken at Sue and Sam’s house in Wellington in 2009 with Debbie, Ken, Sue and “adopted” daughter Judy Price. Sam was the photographer.