First of all, a hearty thanks to you, Judy Keplinger and your team, for the Herculean effort that you put into this 50th anniversary reunion. The posted photos and bios have set off waves of memories, floods of expectation, and not a little anxiety as I contemplate the prospect of seeing friends and classmates for the first time in 50 years. I have always felt honored to be a ’61 Bomber, and have pulled out my class ring on more than one occasion to give it a salute and good-luck rub, but no more so than now as I read the life stories of my classmates and follow the courses they have charted over the past five decades.
And thanks as well to the many classmates who will travel from near and far for the reunion. It will be impossible to rally with everyone but to everyone I say “good health and abiding peace.” I also want to express a special vote of thanks to those classmates who served in the armed forces, especially during the difficult days of the 60s and 70s.
After graduation, I enrolled in Columbia Basin Jr. College for a year, awaiting news about a possible appointment to one of the service academies. The good news is that the appointment came through. The bad news is that I washed out due to health reasons. I say “bad news” but what I really mean is that one door closed and another opened. (The really bad news that year was the sale of my beloved 1956 Chevy convertible which Jim Yount and I drove to Cannon Beach in the summer of ’62 and the purchase of a really “pre-owned” 1952 Ford Customline 4-door sedan, with a 6-cylinder engine. Now that was bad news!)
Bob – per your request, I dug up some photos from that trip (click to enlarge). Somewhere, I’ve got a great shot of the ’56 in front of Haystack Rock. By divine intervention, I’ve misplaced the more interesting ones, but will add them when they turn up. — Jim
Fall of 62 I’m enrolled at Gonzaga in the Honors Program, still intent on a career in engineering, and still doing well thanks to the superb high school education we got at Col High. Then I crashed into two courses (Physical Chemistry and Differential Equations) and one California girl that change my life forever (again). I flopped around helplessly in both courses, got courtesy grades and a gentle nudge out the front door of the Engineering School and into the waiting arms of the Dean of Liberal Arts who turned me into a philosophy/theology/English major. Oh yes, the California girl. That’s Mary Timothy Downs of Coronado, California who had transferred to Gonzaga that year and was working at the coffee bar in the student center. She gave me a free cup of coffee the first time I showed up at the coffee bar. And we got married. Well, not exactly. We waited until she graduated, I graduated, she found a teaching post, and I a graduate school. That was June of 1965. Happily her job and my graduate school (Marquette University) turned out to be in the same city, Milwaukee.
For those of you familiar with modern Roman Catholic history, you’ll know that a big event called the Second Vatican Counsel had changed a lot of things in the Catholic Church; among other things it created a new profession called the “lay theologian.” (In a particular misreading of this profession, or possibly merging the fact that I had grown up in Richland my mother-in-law once introduced me as a “nuclear theologian.”) Marquette gave my my first step along this career track when it awarded me a MA in Theology. Never one to do things half way (and also realizing that the job market was pretty slender, OK, truthfully it was pretty much non existent) I took Mary Tim out to a good German restaurant in Milwaukee, supped her on Kassler Rippchen, Kartoffelsalad, German chocolate cake, and of course the mandatory bottle of Liebfraumilch. At the end of the evening she too thought it a great idea to go to Germany for a year of post graduate studies. Never mind, she said, that we have no money, one child on the runway, another in the hanger. We’ll do just fine.
Ten years later, say more or less 1977, I graduated from the University of Heidelberg cum laude. Our two children, also Mary and Robert, showed great patience with their dad whose studies went on for ever. One night at dinner, little Mary, who had just received a report card and was on her way to third grade asked me why I never got a report card and had to stay in the same grade for so many years. Mary Tim supported the family for all those years by working for the Department of Defense as an overseas teacher. (Her own resume is far more fetching than mine and for the sake of transparency I’ll say that she and four colleagues at Heidelberg Elementary School started an award winning Primary Center). The Heidelberg years brought me into contact with a generation of New and Old Testament scholars who still rank among the giants of the field, and I had the privilege of studying with many of them (pardon the name dropping but here goes: Rudolf Bultmann, Claus Westerman, Erick Dinkler (my doctorvater), Gustav Bornkamm, Hans von Campenhousen, Gert Theissen, H.W. Wolf. In a curious twist of fate I almost did not survive at Heidelberg. After a couple of years of preliminary language study I learned that I had enrolled at the wrong university and could not do a doctorate at Heidelberg because I was Catholic and Heidelberg’s theology faculty was Lutheran. It appeared that I had overlooked that moment in history called the Reformation. To make a long story short I did finish my doctorate at Heidelberg and, as I later learned, as the first Catholic since the Reformation. Now I had no excuse for not remembering that event.
The job market for freshly minted doctors of theology did not look good in the States so a fellow-Coronadian and close friend of Mary Tim’s family, Kelly Clark, invited us to join the faculty at St.Andrew’s Theological Seminary in Manila, Philippines where he served as Dean. Those years, 1977 to 1980, catapulted Mary and me, as well as our children, into a world of missionary and humanitarian work that tumbled and humbled us as we saw the resourcefulness, resilience, and hope that pervaded a part of the world (Southeast Asia) that we had only known from new stories breaking out of Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. We are still tallying up our take-away from those three extraordinary years. But one thing we know for sure: we received more than we gave from the mountain tribes in the Cordillera Range of northern Luzon and the Moors of Mindanao. Our third child, Jennifer John, was born in Manila.
By 1980, our host organizations, the Philippine Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church USA, had built up a top-notch teaching and administrative staff at St. Andrews and it was time to go home. We had been expatriates for 13 years and longed to be closer to our legacy families. Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri invited Bob to join the faculty as a professor of New Testament, while the public school system in Springfield hired Mary as an elementary school teacher. In 1990 I left the university for a position with the American Bible Society in New York. An offer to become engaged in translation work turned my head and heart away from teaching and toward a very practical application of the knowledge and skills I had accumulated over the past two decades. Quite unexpectedly the work turned into a grand experiment that lasted for 10 years when the Bible society invested in a multimedia translation project and asked me to help carry responsibility for the production of MTV-style music videos, based on biblical stories. One of the early videos ( “The Gerasene Demoniac”) won several industry awards and made it into the nomination process for an Academy Award short film. Over the course of 10 years, the Bible society produced 8 music videos, and I had the privilege of working with talent such as actor Jim Cavezel, delta blues vocalist Rory Block and musical groups such as Sweet Honey and the Rock, and the Women of the Calabash.
In 2003 Mary and I, now empty nesters, moved to New York where I took up a leadership post at the Bible Society for 5 years before retiring in 2008. We lived for the first two years in a small Battery Park apartment on the 35th floor of One West Street, just a few blocks off the World Trade Center site. For the last three years we lived aboard our 45′ sailboat (the MaryTim), in Port Washington, Long Island. On retirement the Mary Tim followed us west, to Blaine, Washington where we summered and cruised in the San Juan and Gulf Islands for three years. We spent the winters in reverse-snow-bird mode, living close to children and grandchildren (5 in all counting Scotty who died at birth) in Columbia, Missouri.
Though retired, I continue to work as a consultant to the Bible Society. I share an art studio in Columbia with our daughter Jenny, whose is an established local and regional fine artist. I’ve taken up creative writing thanks to writers workshops I joined a few years ago. This summer, the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild awarded one of my non-fiction pieces its Editor’s Choice and First Place Award.
Mary Tim and I celebrated 46 years of marriage this summer at our retreat in Ocean Shores, WA. We’ll return to Columbia shortly after the reunion.
The five decades since high school graduation feel like a twinkle in time. But the light that sparkles from that twinkle stretches backwards in time to Richland and Col High and forward into a future that I’m grateful to share with Mary, our children and grandchildren and that is populated with memories of friends like Mike Mathis whose footfalls I can still hear behind me.
To our grandchildren I would say: “Fear nothing. 95% of life is grace. The rest is just showing up. Right now my favorite thing to do is showing up. My favorite place in the world is where Mary Tim and I happen to be at the moment. Bucket list? That would be a very long train ride.
Bob Hodgson, Class of 1961