I’ve never known a better man than Bob. I will miss him.
My friend Bob died yesterday. I think he was in his late eighties. Thirty-nine years ago his friendship and confidence in me changed my life forever.
I was a recent graduate from the University of California in Santa Cruz and Bob Carle was the chair of the Christian Education Committee at the First Presbyterian Church, Santa Cruz, the church that had become my spiritual home during my college years. I had stayed in Santa Cruz rather than going on to graduate school as I had planned (I was going to be a history professor), and was working as an instructional aide in a school for profoundly disabled kids. It paid the rent.
One day in May, 1975, Bob asked me to lunch. We went to Gilda’s at the end of the municipal wharf that juts out into Monterey Bay. Over our clam chowder we talked about lots of things, but mostly the work of the church with the children and youth of the congregation and community. I had been involved in the youth program as a volunteer, so I knew the program and, yes, I knew the church was looking for a Director of Christian Education and Youth. In fact, I was hoping they might ask me about applying for the position, but I wasn’t quite ready to risk applying. They might say no.
But Bob said yes. Where I was unsure of myself, Bob had confidence. The long story short is that on July 1, 1975 I became the Christian Education and Youth Director at First Presbyterian Church. Those were good years. The program prospered. Nearly a hundred fourth through sixth graders at Dynamite Tuesday every week after school. Active junior and senior high school groups that backpacked in the High Sierra in the summer and hit the slopes in the winter. Sunday night basketball, volleyball and, um, butts up. Bible study and small group discussion. And Sunday School, lots of kids in Sunday School. Who could forget the People’s Potluck (this was California in the 1970’s, after all).
It took a lot of people to make the youth and Christian Education program at First Presbyterian Church work as well as it did. Lee and Emily, Bob and Louise, Norm, Alice and Ivan, Don and Nancy, Carol, Norm and Sharon, Ellen – and that girl named Becky I was beginning to notice. Those were good years, and they were amazing workers.
Behind all that amazing team did in those good years was the chariman of our committee, Bob, and his gracious wife Ann (who made sure the Sunday School was running well while I was off playing with the kids).
Bob Carle owned a lighting store and electrical contracting business in Santa Cruz. He was an entrepreneur of considerable success. I learned a lot just from watching him run his businesses.
But more than all else, Bob was a Christian. He expressed his faith best as a man of the church and for the church. I was not the only young person he encouraged and supported in their early years of ministry. Bob loved us because he loved Christ and the church. And long after I left First Presbyterian Church, Bob was still following Christ by loving the church.
If Bob Carle had not invited me to lunch at Gilda’s that spring day in 1975, I probably would have gone on to graduate school sooner or later, and, who knows, I might have made a decent professor. But I think the plans Bob had were God’s plans. Serving the church for all these years has made for much more than a decent life.
I owe Bob Carle a huge debt of gratitude. I’ve remembered Bob every time I’ve had the opportunity to encourage a young person who thinks he or she just might be gifted for ministry. And I’m still trying to learn to love the church like Bob loved the church. It’s what Christians do.
I’ve never known a better man than Bob. I will miss him. I rejoice with Ann that Bob has heard the Lord of the Church say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
See you Sunday