Tag Archives: Peru

Polly Prays Hard

Taylor Sr, Marcia, Steve, Virginia, 12.10.1966

Taylor, Marcia, Steve, and Virginia at Steve and Marcia’s Wedding, 12.10.1966

[Marcia]: Steve was a little bit conflicted about whether he should ask me to marry him and then go off to Peru because he had the plan to go down to Peru for a few months. He went and consulted with Dr. Ockenga [pastor, Park Street Church] on the matter and Dr. Ockenga told him to “Give her a ring. Give her a ring!” So he did, actually.

[Steve]: I went out from his office and went down and bought the ring. From then.

[Stephanie?]: Really?

[Marcia]: From the office.

[Kimberly?]: Oh, I was expecting a telephone call. He said “give her a ring.”

[Marcia]: So on Easter Sunday morning, he said, “Let’s go to a sunrise service.” So, OK, I got up and got ready to go to a sunrise service. It turns out we never got to a sunrise service. We did go to a beach.

[Virginia]: Sneaky guy.

[Marcia]: We did go to a beach and he proposed to me and I came home with a ring.

[Kimberly]: Tell about your love-letters over the radio.

[Marcia]: Oh, OK. So previously though—this is probably why Aunt Polly was praying hard—previously we communicated by letters when he was in Peru. Oh, OK, that’s after the engagement. I’m getting confused.

So then he went off to Peru and we would write to each other. When he went out to the tribe with Bob Tripp, then my letters to him would come as far as the base where Lee and your dad were. So then they would have a radio hookup on a regular basis and she would read my letters to him over the radio.

[Kathy]: Where everybody who was on ham radio could hear it.

[Marcia]: Absolutely. Everybody would listen in. “Oh, we used to listen to those. We used to tune in at the appointed time and listen to those love letters.”

[Gail?]: Like a soap opera.

[Marcia]: No, I didn’t know. He may have, he may have written to me and said, you know, just something about that.

[Heidi]: It’s doubtful.

[Stephanie]: Knowing my dad.

[Steve]: Cool it, Sweetheart.

[Marcia]: Anyway, so what did happen to me was—because we had only dated for four months and he was gone longer than that, I started to wonder: do I really know this man I’m going to get married to? That started to be reflected in the letters and he did decide to not stay as long. I think he was going to stay to the end of November and pop home and we were going to get married in December.

[Gail?]: Get married the next month?

[Marcia]: So anyway, he came home sooner and we got reconnected.

That’s probably why Aunt Polly was praying hard, see, because she and Bob had worked hard to get us together. She didn’t want us to break up.

[Dawn]: Well, and I there was that one letter that Dad wrote to Grandma [MacGregor], right? Or didn’t write to Grandma.

[Heidi]: Oh, yes. It showed up empty.

[Dawn]: It was empty. He just folded up a bunch of those air forms and he. . . .

[Marcia]: Oh, and he didn’t write anything.

[Kathy]: He had it all addressed and everything.

[Marcia]: Oh, to Grandma MacGregor?

[Dawn]: What is this about?

[Marcia]: So we did get married, December 10th, 1966, at Newton Presbyterian Church.

Some of the people in the tribe—because he used to keep my picture up, somewhere on the radio or somewhere—so they told him to come back and bring Marcia and “the baby.” I guess they presumed that, you know, there would be a child involved already.

[Steve]: One of the things they gave to me was a long strip of sacha bacha [sic], you know the miles cake [sic], a strap of that, and that was called a “wife-beater.”

[Victoria]: Really?

[Steve]: Yes. And I use it all the time.

[Stephanie?]: And on the girls.

[Victoria]: Oh, come on!

[Marcia]: So you know who the joker is in our family, right? You’ve got that figured out.

[Steve]: It wasn’t a joke.

[Dawn]: Spousal abuse is not a joke.

[Marcia]: That’s right.

[Dawn]: It’s not.

[Steve]: But that wasn’t spousal abuse. It was training.

[Bruce? groaning]: Oh.

story told by Marcia (Steve’s wife) to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014 with additions from Kathy Courtright, Gail Montez, Bruce Kindberg, Virginia Gorman (Lee’s children), Steve, and Steve’s daughters Heidi, Kimberly, Stephanie and Dawn; recorded and transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • We have Betty’s courtship and engagement story. Anybody want to relay what you recall of the others?
  • Kindberg kids or Lee: can you confirm the name and spelling (English and Amarakaeri) of the plant about which my dad is joking?
  • Marcia, Steve: Are we still in possession of these letters? Could I have them or copies, please? Remember, all of Peru has already heard them, so what’s a few more family members?

The Royal We: Peru to Sandwich

[Eric]: So, wait. You were in Peru before you went to Italy?

[Steve]: Yup.

[Eric]: You went down to help my dad.

[Steve]: No, I went to help Dr. Eikenberger in the clinic as a lab technician.

[Eric]: And you went out to the tribe with Bob Tripp?

[Steve]: I went out to the tribe with Bob Tripp, whom you may meet. I don’t know if he’s still about?

[Kathy?]: His wife. . . .

[Steve]: And she was in Peru, too, but that was long before they were married.

[Kathy?]: Right.

[Steve]: Anyway, so yes, we came back from Peru, got married, went to Italy, had two childrens in that episode, the bambinos, bambinas.

Steve and Marcia's Four Girls, maybe 1980

Steve and Marcia’s Four Girls, maybe 1980

[Marcia]: Let me just say that Uncle Wally said, when we got married, “We have a lot of boys in the family, so why don’t you have some girls. So we did our best to live up to his request.”

[Steve]: And that’s all we have [4 girls] and grandchild, too.

[Heidi]: Grand-girl.

[Steve]: Grand-girl. Grand-girl.

So when we came back to the States, I had taken the ECFMG [Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates], which is an exam for internationals who want to get into medicine or do medical practice here in the United States. While I was doing an externship, I found out that I was accepted in that. Oh, that was part of the exam that I took during the years that I came back when Dawn was born [1970]. Yes.

But anyway, came back. We did an internship at the Waltham Hospital. And then we went into residency for surgery at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton, or part of Boston, Massachusetts. From there, we went to work with the American Indians, the Sioux Indians out in South Dakota.

[Virginia?]: That’s right. You guys gave us a quilt when we got married that was made there or in that area.

Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux 8 Point Star Quilt

Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux 8 Point Star Quilt

[Steve]: Yes. They’re very proud of that work that they do in the quilting. That particular quilt comes from specifically that area, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Indians. So we spent five years there.

At the same time, the same evening, we felt the Lord was speaking to both of us, but separately, that it was time that we do what we had originally thought we were going to be doing, that is getting up and going to a third world situation. The good probability was going to be Angola.

So we applied to a mission. We were refused because somehow they thought we were very charismatic. We had attended an Assembly of God church—never became members—but that was very evangelical and we really learned to love the Lord even more there. Because the mission was so connected to fundamental theology or at least thoughts, they refused us. Later, it was overturned because they realized that we weren’t going to be setting up a Holy Spirit program.

When we applied, we went out to Angola to do the medicine that we felt God had called us to do and use that as a vehicle for sharing the gospel. So we were out there. We were 17 years in Angola. The national language, or the trade language, was Portuguese. It was one of the colonies of Portugal. All the time that we were there, except for one year, we were in the middle of war. A lot of my surgery had to do with wartime injuries, earlier especially.


[T. J.]: I remember mom talking.

[Steve]: Yeah.

[T. J.]: She was always worried about that, about you guys.

[Steve]: Well, uh, in retrospect, we had a place out in an area called Menongue, which was guarded by Cuban troops and I had four girls out there. I wasn’t worried enough. In retrospect, I should have been.

Anyway, we stayed there for 17 years in Angola and then came home and set up shop on Cape Cod in a house that we had arranged for ten years earlier. Nine years earlier? Nine years earlier [1989] on Cape Cod. It was a buyers’ market because there were so many houses on the market to be sold. We were able to get a good deal on this house that is in a place called Sandwich.

We’ve been working there. I’ve been working as a first assistant, they call it, in surgery. In other words, I am not the surgeon in charge, but I am the second pair of hands on many different kinds of surgery.

[Virginia?]: Are you liking that variety?

[Steve]: Yes. Yup. I’m keeping my hands in it long after many other surgeons just close up shop and go home.

[T. J.]: You’re doing that now?

[Steve]: Now. Yes.

The joy, as I put in that record to Brett, the joy that I’ve seen in most recent times, is the joy of discipling, of introducing the love of Christ to one person or more. We have a Bible study at the hospital. But to be spending time with a person to see them either first accept the Lord as their savior or to grow in the Lord—grow at the beginning or grow during the time. And I liken it to one of the deliveries that we do. I’m often involved in a caesarian section and it’s a joy to see a baby born, whether it’s the usual way or the unusual way of caesarian, but to see a baby born, this is to see in a life to be growing. It’s sort of exciting. There’s a great joy in discipling people, to see them grow.

So that sort of fills out where we’ve been, where I’ve been. Perhaps it’s time for Marcia to fill in the real story, the other side of the story, and tell the honest truth.

story told by Steve to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014 with questions from Eric Kindberg (Lee’s son), Kathy Courtright (Lee’s daughter), Virginia Gorman (Lee’s daughter), and T. J. Ramey (Kathryn’s son); recorded and transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • Can you fill in the details about Eikenberger? Have I spelled his name correctly? What is his first name? What sort of lab work did you do, Dad/Steve?
  • What was Bob Tripp’s wife’s name?
  • Can you tell in more detail the story of the dual call to Angola on the same night?
  • And what were you doing in 1989, while Marcia and Steve were buying a house on Cape Cod?

Daredevil Douglas

Doug and Virginia going to school, Lomalinda, Colombia, n. d.

Doug and Virginia going to school, Lomalinda, Colombia, n. d.

[Virginia, showing photograph]: My brother—he was two years older than me—he was killed in a motorcycle accident down in Colombia [December 21, 1983], so this is a memorial of him. He was very good on a motorcycle and also a daredevil, as was . . . as is my sister. So you have a son named Douglas. This is my brother Douglas and I named my son Douglas after my brother.

[T. J.]: And my Douglas was a daredevil, also.

[Virginia]: Oh is that right?

This was a memorial motorcycle trip down to Peru [sic]. They went over the Andes. Well, anyway, they had a memorial for my brother up in the Andes Mountains. They built a rock memorial and so they were dedicating it.

Bruce Kindberg at Doug's Memorial, July 2010, courtesy of Doug Bondurant

Bruce Kindberg at Doug’s Memorial, July 2010, courtesy of Doug Bondurant

[Kathy?]: There’s Bruce [Lee’s son] at the memorial.

[Virginia]: Yeah. That was up in the Andes Mountains in Peru.

[Steve]: That’s Dougie [shows another photograph].

[Virginia]: Is that Dougie?

[Steve]: Yup. I think I might have taken that picture.

[Virginia]: You may have.

[Steve]: Yup.

story told by Virginia Gorman (Lee’s daughter) with T. J. Ramey (Kathryn’s son), Steve, and Kathy Courtright (Lee’s daughter) to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014; recorded and transcribed by Dawn (Steve’s daughter)

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • Anyone else in the family—past or present—named Douglas?
  • Which Kindberg sister is the daredevil on the motorcycle?
  • Virginia, can you guess at a date for the photo?
  • I know it’s tough to relive, but if anyone wants to tell about the accident in more detail, we’ll listen.
  • Bruce, do you want to tell about the memorial trip? Was the memorial trip indeed taken in July of 2010 as I’ve noted on the photo? Who all went? From where to where? How long did it take? What else would you like tell us about it?
  • Family, do recall hearing about Doug’s death? Can you tell us about your experience?
  • Steve, can you point us to the photo you were thinking about toward the end of this piece?

Put on a Little Accent, Ace Medical School

Steve and Marcia, Venice, ca. 1967 to 1969

Steve and Marcia, Venice, ca. 1967 to 1969

[Steve]: When I got out of the military, I finished up my degree at Boston University. Then I started to do some graduate work in psychology, also at Boston University. I then met Marcia on that blind date. You remember that story? Perhaps.

[Eric]: No, I don’t.

[Steve]: Well, Marcia.

[Marcia]: You want me to tell that story?

[Steve]: You want Marcia to tell that story? It’ll be her turn to tell the story.

[Multiple Voices]: Yeah! Tell it. Tell it.

[Steve]: She’ll probably tell the truth. Yup.

We dated for four months. I asked her . . . to marry her and then I went off to Peru. To escape.

[Virginia]: To get away from that.

[Eric]: You got cold feet.

[Steve]: I got cold feet, yeah. [Laughter.] In fact she got a little bit of cold feet while I was away in Peru.

[Heidi]: And we just found out Aunt Polly—the whole time—was like, “That was the worst mistake! He shouldn’t have done it!” And was praying fervently during the whole time he was in Peru.

[Virginia]: Is that right?!

[Stephanie?]: Praying about what?

[Heidi]: Aunt Polly was like, “Oh, yeah, when he left for Peru, I just thought ‘What is he doing?’ so I prayed and I prayed and I prayed because they should get married.” That’s what Aunt Polly said.

[Virginia?]: Oh, oh, oh, I thought she was praying against them.

[Heidi]: No. No. No. Because she just thought. . . .

[Virginia?]: I thought, “What’s she have against you that . . . ?”

[Marcia]: Bob and Aunt Polly always said they were Mr. and Mrs. Cupid because they got us together and so she was probably worried that it was going to fall apart.

[Virginia?]: They set up this blind date?

[Heidi]: Yes.

[Marcia]: Yes.

[Steve]: Oh, yeah.

[Marcia]: I’ll tell you the story when you pass it to me.

[Steve]: When it’s her turn.

So then when we did get married in December of 1966, we were married for—I don’t know—six months or seven months. And then I had applied for medical school here, but at the time there were 15, 14 applications to get into medical school for every person that got in. So it was very difficult to get into medical school. I went to try to get into Italy, of all places, a historically medical area and got in. So we went to Italy, Marcia and I. It was there that Dawn—no, Dawn was born back in the States and we came home.

[Mary Lynn]: How’d you learn enough Italian to do that?

[Steve, puts on Italian accent]: It’s a-just-a talkin’ about what-a you talkin’ about in English, but then you put on a little accent and you all set.

[Victoria]: He looks like Italian. He really looks like Italian.

[T. J.]: I’ve always been impressed that he was able to pull that off.

[Mary Lynn]: Can you both speak Italian?

[Stephanie]: Only when he’s trying to speak Portuguese.

[Steve]: Only when I’m trying to speak Portuguese, that’s right. We had to learn Portuguese, so it became very difficult to maintain the Italian. In fact, the Italian did come out when I was speaking in a group.

[Mary Lynn]: Did you go to language school before you went to medical school?

[Steve]: I learned a little bit of Italian before we left, before I left, and when I got there, before I started medical school—just a couple of months, I learned some more Italian.

[Mary Lynn?]: So you went to Italy with Dawn?

[Marcia]: No. Dawn wasn’t born. We had only been married for a few months when we went.

[Steve]: So it was three years [before Dawn was born].

[Marcia]: We were married December ’66 and went to Italy for September of the following year.

[Steve]: So we stayed in Italy and it was more than four years. It was six years total with internship there. Pardon?

[Heidi]: So they were there and then came back to the States to have Dawn and then went back to Angola. I mean Italy.

[T. J.]: All the classes were taught in Italian, right?

[Steve]: Italian. Actually, there was one of the first classes, the guy wanted to show how much he knew of English and he spoke to some of us in English, but the rest—no, it was the exam. He called the exam—I would give the exam, or take the exam in front of four or six professors and a class full of students behind me and, but one of the first ones was in English. He was trying to show off how much he knew of English, so that was a help.

[Virginia?]: Were there other students, then, that were American?

[Steve]: American, yeah. There were about 20.

[Marcia]: 30.

[Steve]: 20 or 30?

[Marcia]: Maybe 20. With the spouses there were 30.

[Steve]: In that area. And there were many in Italy, in Bologna, a place in central Italy. So Dawn was born back in the States—we went back—and Heidi was born in Italy. She says she was born in a boot, like ‘course the shape of Italy is a book, so that’s her little poem.

[Marcia]: I just wanted to add about the language. You were asking about the language. In addition to him taking those 6 weeks of language study before he left, he always said that the advantages were that they used American and British texts for medical school. So he just bought his texts in English. They had to buy them, the Italians bought the translated copies. Then everything is Latin-based. You know, the medical language is Latin-based, so that made it easier also. He used the medical terms that were Latin. And then the exams were all oral. There wasn’t that much written material, so and it’s easier to speak than to write it out if you’re living in the culture. As he said, there were several, you know, professors that wanted you to know that they could speak English; then they would let you do your exam in English. There were a few, you know, that were saying, “This is Italy, so you do it in Italian.” There were some advantages that we had that way.

story told by Steve, Marcia [Steve’s wife], and Heidi [Steve’s daughter] to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014; recorded and transcribed by Dawn [Steve’s daughter]

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • Somebody tell the story of the letters going back and forth to Peru? Dad sending Grammy MacGregor a blank letter and all the missionaries tuning in to listen to Lee read Marcia’s letters to Dad, when he was out in the jungle.
  • Dad/Steve or Mum/Marcia, do you want to tell more stories from Italy? The hungry times when a bag of groceries were left? Sleeping under your coats? Teaching English? Balancing grocery bags on the bicycle? Going to the symphony for cheap and the audience yelling ‘piu’? Shopping at the PX? Traveling to the Swiss Alps? Harley and Betty and the peanut butter? Dawn’s diapers in the trunk at the border crossing? Going to your exam after Heidi was born?
  • Any other Italy, speaking Italian stories?
  • Anybody else have language learning difficulty or goof-up stories to share?

Duncan Clan Reunion Uproariously Good

June 1965 Family Reunion, courtesy of Colin Duncan

Mr. and Mrs. Taylor A. Duncan of 16 Washburn Ave., Auburndale, with their six children and families, hired a motel near Manchester, N. H. last weekend for their first family reunion in 13 years.

Betty, Taylor, Virginia, Wally, Harley perhaps, 06.12.1965, courtesy of Colin DuncanWeary but happy after the excitement of family baseball games, musical sessions, and en masse church attendance, Grandfather Duncan’s two-word description of the Friday-to-Sunday gathering was “uproariously good.”

The 28-member clan, lacking only one youngster who had the mumps, included Mrs. Willard Kindberg (Virginia Lee Duncan) and Mr. Kindberg, who have returned from the jungles of Peru where, since 1952, they have been working with the Campa Indians, translating and defining the language of the people, preparing young natives to teach it, and establishing schools. Mr. Kindberg is a translator with the Wycliffe Bible Translators, a Protestant mission society. Mrs. Kindberg was the first graduate of the nursing school at Wheaton College in Illinois. There are six children in their family.

Mrs. Harley Smith (Betty Duncan) and her husband and two children, [sic] home from Paris, France, where they operate a school for Greater Europe Mission (Protestant). Mr. Smith is business manager for the European Bible Institute in Lamorlaye, France. Mrs. Smith, a graduate of Wheaton College, Illinois, is a teacher of music.

Mr. and Mrs. J. Wallace Duncan and their four children [sic] from East Haddam, Conn. Mr. Duncan is a quality control engineer with Winchester Electronics Co. in Waterbury. He is a B. A. graduate of Gordon College, Wenham.

The Rev. and Mrs. Robert Duncan and their three children [sic] of Mattapan, where Mr. Duncan is the minister of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church.

St. Louis, Mo., is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Taylor A. Duncan Jr. Taylor, a graduate of Northrop Institute of Technology, Inglewood, Calif., is with McDonald Aircraft Co. in St. Louis.

The youngest son, Bertrand Stevens Duncan, was graduated this June from Boston University with a degree in psychology. “Steve” is working as a laboratory technician at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton. He plans to study medicine.

The senior Duncans, who will have been married 40 years on July 25, have lived in Newton since 1935. They left their first address on Hartford St., Newton Highlands, at the outbreak of World War II when Mr. Duncan reentered the service.

He had been in the Navy during World War I and after that had gone into public accounting, getting his CPA in 1925. He entered teaching when he was called upon to fill a temporary vacancy at Temple University in Philadelphia, continued on a part-time basis, and was later called upon to set up business courses at Girard College.

During World War II Cmdr. Duncan spent three years in Philadelphia where he was in charge of a $115 million airplane contract between the Navy and the Budd Co. Later he was transferred to Portsmouth, N. H., where he served as the yard’s fiscal officer.

Mr. Duncan says he has retired twice. He left the Navy as a captain in 1932. Then he worked for General Electric Co. for more than five years as manager of a special auditing project in which he organized a staff of auditors. He retired in 1957.

For five years before World War II and for five years afterward he taught accounting, economics, and finance at Bentley College. He has also taught in the Boston University School of Business Administration.

June, 17 1965 News-Tribune newspaper article entitled “Newton-Based Duncan Clan Reunion Uproariously Good, courtesy of Polly Duncan (Bob’s wife) via Colin Duncan (Bob’s son)

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.).

  • Colin or Aunt Polly, what’s the name of the newspaper and the date of the edition in which this article appears? Best guess, anybody?
  • Which cousin had the mumps and couldn’t come? Can you tell who stayed home with you? Tell us about having the mumps. How long did it last? Did anyone else in the family get it?
  • Virginia, what year did Aunt Lee graduate from Wheaton as the first graduate of the nursing school? What was it like being the first graduate? What, exactly, does that mean? Was there no one else in her class? How big was her class? Was the program up and running or were there fits and starts? How long did it take her to get through? Why did she choose nursing? Why Wheaton?
  • Uncle Harley, Debby, Sandy, did Aunt Betty teach music in the school in Lamorlaye? Or did she take private students only? Did she teach anything else in the school? What was the school’s name? I presume it’s Aunt Betty playing the piano in the photo above. Am I right? Is Uncle Harley holding the trumpet?
  • Jimmy, Diane how long were you all in East Haddam? Why did you move? Can you describe your house? Remember your address? What ages were all the kids? How long was Uncle Wally with Winchester Electronics? Was he always quality control there or did he move around in jobs, up the ladder or otherwise? How did he get that job? Why did he leave?
  • Aha! The name of Uncle Bob’s church in Mattapan was St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church. Aunt Polly, what position did he serve there? What were his dates there? Was he still in seminary? Where did the Bob Duncans live at that time? How old were the kids? What happened to St. Paul’s that I can’t find anything about it on the web?
  • Gloria, Trey, how did Uncle Tad end up on the other side of the continent in California? What did he do with McDonald Aircraft? How long was he there? Did he move up in the ranks, move around? Why did he leave? What did he go to? Does your mom remember that time? What does she recall? How did they feel about moving to St. Louis?
  • Dad/Steve, can you tell about getting the lab tech job at St. E’s? How long were you there? I’ve never heard about that lab tech job. Why not? What else was going on at the time? Were you dating that painful pre-mom woman still?
  • Anything else anybody wants to tell us?

Robert Eugene Duncan, November 13, 1933–June 17, 2010

Bob, ca. 1968Mum called Thursday morning to tell me that Uncle Bob had died. On Monday, he was sitting up in the hospice care facility when Aunt Polly returned from a family wedding in Colorado. On Tuesday morning he was unresponsive and they decided to bring him home. Mum spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights with them. On Thursday morning, Mum was holding his shoulders while the hospice caregiver bathed him. He opened his eyes wide and stopped breathing.

How many people felt the air go out of them when they heard that news. Expected perhaps, but not welcome. Death never is. God comfort my Aunt Polly, my cousins Andy, Gene, and Colin, my dad and his sisters and brother. We all feel so sad.

Uncle Bob is most assuredly not sad. He’s been longing to hear his “well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21) for a while now. “I want to be at home,” he told me several times during those long months in the hospital. When he opened his eyes wide, I’m sure he was taking his first look at the Home of all homes.

He would have recognized it. After all, he and Aunt Polly created a home, not just for their children, but for me and my three sisters, for their many other missionary kid nieces and nephews, for the larger family, for their church families, for just about anybody who needed to feel welcomed. My dad tells the story of Uncle Bob catching heat from Aunt Polly when he even welcomed some hippies to set up their tent on the Duncan front lawn, years before I ever moved in.

For many of those years, Uncle Bob and Aunt Polly’s house was my Grandmother Duncan’s home, too—the family seat. When I was a kid, we would drive to the Fort Square parsonage for holidays and birthdays. Far flung family, returning from Illinois, Georgia, California, France, Peru, Colombia, and beyond, could be found in their house. All through high school and college, their home was the one to which I returned during vacations.

During one of my school breaks, I heard Uncle Bob praise me to my parents, “I’ve never walked into my own kitchen and had anyone ask me what they could get for me.” This might sound self-serving until you know that meeting other people’s needs, predicting and supplying them seamlessly was my childhood “job,” my role in the family, but no one had ever noticed that out loud. Uncle Bob saw it in me. He saw me. And for an adolescent girl, who wouldn’t figure out who she was for another fifteen years, being seen and celebrated was profoundly important. He saw into many of our souls.

Uncle Bob became my second father. There were things he could say to me, which I couldn’t have heard from my own dad. As a young adult in crisis, I craved his voice of wisdom, though it was probably the quality of his listening and his sense of assurance that changed things for me. And not just me. Years after he’d left one church, a troubled parishioner would still call him at home, usually at dinnertime, and pour out her anxieties. He always took that call.

He could listen, but Uncle Bob could speak firmly, too. During Urbana ’97, which we attended together, we met for lunch one day. I told him about a young roommate who was asking me many questions concerning women in ministry, which is still a controversial topic in some churches. Though I myself was in seminary, I’d counseled her cautiously because I didn’t want to get her in trouble with her elders. “It doesn’t sound like that is what she needs to hear right now,” he challenged me.

He was a good preacher, too. He’d trot out his sermon ideas during Saturday night dinners and I enjoyed listening to him weave them together on Sunday morning. He delivered the homily at my wedding seven years ago, driving with Aunt Polly from Ballston Spa in New York even though they had to turn around just hours later so he could be home to deliver the sermon on Sunday morning.

Uncle Bob officiated at many weddings, including my cousin Sandy’s thirty-three years ago. I still remember him complaining to my father, a surgeon: “Everybody thinks they know best. Family at weddings where I’m the minister is like relatives crowded into your operating room, all insisting, “Less blood now. Can’t you cut after the tumor is removed? No. No. We need fifteen clamps, not five.”

Being a preacher was good, but what he really wanted to be was a missionary. At least, he really wanted to experience the world. Before he tried seminary, he tried the armed forces, but they wouldn’t send him overseas because of the metal pin in his leg, the result of a youthful motorcycle accident. He and Aunt Polly even moved to Costa Rica temporarily to learn Spanish during the early ‘90s just to see if this wouldn’t morph into a call to missions.

Still God didn’t send them, so he had to content himself with traveling, which he did avidly. He visited missionaries and missionary family members ever chance he got. He led tours to the Holy Land. He joined a Presbyterian delegation to the church in Cuba. He visited his grand-children in Korea. For a long time, an apt cartoon of him in his preaching robe and hiking pack hung on the basement wall. “After the benediction,” it read, “Polly and I will be leaving for Israel.”

One time he and Polly were lost in Morocco. They’d eaten something that disagreed with them. It was hot and they were out of water. And now they were in danger of missing the ferry back to Spain. Afraid and unable to find anyone who spoke English, they leaned against a wall and prayed. Seconds later an old woman touched him on the arm and motioned for them to follow her, which they did. She led them back to the boat, but when they turned to thank her, she was gone. Years later, he still claimed that God had sent them an angel.

There wasn’t anywhere he wouldn’t go. And if he couldn’t fly, he drove. He loved to drive and he loved cars. On one long trip, we stopped at a gas station for a break. Heading back to the station wagon, he detoured to an old Studebaker. Without a qualm, he pulled open the door and leaned in to inhale. “I just wanted to smell it,” he explained.

There were many drives to and from college and during one, he collected me at my roommate’s house. “Whadya got in here, a dead minister?” my friend’s dad teased as he hoisted my suitcase into Uncle Bob’s car. Then realizing that Uncle Bob was a minister, he blushed and apologized, but Uncle Bob was too busy laughing. Laughter and tears came easily to Uncle Bob.

He enjoyed music and reading, filling his theological shelves with all comers. “Don’t read that commentary,” he exclaimed one day when he found me in his office after Sunday worship. He didn’t think the author’s scholarship was sound, but the book was still on his shelf. Another time, he lent me his favorite book A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. “What is it,” I asked? “A love story about a couple who try to build the perfect love between them. It’s a selfish love, though, because its only expression is inward.” In that book Uncle Bob recognized his own ideal as well as the temptation to selfishness curled up inside.

Uncle Bob was unselfish, a good minister. He preached well. He pastored empathetically. He visited the sick constantly. He used to wear a clerical collar when he went to the hospital to keep security and nurses from questioning his motives. This earned him the honorary “Father” because people thought he was a Catholic priest, and some not so honorary glares when people saw him with his beautiful young wife Polly sitting in the front seat of a car together.

During this past year in and out of hospitals, his ministry to his own caregivers continued. Word of his testimony filtered back to me through many sources: Our daughter’s babysitter’s husband played cards with him a couple of times and I heard about his love for Jesus. A woman who knew one of my co-leaders in ministry was married to one of his doctors. I heard about his faithfulness from her. His family and I are grateful to all those who cared for him and for Aunt Polly through this final, hardest sickness.

My sisters and cousins and I cannot properly thank Colin, Gene, and Andy for sharing their parents with us. Uncle Bob and Aunt Polly leaned on God for their apparently endless store of family love, but I know it was sometimes your space that we took up. All of us in the church families that they served have a debt of gratitude to you. Thank you for sharing even your grieving space with us.

The last time I heard Uncle Bob pray, we were together in one of his hospital rooms. I was taking up his grandson’s space, so I gave hugs and turned to Uncle Bob. He held out his hand.

His grip was strong. Before I could offer, he began to pray. He prayed a short blessing on me and my dad, who was in Angola at the time. Then he began to bless God. He asked him to “be with us here, too” and confessed “for we do not know what tomorrow will bring” in a cadence and with a strength that sounded like Uncle Bob in the pulpit. He told God, in a tone that felt instructive to us also, that “we will be careful to offer nothing but thanksgiving” and “we will have nothing but praise on our lips for you.”

And interspersed with his prayers he said, over and over, “and we will rise with the wings of the morning. We look forward to rising with the wings of the morning.”

He was misquoting Psalm 139, applying it to himself as he looked ahead to his new day. It reads, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I fear, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” (vv. 9–13).

Even this darkness is as light to our God. Uncle Bob has risen on the wings of the morning. Our turn will come.

written by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter) on the occasion of Bob’s death, June 19, 2010

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  • Do you recall other stories about Bob as an adult? Please tell us.
  • Do you have a Bob preaching story? A visiting Bob story? A Bob’s book story? A Bob traveling story?
  • Can Did you live with Bob as a child while your parents were elsewhere? What stands out to you? Do you have a story of that time to tell?
  • Did Bob perform your wedding ceremony? How did it go? What do you remember about it?

Steve’s Pocket Monkey

Amarakaeri PeruWhen I was in Peru [1966], I had a little monkey [pygmy marmoset] that stayed in my pocket. It was given to Bob Tripp by some of the Amarakaeri Indians, who lived way, way out in the jungle. We were so deep in the jungle [near the border with Brazil] that they had never been out of their isolated area.

Wycliffe had a rule that if a translator went out to an isolated tribe, he couldn’t go out alone without a partner. I was working as a lab technician in Yarinacocha, but I went with him for a month or almost a month.

The monkey would sit in my pocket at night. We had only one light, like a kerosene lantern, though we had to pump it and it was fueled by gasoline, a Coleman. Thousands and thousands of moths would circle that light and the monkey would pop out of my pocket and snatch a moth out of the air and gobble it up.

Steve with Pocket Monkey in Peru, 1966I’d be teaching numbers to the young people of that group and I had a leash on him, going around his waist. I’d put him along the side of the wall, the vertical slats, of the classroom, so he could take care of his business.

The Indians would come by and reach into my pocket and squeeze him, just to tantalize him. He was cute as a button, but smart, like primates are. He would come to a call, like a dog. He’d sit in my pocket as we ate and occasionally I’d give him a bite and he’d snatch it and eat it right up.

I fell in love with that little monkey. I don’t remember what I named him or if I named him. I was going to bring the monkey home [to the United States] with me—I was going to try anyway—but I never got it back to Yarinacocha. One day the monkey was running across the floor and Bob wanted to stop it and he put his foot down to block it, but missed and finished off the monkey.

I had another monkey on the base at Yarinacocha that I tried to train, but I never was able to get him to obey me.

story told by Steve to Dawn Harrell (Steve’s daughter), June 12, 2013

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.).

  • Have I spelled Bob’s name correctly?
  • Do Lee or any of her children remember any more stories of either monkey?
  • Do you remember what kind of monkey the second one was? Does anyone have pictures of the second monkey with Steve?
  • Steve, do you have any other stories of the pocket monkey?