Ministry or Mechanics

As a young man, Wally thought he wanted to go in to the ministry.  His father discouraged him telling him that his real abilities were in mechanical studies.  Truly, Wally was amazing at fixing things, finding out how things worked.  He had a curiosity about all things mechanical and as a young boy had always tinkered with cars. 

Wally’s love for the Lord was stronger, and his desire to serve him greater and so he began his pursuit of ministry by going to Gordon College and then on to Gordon Seminary.  He was assigned as a student minister to preach and help out in the pastorate.  But, as he would say, he wasn’t too interested in visiting the old ladies of the church which was one of his expected duties. 

Before he finished his seminary training, he had gotten married and had his first son at age 21 [c. 1950].  He now had a family to support.  His odd jobs of traveling house to house to take baby pictures just wasn’t making enough money so he took his first real job at the Budd Company, working in quality control.  With this on the job training, and his great gifts which his father had predicted suited him for industry, Wally’s career in manufacturing was born.

Two years and two children to support sealed his fate. 

written memories of Wally, contributed by Barbara Duncan (Wally’s wife), December 12, 2012

After graduating from Gordon College, Wally attended one year of seminary (at Gordon-Conwell) before I was born and he needed to make a living. He was quite a preacher, and he preached often over the years. . . .

At times as a young father, he worked two jobs to help make ends meet. One of those second jobs was as a wedding photographer. He would often let me “assist,” and in time, I would take the pictures and he would “assist,” at least that’s how he positioned it for me.

His working career was primarily in manufacturing/engineering, initially in quality control engineering, then as a manufacturing plant manager, and later, in general mechanical engineering. He never got a formal engineering degree, but was an early proponent of computer-aided design and manufacturing, the adoption of which technology many at Skil initially resisted. (Hard to believe, eh?) He worked for Budd (railroad cars), Pratt & Whitney (jet engines), Timex (missile inertial guidance control systems), Stanley Tools, Black & Decker, Grinnell (fire suppression systems), and Skil.

He made an attempt to start his own business, Airlink Aviation, around 1968. . . . His idea was way before its time—that is, using helicopters to shuttle business executives from their offices to airports and to transport injured people from accident sites to hospitals. He couldn’t get enough buy-in for his concept at the time, so it never got past some demonstration flights. Ask Diane and Gregg about their experiences as “mock accident victims.”

written memories of Wally, contributed by Jim Duncan (Wally’s son), on the occasion of Wally’s death, November 7, 2006

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.).

  • Do you remember this story of Wally choosing between ministry and business, seminary and work? What other details can you add?
  • Jim, would you be so kind as to confirm your birthday?
  • Diane, Gregg, tell us about your experiences as “mock accident victims.”

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