Tag Archives: France

Marcia Did Not Teach Burlesque in Italy

Cristoforo Colombo took Marcia, Steve, and Dawn to Italy, 1970.

Cristoforo Colombo took Marcia, Steve, and Dawn to Italy, 1970.

We did go to Italy.

I didn’t learn Italian ahead of time.

In fact we went separately. Steve flew there. He flew ahead to find a place for us to live and some work for me to do because I was going to be “putting hubby through,” so to speak. I had a trunk full of our household goods and at that time it was cheaper to go across on an ocean liner and take your trunk than it was to fly. So he flew and I came later.

I learned a little Italian on the ship. I was on the Italian lines. I met up with him in Italy there and then I took some Italian lessons when I was there. Basically we learned Italian from just living in the culture.

I remember. . . .

[Heidi]: The ship came into Venice.

No.

[Steve]: No, that was the second ship.

No, that was the second time we went back. The first time it came into . . . um.

[Steve]: No, uh, the other side of the peninsula.

[Heidi]: Florence?

[Steve]: Florence, no, um.

[Heidi]: I mean, um, Genoa.

[Steve]: Genoa.

Genoa! We came into Genoa.

[Heidi]: And then you trained across.

[Steve]: Yeah.

[Heidi]: To Padova.

Yeah. We did a lot of train travel in Padova.

[Eric]: While he was in medical school, you were working?

So then he found me a job in a Berlitz school, teaching English. So I taught English in a Berlitz school.

[Bruce]: Burlesque?

[Steve]: Burlesque?

Burlesque?

[laughter]

[Heidi]: Mom did burlesque to bring in the money.

And I learned a lot of, you know, I learned a lot of Italian teaching English, just because of the way the Italians would speak English. It helped me to learn how things were said.

[Heidi]: Twenty-six years later, I moved to Italy and lived in Venice and taught English in a Berlitz school and learned some of my Italian.

[Virginia]: Are you serious? Oh, Heidi, that’s awesome.

So after three years in Italy, he took an externship at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton. Came back for a period of six months. I came ahead. I was six months pregnant with Dawn. I came ahead and Dawn was born in the States at that hospital, Saint Elizabeth’s. He was not—were you here for the birth? You were back by the birth time. OK.

Then we went back to Italy and the second time we went back together in a ship. That’s when we went to Venice. On our way there, we stopped in various ports. So we were in Malaga, Spain. We stopped and visited Pompeii and we were in Naples and visited Pompeii.

[Steve]: We stopped in Sicily.

We did. We stopped in Sicily. And then we went up the Adriatic and stopped in Greece.

[Steve]: In Greece. We went to Greece.

We stopped at Piraeus. And then we took a day trip to Athens. And then we went over to Venice.

That gave us a chance to see a lot of places in Europe and when Dawn was baby, we traveled—when we had vacation times, we had a little VW Bug and traveled to various places, to visit places in Italy.

[Heidi]: You went to see Aunt Betty and Uncle Harley.

And we went to Austria also because we had met a couple on a ship—he was Austrian and she was American. They invited us to go to Austria to visit them at Christmastime, so we did a few things like that.

[Kimberly?]: Aunt Betty and Uncle Harley.

[Steve]: That was up in Switzerland. We had gone also, among other things, we saw where The Sound of Music was designed in Salzburg.

[Victoria]: Yeah. In Austria.

They lived in Salzburg, so they took us around to all the sites in Salzburg.

We traveled to Switzerland several times and met up with Aunt Betty and Uncle Harley there and Sandy and Debby. They would get apartments for missionaries in various places in Switzerland where we would have vacation time. So we would drive through the fog out of Italy, because it was usually very foggy at Christmastime.

Then I can remember one time when we were driving up in the mountains in Switzerland. Steve was not feeling good. Did you ask me to drive? And I was like. . . .

[Dawn]: Dad was in the back seat.

Dad, he would look out the window and see that it was a drop-off like this and he just closed his eyes and hoped we didn’t drop off.

Anyway, so we had a lot of good memories from those years. We were there for six years. Came home in 1974.

story told by Marcia (Steve’s wife) to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014 with additions from Steve and Heidi (Steve’s daughter) and interjections from Virginia Gorman, Bruce Kindberg, and Eric Kindberg (Lee’s children), Dawn Harrell and Kimberly Duncan (Steve’s daughters), and Victoria (TJ Ramey, Kathryn’s son’s wife), 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.)

  • Any other Smith and Steve Duncan family stories from those Christmastimes spent together that you’d like to tell?
  • Would someone please tell the flaming fondue table story?
  • Can someone relay the peanut butter story? Didn’t Harley and Betty come to Italy for that story? What was the context?
  • How about going to France to help build the camp one summer story?
  • Sandy? Debby? What do you remember of those intersecting times?
  • Why would Betty have stayed behind in France at Steve’s graduation? Children? Other duties? Finances?
  • Any other stories from the ocean liners? How about the diapers-in-the-hold story from the second crossing?
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MKs Don’t Write Home

[Ken]: You [Virginia] were away from home in high school, weren’t you?

[Lee]: No. Yarinacocha [Peru]?

[Polly]: You were in Colombia, weren’t you?

[Bob]: Steve’s kids.

[Lee]: They came to the States.

[Virginia]: I just don’t. . . . I would not be able to do that.

Ben Lippen School[Ken]: I’m talking about high school.

[Bob]: The thing is I often felt badly for [Steve’s] girls. They didn’t have a prom. . . . Heidi had to make her own dress. . . . For all those high school years, the kids were out of the country [Angola].

[Lee]: Well, by the time she [Virginia] got into high school, we were staying a lot more time in the center.

[Virginia]: Yah, I do remember that now. I just don’t know how. . . . I kind of disagree with that, but that’s their life and not mine. I just feel that. . . . I can’t believe it. I just don’t understand it.

[Bob]: Now if you could send your wife away to school, that would be all right.

[Polly]: Here we go again.

[Bob]: I agree. I completely agree. I can see a wistfulness in Marcia’s eyes. . . . the girls. We were closer to them than they were. That’s not true anymore. I think we were closer to the girls during high school years than Marcia and Steve were.

[Polly]: Oh. Oh, ya.

[Bob]: But that’s not true anymore, of course. We were there as their substitute parents.

[Polly]: As Marcia said once—Aunt Marcia—to me, she said, you know it was so hard, she’d get these letters, maybe most especially from Dawn, but from the others too. And they were going through some crisis. We knew a little bit about it, but they didn’t want to burden anybody, but they would burden Mum and Dad by letter. And even the phones were horrible.

[Virginia]: Oh, and they were so far away.

[Polly]: In Angola. You couldn’t even reach them by phone. Those were terrible years. Anyway, the point being, Marcia said, by the time we got this letter—and my mother’s heart is jumping all over the place—the kids have long gone past that. But little by little, as they got older, they weren’t quite as ready to do that, knowing that it was paining their parents and that they couldn’t do anything about it by the time they got a letter. Forget it, you know.

But on the other hand, I feel like I said, a child or a young person needs their parents. They need to share with them. When Aunt Marcia and Uncle Steve came home, especially early on, and then went back and then came home for good, at that point in time it was very hard. They said you hardly know your kids. You know them. You greet each other. You talk about things. But to really know them. And it’s only been since they’ve been home on a permanent basis that they’ve really gotten to know the girls and it’s been wonderful.

[Virginia]: What age did they start the boarding school or whatever it is?

[Bob]: Seventh grade.

[Polly]: High school.

[Lee]: They sent them also to. . . .

[Polly]: They came down to Ben Lippen School and Dawn, well all of them, all of them were freshmen in high school.

[Bob]: Ninth grade.

[Polly]: Ninth graders. Whereas Betty and Harley had—Sandy was with them until tenth grade. Yah, she went through tenth grade.

[Virginia]: Oh, they did the same thing with them?

[Bob]: Yes.

[Polly]: In France. Then they went to Ben Lippen and they came home. But Debby went the whole four years to Ben Lippen.

[Bob]: Now today they would do that differently with Black Forest Academy. They would be there.

[Virginia]: That’s what I’m thinking. I guess that’s why I’m confused.

[Bob]: I don’t know how long that was that Black Forest Academy has been around. I don’t know why they didn’t choose Black Forest Academy.

[Virginia]: I was thinking they were running . . . but is that just with Sandy?

[Bob]: No, Debby.

[Virginia]: Debby.

[Bob]: Debby teaches there.

[Virginia]: Oh, OK. Oh, OK. I was, for some reason, thinking that they were helping to run that or something.

[Bob]: Debby’s a teacher of French and she’s involved in the mime ministry and all that stuff. I don’t know either.

Now with boys it’s different.

[Polly]: I think that they felt that they would come back to the United States because they had family here. If they had gone to Black Forest Academy, there were no family members.

[Bob]: I wasn’t thinking about them. I was thinking about Betty and Harley.

[Polly]: Oh, Betty and Harley sent Debby and Sandy there.

[Bob]: Black Forest?

[Polly]: No. No, no. It was Sandy sent Rebecca and Christopher there.

[Bob]: I don’t know how long it’s been working.

[Polly]: I don’t know how long Black Forest Academy has been in, um. . . .

[Bob]: Operation.

[Polly]: Operation. But quite a number of years. They’ve . . .  it quite a number of years. But that was different for Sandy and Randy—I know I’m jumping around here but—to send because they were only in France. They could visit, eight hours away, but they could visit. And they certainly phoned. So when Rebecca and Christopher were there, when they were on the Continent, and Sandy and Randy were back home on the mission field, in France.

[Virginia]: So they did the same thing with them?

[Bob]: Yes, but there’s no place. . . . You should hear Rebecca talk about French schools and what it did to her.

***

[Bob]: You talk about that book Letters Never Sent. Very, very interesting, from a missionary.

[Virginia]: Is that the one you sent me?

[Lee]: No. No, that’s not the one I sent you, but you have read that one because I got it from somebody else. It was about a missionary. . . .

[Bob]: Kid.

[Lee]: Kid, who wrote this letter to whom?

[Polly]: To her parents.

[Bob]: Well supposedly. She never did. . . .

[Lee]: It never got mailed.

[Bob]: No. They were never mailed. They were just, kind of, entries in her diary. But these are what she would have liked to have written to her parents.

The book was very interesting. Polly has recently read that. But who gave that to me? Oh, yeah, Barbara gave it to me. I think it was somebody she knew that wrote it [Ruth E. Van Reken].

[Lee]: Barbara. That’s where I got mine from, too. Yes, it was somebody she knew.

[Polly]: But Marcia, years ago Aunt Marcia had mentioned it to me. Because I had it written down. Every once in a while, I do this. Somebody will mention a book and I’ll write it down and I’ll tuck it away in my wallet and unless I change my wallet I may never find it again. In this case, when Bob got it, when Uncle Bob brought it home, I thought I know that book. I know that book. I know that book. Where do I know it from? And eventually it surfaced that it was one that Aunt Marcia had recommended years ago, that it was very helpful to her girls.

redacted transcription of a conversation between Bob, Polly (his wife), Virginia (Lee’s daughter), Lee and Ken (Lee’s second husband) during a visit to California in January 2004

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.)

  • What years did Sandy attend Ben Lippen?
  • What years did Debby attend Ben Lippen?
  • Maybe Heidi, Kimberly, and Stephanie should all write their Ben Lippen dates down, too.
  • When was Black Forest Academy established? Was it an option for Sandy and Debby? If so, why did they end up at Ben Lippen?
  • Lee’s kids boarded at the SIL center when their parents were in the tribe. Was this true up through high school? Were they ever cut off from communication with their folks over long periods of time?
  • How does Barbara know Ruth E. Van Reken?
  • What else is lost in Polly’s wallet?

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

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 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?

The Ideal Couple: Virginia’s Parents, Ella Choate and Eugene White

for part 1 of this transcription, click here

I had no grandmother. She had died long since before I was born. I did have a grandfather Choate. That is my mother’s maiden name and a great name it was because many of our ancestors were the settlers of the city of New York. We just, we were very proud of our heritage because even in the State House in New York—New York or Boston, I can’t remember exactly—but their pictures are all up in the State House. We’ve got quite a heritage.

[Barbara]: Now was your mother an only child?

My mother? No. My mother was one of five. There were four girls and one boy, but the boy didn’t live too long. His name was William also.

Ella L Choate White, Virginia's mother, Christmas 1931And the girls were all congenial, too. I mean, the family always seemed to need to be gathered together at various festivals like Christmas and New Years and Thanksgiving. My mother used to say, “I can never have everybody in my house on the holidays. We always have to go down to Grandmother’s.”

[Barbara]: What was your mother’s first name?

Ella.

[Barbara]: Ella Choate. And your dad was?

Eugene. Eugene Amos. And that’s how we happened to name Bob. Bob Eugene. See his name was Eugene. But we didn’t give him Amos.

[Barbara]: Do you remember all the names of his brothers? You mentioned some of them.

Well I don’t know. William for the oldest. Then comes my father Eugene. And after Eugene came Ralph. And then came George. And then there was Mort, Morton. I guess that’s the six of them.

[Barbara]: So I guess you remember that side. Do remember that side of the family more?

Well my mother’s side of the family was Ella, my mother. And then was Florence. And then Harriet, Hattie. And then Lillian. That was that side. Five of them.

[Barbara]: We went to visit, didn’t we go to visit Lillian?

Aunt Lilly.

[Barbara]: In Connecticut.

In Coscob, Connecticut.

[Barbara]: Now you said your father was a very congenial person?

Oh, he had the nicest disposition. And I say that Bob’s disposition was very much like him. You know he’s named for my father. And I just think, I really think Bob is a good disposition. Of course there’s times that he’s not done too well.

[Barbara]: Do you remember any stories about your father?

Ella and Virginia White, ca. 1900No. My father was a quiet sort of man, something like your father, you know. He loved my sister. I have only one sister, Ella. And myself Virginia. My name is Virginia. And Ella was eight years older than I and she got married when she was 21, so I was like an only child for many years. And I lived with my mother and father in the Bronx in 136th Street. That’s my last home in the Bronx.

I went to PS 42, that’s Public School 42 in the Bronx. When I got older, I kind of stayed right with the school. I walked a long way—they didn’t like you to do that—but I walked a long way to the school so I didn’t have to change.

Then when I graduated, I went to the Washington Irving High School [ca. 1913/14], which was in New York, 14th Street and 3d Avenue, I think it is. But I didn’t graduate from there. I went to a business school and took up shorthand and typing and business subjects. I graduated from there.

Then we went to Bridgeport, Connecticut to live. That’s where I spent several years until The War came.

[Barbara]: Let’s go back a little bit. You were Episcopalian as a child?

Yes, I went to Saint Ann’s Church [of Morrisania] in the Bronx [295 St. Ann’s Avenue, Bronx, NY 10458]. It was 138th, 139th, 140th. Three blocks it took up because there was quite a big lawn and property there. I went there until we left New York and went up to Bridgeport, Connecticut to live.

I never worked very much in New York. I only had a couple of small jobs, but we moved so soon.

[Barbara]: I hate to get off this period of your life because I’ve heard you tell stories to me about when you were a little girl. Didn’t your grandmother send you on an errand once? Is my memory serving me? Didn’t your grandmother send you on an errand for medicine? No, you don’t remember?

No, I sent Wally on an errand. It was Wally. He was only a little kid. He wasn’t much bigger than your little boy [Taylor].

[Barbara]: I remember, a picture, vision comes to my mind of you on the stairs and you fell down the stairs. Remember you said you broke your tailbone or something?

Oh, I jumped down. I jumped down. Everybody else was doing it, so I did it. And I really never got over that either. I still have a sensitive tailbone. I must have broken that little bone in the back. This was when I lived in the Bronx in New York. That was on 139th Street.

[NB: This is the third address in the Bronx that Virginia mentions. There were also 136th Street above and 146th Street earlier in the transcription, as noted in “Grandma’s Congenial Family.”]

[Barbara]: What was your mother like?

My mother was very austere. My mother was born in New York, in Harlem, but her uncle and aunt took a fancy to her. They had no children of their own. My mother was one of five children, so they asked my grandfather if they could adopt her. My grandfather would not permit that; however she went over to England and was educated in England. Then she went to Germany and was educated in Germany. She went to France—Calle, France—and had some education. She was a very well-educated woman.

She came home to visit her mother and father, and when she did, she met my father. He upset kind of the regime. She went back to England. She crossed over many times—three or four times.

[Barbara]: That was all by boat, too.

Oh, yes. It was all by boat. There was no other way to go.

When she came home one time, she met my father. That upset the whole regime. So then they must have gotten married very quickly. They must have been married in the Episcopal church in Harlem.

My father and mother were the ideal couple. I never heard them quarrel. Never. I’ve heard my mother say things that were short, you know. If she did to my father, what he’d do was put his hat on like this—I’ve seen him do it two or three times—and go out for a walk. He walked around the block, two, three, four times and when he came back he was all right.

But I tell you, she was very, very bombastic. Bossy, you know. You could do just so much bossing with my father. They really and truly got along beautifully. I often say if I have married as carefully as my mother did, why I would have had a whole lot smoother life.

However, I must say, my husband Tad, Taylor, Taylor Albert Duncan—that was his name—he was a very good-looking man. I met him during The War. I met him when I went into the Navy.

[Barbara]: We’re going ahead of our times. . . . Your father wasn’t as well-traveled, was he?

No. He didn’t. He never was overseas, but my mother was overseas at least four times and maybe five or six. They had lots of money. My uncle was what they called a merchant. He used to sell linen. That was his specialty and they evidently had a lot of money, or they were well-cared for. You know, I mean, he must have made good money. That’s how they could go across the ocean so many times. It must have cost a lot of money to go across the ocean so many times.

When they went to England, they lived on Brixton Road in London. I can remember Mother saying they this beautiful home in Brixton Road. They had several . . . well, they had help. They had two maids. One was a downstairs maid. One was the one that took care of the upstairs, the beds and everything.

Evidently they had enough money to do anything they really felt they wanted to do. My mother went with them to travel to England and Germany. I’m repeating myself.

[Barbara]: Now where did they make their money? They made it as merchants.

He was a merchant in London. Well, probably his home office was in New York. But that’s where they lived.

[Barbara]: Did your mother ever work?

No, not much.

[Barbara]: What was your father’s profession?

He was an electrician, a maintenance man. That sounds very humble.

Evidently she fell head over heels in love with him. He was such a good man. I really never saw him actually mad. I’ve seen him cross, you know.

He was very strict with me. Boy, I had to be in the house at ten o’clock and no later, even when I was old enough to go with young men. You just didn’t, they just didn’t stay out that late. Of course, there was no transportation except by horse and culture, something like that. And that wasn’t very often. You know, you had to be pretty well-heeled to go out like that.

[Barbara]: Now they died young, your mom and dad?

Yeah, they died in . . . we went to Connecticut.

[Barbara]: You had moved with them to Connecticut.

Oh, I moved with them to Connecticut.

[Barbara]: You were probably, what, in your teens?

Well I went to high school. I didn’t graduate from high school.

[Interruption]

[Barbara] You said you were in high school in Connecticut?

I went to high school in Connecticut. I didn’t graduate, but I went to high school and finished my business education in Connecticut [ca. 1917].

[Clarification, Virginia seems to be distinguishing between high school in New York, from which she didn’t graduate (see further above), and business school, which she took in Connecticut. Presumably she moved during her high school years and that is why she didn’t finish the former and entered into a different sort of school in the new place.]

partial transcription of Virginia’s life story as told to Barbara Duncan (Wally’s wife) in the summer of 1987, courtesy of Barbara Duncan

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 whether the Choates that Grandma mentions in the beginning are in the Boston State House or the New York State House?
  • What other stories about Grandma’s mother Ella and her family the Choates can you relate?
  • Do you recall stories about Grandma’s father Eugene and his family the Whites?
  • Did you know Grandma’s parents before they died? What do you remember directly? When did they die?
  • Can you recite other stories of Grandma’s own childhood?
  • In this story, Grandma wavers around the issue of making her own “smooth” marriage, but she does not elaborate. What do you recall of her marriage to Taylor? What do you think she means? What comes to mind about her history that causes you to think this?
  • Do you remember her telling other parts of her childhood?

What’s That Port City of Morocco?

[Bob] We took a train from Paris to Gibraltar [in August 1981]. We were going over to Morocco to see friends. And about the border of France, it was nighttime. It was very interesting though. I was sitting in this train and all of a sudden the car went straight up in the air.

[Polly] And you could feel it.

[Bob] And you could feel it. And I said, I know what they’re doing. They’re changing the wheels for a different gauge railroad between France and Spain. So they put it down eventually. And then we got into Spain. Boooring. Boring!

[Polly] It was so boring. And then we came to one of the cities.

[Bob] Madrid.

[Polly] Madrid.

[Bob] Oh, boy. Here’s a city I can look at. It went right under a tunnel the whole time we were there.

[Polly] We thought we were going to see something. Didn’t they know we haven’t seen Spain?

plain in Spain[Bob] It was just like Arizona. It would be like going on that railroad in Australia. It goes a thousand miles and doesn’t curve. For a thousand miles it goes as straight as [ ].

[Bob] I thought I’d never see anything and then we got to Algeciras.

[Polly] Which is the closest city near where the Rock of Gibraltar and the Straits of Gibraltar are. Anyway that’s where the big rock is. Or across from there. And we had to cross by ferry. You know, when we go, we don’t really know what we’re doing. We don’t know the language. But we go anyway. Especially with Uncle Bob. “Honey, it’ll all be taken care of!” And I’m, “Mmmmm, how are we going to do this? Where are we going?”

Abdul, Nadia, Houda, Nouza Filali-Ansary Family, Quincy, 1980[Polly] We were planning to meet and go over that route and go to Morocco. That was our plan. We had met this couple—and they had two little girls—as an exchange student in Boston. They were studying, or he was, at Boston University, many, many years ago [1980]. They kept saying, “Why don’t you come and visit us when we go back home to Morocco?” We were host family to them and took them a lot of places. And really, though they were Muslim, they would come to church quite regularly and everything. It was the music. They loved the music.

[Bob] They even said it was just like being in the mosque. And I said it couldn’t; it couldn’t. I could have choked him.

[Polly] That wasn’t such a nice thing, but I think he was trying to be. . . .

[Bob] Yeah. Trying to be cordial and all that.

[Polly] But anyway, by the Lord’s providence and so on, we were given a gift at our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary time [Aug 25, 1981] and we were able to go. We did go to Europe with the Gordon College Alumni Tour. And then we took off on our own. That’s why we were in Paris heading for [ ].

Ferry between Algeciras, Spain and Tangier, Morocco[Polly] Well we got—jump ahead now to Algeciras—and we really knew we were planning, when we got on the ferry, somehow we would be met by our friends on the other end, Abdul and Nouza in Morocco. But the ferry, it was so confusing: they would give you a ticket in the best English they knew how to communicate with us with no Arabic. Anyway, we were given the wrong tickets. This couple who knew some English. They were actually a French couple, but knew a little bit of English. No, a Moroccan couple, that was. We met a French couple, too, but that was. . . . Anyway, they were able. They said, “Oh, this won’t get you where you want to go.” So they helped us.

[Bob] Exchange the tickets.

[Polly] In that part of the world—and we may have this happen somewhat here and you probably have had it in your travels—but over there if you are given a number, a gate number where you were going to go out of, where the ferry was going to go out of, and all of the sudden they changed it. Well everybody—and I’m not kidding—everybody just jumps over you like a herd of cattle. And you’re going to head for the next one, but it doesn’t matter whether your luggage is there or you’re there. And so everybody—and literally that’s what happened to us—so we’re kind of swept along by this crowd, not knowing. . . . And this couple, young couple really helped us. They were wonderful.

[Polly] So we got on the ferry OK and had to show our passport at least seven times. But, you know, this was just part of that world. Got to, what was the port of Morocco that we came to? Not Casablanca. Oh, isn’t that awful. Not, no Al Jazeera’s the news.

[Bob] No. It’s very well-known. When you think of Morocco, you think of the city. Besides Casablanca.

[Polly] It’ll come.

[Bob] It’ll come.

[Polly] It’ll come. That’s all right. One of those senior moments?

[Polly] And anyway, we got there. This couple guided us. Well, we never met the couple we were supposed to meet.

[Bob] They weren’t allowed on the pier.

[Polly] And so, as a result, we ended up eventually, without, I’ll cut through a lot of the details. We stayed overnight in a motel. They helped us get us. . . .

[Bob] Not a motel, Honey. Remember the fellow we met? He heard us speaking English. He was, he had worked in the United States.

[Polly] No, no, no. This was. That’s when we got on the bus. This was not. . . . In the port city where we landed, we stayed in. . . .

[Bob] Stayed in his house.

[Polly] Later, Honey, in Rabat. Remember? When we took the bus ride? But this was the first thing.

[Bob] I know. Hotel. Small hotel.

[Polly] Small hotel. Anyway, and then we said, if we couldn’t find our friends, we would make our way back to Paris, then to Belgium and home. That’s where our tickets were, tickets for Belgium. And this couple said, you know in Eastern, or Mid-Eastern—whatever—hospitality, you do everything you can.

[Bob] You can’t do that. That would be a great insult.

[Polly] That would be an insult . . .

[Bob] . . . to go home . . .

[Polly] . . . to them.

[Virginia] To not try to find them?

[Bob] Not to try to find the couple that weren’t there at the port.

[Polly] The host family.

[Bob] Tangier!

[Polly] Tangier!

[Bob] You wait long enough, it comes to you.

[Polly] Yeah. And so they really impressed upon us that it would be almost our duty, I guess at that point, to take a bus to Rabat, which is the capital city, where the friends lived.

[Bob] And then look them up there.

[Polly] We did.

[Bob] That’s what we did. Yup.

[Polly] We found them eventually. They found, we found them.

[Bob] We found them.

[Polly] Amazing. Amazing.

[Bob] On the bus, we were talking, speaking obviously in English. It’s our best language.

[Lee] Your mother’s tongue.

[Bob] My mother’s tongue, yes. And a fellow from behind us came up, a young fellow. He’d been working in the United States and he was going home.

[Polly] Actually, he’d been studying in San Francisco.

[Bob] Yeah, San Francisco.

[Polly] Aziz was his name.

[Bob] So we said, “We don’t know where we are going. We don’t know how to find our folks.”

[Polly] “We don’t know what we’re doing.”

[Bob] And he said, “Oh don’t worry about that. There’s plenty of room in my house.” But then we got to his house and he couldn’t get it. It was all locked up. So he tried going up the gutter outside and then that collapsed on him. Anyway, his mother finally came home. And he was like the prodigal son back home again and they were all dancing. We were dancing. We slept in the mother’s bed.

[Polly] They insisted we stay overnight with them. Interestingly enough—you know the Lord does provide even when we were so ignorant we didn’t know what we were doing—but this family knew the name of our eventual hosts that we were trying to get to and were known by this other family that we had just stumbled across.

[Bob] They knew a sister or something and so they called the sister and the sister called the family.

Nouza, Houda, Abdul Filali-Ansary[Polly] And she actually drove us to the home of our eventual host family. Then we spent a bunch of maybe four or five days, but by the time we got to them it was more than half in.

[Bob] And they told us all the things we had missed that they had planned to do when they met us at the port.

[Virginia] What happened with that? They just weren’t able to get in.

Bob and Abdul[Bob] They weren’t able to get on. We drove right by them. They were sitting in the car but we didn’t know it. You see what happens there, an awful lot of Moroccans go to Europe and work. And then they have a month off, like they do in France. They go back home. Then they have to go back again. And there was a two- or three-day wait, sitting in the cars to get on the ferry. You know, it’s first come first served kind of thing. But they were in all that crowd. It was terrible, terrible. No restroom facilities. I mean it was just awful.

[Polly] Eating in the streets.

[Bob] Yup. Yup. Eating. Eating anything they could eat. That was the part that was very interesting. But then we got in the house. Now he had been working for the government for over a year, but couldn’t get a telephone. He says, “We have the wires out there in the yard, but they wouldn’t hitch them up.”

[Polly] And we tried and tried and tried, that was the other thing.

[Bob] Call them from all over Europe.

[Polly] But there was never an answer. We had a phone number, but never an answer because the phone wasn’t hooked up.

[Bob] Once we got there, we had a good time, except Polly got desperately ill. Sick-sick-sick-sick-sick.

[Virginia] Was it from the food?

[Bob] Yeah.

[Polly] Yeah. And I ate everything. I mean I tried to eat everything, which was probably not a good idea.

[Bob] We’d be eating at an outdoor restaurant and cats would run out over your feet. I mean up on the tables.

[Polly] They’d be up on the tables.

[Virginia] Oh no.

[Bob] I got sick, just for part of a day, but she got really, really sick.

full transcription of a story told by Bob and Polly (his wife) to Virginia (Lee’s daughter) and Lee and Ken (Lee’s second husband) during a visit to California in January 2004

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  • Do you remember the month and/or year that Polly and Bob visited Morocco in this story?
  • Do you recall other events from this trip?
  • I recall Bob telling a story about being unable to find his and Polly’s way back to the ferry after visitting Morocco. They were sick, or one of them was, and a woman beckoned them to follow her and led them to the ferry. Does anyone else recall this story? Can you retell it for us? Was it on the same trip or another one?

Harley Marries . . . Park Street Church

Harley and Betty Smith sign the marriage register at Park Street Church, 06.28.1952, courtesy of Sandy MoyerI was an outsider to Park Street Church until I met the lovely Betty Duncan at a youth meeting of which her brother [Wally] was the director. She played for me to sing and she did such a wonderful job I gave her a lifetime contract. Best arrangement I ever made!

Shortly after meeting her we went to the Missions Conference at Park Street. I was pleased and shocked at the total involvement of the church in this endeavor.

I can remember writing to my mother, “This is the first time I have experienced football game enthusiasm for the things of the Lord!” On the final day when people indicated how much God was leading them to contribute to the missions outreach of the church in the coming year, the usually staid Dr. Ockenga became a cheerleader and was full of fun. As the calculating machines clicked down in front, providing him with the latest totals, he would then share the totals with the congregation to encourage them.

Occasionally he would ask one of the missionaries that had been featured during the ten-day conference to come up and share some aspect of the need on their field.

Toward the end of the service he would tell people that it was time for them to turn in their “repentance pledge,” whereby they would indicate that they repented that they had not given all that the Lord wanted them to give! Many did just that.

I am unaware of recent yearly amounts, but it is often over $1,000,000!

Park Street gave to our support the 35 years we were in France. Often they would inquire as to our support level, or would simply increase some, knowing the situation. They were the most faithful in their support of God’s work through us. We are grateful to God and to Park Street.

written by Harley Smith (Betty’s husband) for Colin Duncan (Bob’s son), March 18, 2011

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  • Do you recall hearing this story? What details can you add?
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  • In which season or year did this story take place?
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  • Name the make and model of the family car at that time. What color was it?