Tag Archives: Polly Duncan

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?

Steve Wouldn’t Do a Thing, Would He?

Marcia MacGregor, Easter 1966, Engagement

Marcia MacGregor, Easter 1966, Engagement

For our home life, Christ was very much at the center. Between that and the [Newton] Presbyterian Church, which is very Evangelical in nature, I [Marcia, Steve’s wife] just considered that as such a basic foundation for me, for my own life, from the time that I can remember anything. I grew up there.

Uncle Bob was in seminary at Gordon Divinity School and was doing a practicum at the Newton Presbyterian Church. He was—at the time I was in junior high—he was our youth group . . . he wasn’t a youth pastor, but he was a youth. . . .

[Steve]: Director. Facilitator.

Youth facilitator.

I was in ninth grade [1955/6] on this one meeting evening. He invited a good friend of his at Gordon, Russ Reinhardt, who was blind, to come and give his testimony. It so happened that a man by the name of Steve Duncan, a freshman in college at the same time as Russ, was his roommate. He came along to provide Russ transportation and to help him. Marcia MacGregor was sitting in this room. In walks this college freshman with wavy brown hair, just a hunk of a guy, handsome as could be, and she thought she was born five years too late.

Fast forward eight years. Uncle Bob and I were at a Presbyterian youth camp during the summer, counseling together at that camp. He just casually said, “You know, we’d like to get you together with my brother.”

I knew that Bob had a lot of brothers. I was just trying to figure out: is this the same brother that I saw back eight years ago. I couldn’t quite figure it out.

Anyway, sure enough, we had a double date together. They showed up with Steve. There he was, this handsome man, but I have to say he didn’t know how to dress. Maybe he didn’t know how to dress. Maybe that wasn’t his fault totally because the money was not flowing. Evidently somebody had died and that person’s clothes got passed onto Steve. Anyway, I was impressed by everything else except the way he. . . .

[Stephanie?]: God was preparing him to be a missionary.

[Steve]: I’m still wearing the same clothes.

Now at the time, that year I had gone to the University of Massachusetts to do some graduate studies in German. I had studied German language as my major in college and I wanted to do graduate studies, so I was out there. I came home during Christmas break and that’s when we had this date, so I wasn’t used to living at home at all anymore. We went out and Bob and Polly—we went to see The Sound of Music all together—eventually Bob and Polly went home.

Steve took me home. We sat out, in front of my house at 46 Slade Street in Belmont for I don’t know how long, talking. I just knew that I had met the man I was going to marry. We just shared a lot of things, what our life was, what our hopes were for our lives. Both he and I felt that God was calling us to the mission field. We knew that. We shared those kinds of things. We talked about, just about everything. I mean, I was looking for a husband. He was looking for a wife. We were cutting to the chase.

Anyway, so then I don’t know what time it was in the morning at this point, but I walked into my house and there was my father. “Where, on earth, have you been?!” He had been calling Polly and Bob and worried sick.

[Steve]: Oh, boy!

[Virginia, laughing]: Did he call your cell phone?

No! There were no cell phones!

[Heidi]: Aunt Polly was like, “Oh, no, Steve wouldn’t do a thing?! Would he? Oh, they just met! It’s a blind date!”

We were outside. The car was parked right in front, on the curb, if he had looked out the window. But you know, I wasn’t used to having to think about oh, somebody’s inside waiting for me. I had lived away from home for so long. That just totally busted my bubble, you know, because I was walking on a cloud that night when I came home that night.

Anyway, Steve went to my dad and apologized. Right away, that went up, Steve went up in his mind. Then we were engaged, basically, on Easter Sunday, the following Easter Sunday. That was Christmas and we got. . . . Steve went to my dad and asked for my hand in marriage, so that really took him all the way.

My dad said to me, “You’ll go places with that guy.” That’s what he said. So we’ve been places.

story told by Marcia (Steve’s wife) to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014 with questions and comments from Eric Kindberg (Lee’s son), Virginia Gorman (Lee’s daughter), Steve, and Steve’s daughters Heidi and Stephanie; 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?
  • Mom/Marcia, on which campus of the University of Massachusetts did you do your German graduate studies? Were they completed? What year was that? What was the degree?

Youth Ministry and Marriage: Not So Much

Bob, Polly, Andy, Gene, Colin, ca. 1968[Virginia]: You know, just so many people will offer to be youth group leaders, but not too many people who can do that.

[Bob]: Yes, that’s right.

[Polly]: That’s true.

[Bob]: It’s a calling. There’s no question about it.

[Polly]: Yeah.

[Bob]: I had somebody call me—an old friend, a member of a church that I’d served—and said they were ready to hire a new youth leader, who’d been married three times. I don’t know whether he was still married. But at any rate, she said, “I’m really concerned about this.”

And I said, “You have every right to be.” It does not speak very clearly to the young people.

[Lee]: No. No, exactly.

[Bob]: It does. It speaks all too clearly.

[Virginia]: Yeah, right.

[Bob]: Well, they decided finally. I guess there must have been another little fuss.

He was very good, but he’d better do that in another church where his history isn’t well known. But, so they did hire somebody else.


[Polly]: We’ve kind of been there, done that. When we were in seminary, we had a youth group at my former home church, a Baptist church. It was wonderful, just great.

[Bob]: We had 20 or 25 kids in a small church.

[Polly]: But when in our other churches that we served—Uncle Bob did everything. And many, many times we tried to lead together. But in terms of the youth work as our kids got older, they had other leaders. I would help out in junior high and be an adviser or something when Colin was born, especially when Colin was born, up through that age. It really is, most of the time, just a better situation if you’re not right there. I don’t know, somehow they feel intimidated by a parent.

[Virginia]: Oh. Well.

[Lee]: Like you’re watching them.

[Polly]: Yeah, it’s like, “Can’t I ever. . . .”

[Bob]: Yet in Mercer [1991–1997], it was very common to have the parents involved.

[Polly]: Yeah, that’s true. In fact they liked having—some of them—they liked having their parents there.

[Bob]: We had a youth group of a hundred kids. We had seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth. And it worked out really quite nicely.

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

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.)

  • Polly, can you tell us more about leading youth groups with Uncle Bob in the early days of ministry?
  • Can anyone else tell stories on Bob about his youth ministry tactics or snafus?

Pastors Forget What You Said

[Bob]: It’s a tough one. We have little consistency in the churches I’ve served recently. People are very inconsistent. That’s all. They would wander in and wander out, you know. And know, there were many good Evangelical Christians. There just didn’t seem to be that commitment in a lot of the churches. It really was disappointing.

So, that sermon yesterday I could have easily preached in my church. I preached a different theme: “Keep On Keeping On.”

[Lee]: Harley said he liked the sermons.

[Bob]: Yes. Yes. And I can understand that. It was a very good sermon.

[Lee]: Nice young. . . . We went there . . . Christmas eve?

[Polly]: Christmas eve.

[Lee]: Yeah. We went there and met with the people. The pastor was going to get me a copy of . . . something, I suppose by, not a member of the church, but somebody outside the church, and he had to pay for it, and [can’t hear], but. . . .

[Polly]: Maybe someday.

[Bob]: Well, one of the good suggestions of a church of any size is that somebody—like a secretary—stand next to you. And when people come through and you talk about this kind of thing, that the other person is writing it down.

Tape Recorder Handheld[Virginia]: Oh, take notations.

[Lee]: Or like you did. You had a little tape recorder.

[Bob]: Yah, I did for a while.

[Virginia]: Oh, really?

[Bob]: Yah. Yah. You know, I would just record what they wanted and take care of it later. But somebody stole the tape recorder.

[Polly]: That was the end of it.

[Lee]: Oh, no.

[Bob]: I think my first suggestion was don’t let anybody steal this.

[Ken]: They did what?

[Bob]: They stole my tape recorder. I had a hand tape recorder.

[Ken]: Oh. Oh, I missed all of that.

[Bob]: A very small cassette—it was nice, but somebody stole it out of my office.

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

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 church/year was Bob’s recorder stolen from?
  • Did he actually push the record button while someone was standing there or just make himself a recorded note as they walked away?
  • Can you remember which text he liked to preach “Keep On Keeping On” from. I can guess, but do you know?
  • Did Aunt Lee ever get her thing from the pastor? What was that thing?

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?

Bob’s Only Seventy!

Bob, 05.2003, courtesy of Dawn Duncan Harrell[Bob]: I had to give up my violin and then give up my guitar.

[Lee]: I’ve lost the feeling in these two fingers and I can’t. . . .

[Ken]: Oh, did you play violin?

[Bob]: Um-hm.

[Polly]: Yes. He played very nicely.

[Bob]: Arthur Fiedler and I were good friends. Ha!

[Lee]: You know, if you feel like you want to take a rest or something. Or if you feel like you want to go for a walk. I know you say you don’t like to walk. I mean, you can’t walk.

[Bob]: Well, it depends. Some days it doesn’t bother me in the least and other days. . . .

[Lee]: I’m going to show Virginia where our “block” is that we walk around. It only takes about twenty minutes.

[Ken]: He’s only seventy.

[Bob]: That’s right! [b. Nov 13, 1933]

Bruce, Gail, Lee, Virginia, Kathy, Eric gathering for Lee's 80th in 2007, courtesy of Virginia Gorman[Lee]: I know he’s only seventy. He’s my younger brother.

We’re half in Orange and half in Santa Ana [Calif.]. When we go around the block we go into Orange that has orange fire hydrants. We go around. When we go back, it’s white fire hydrants and we’re in Santa Ana again.

transcription of a conversation between Bob, Polly (Bob’s 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 (Click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.).

  • Can someone tell about Uncle Bob playing the violin, please? Did he take lessons as a child? Did he play in church, orchestra? When did he quit? I don’t believe I ever heard him.
  • I remember him playing guitar so we could sing during Wednesday night Bible study. When did he give that up? Did he teach himself? Take lessons?
  • Did he play guitar first or violin?
  • Do you recall which two fingers Aunt Lee was referring to? Did the feeling ever come back? Did she lose it all at once or in a traumatic event?
  • What did she have to give up with the loss of sensation in her fingers?
  • I hunted for a 2004 photo of Lee, but the closest I got was this 2007. Anybody want to send me a photo from 2004?

Chronology of Bob’s Pastoral Ministry


St. Paul's Presbyterian Church, 870 Cummins Highway, Mattapan, MA 02126, courtesy of Google Maps

[Lee]: Let’s see. You went from Greenwood to Mineola to Pittsburg or wherever.

First Presbyterian Church of Greenlawn, present, 497 Pulaski Road, Greenlawn, NY[Bob]: Let me go back. Mattapan is where I started, we started. Then we went to Greenlawn on Long Island and were there for five years. Then went back to Quincy.

Fort Square Presbyterian Church, present,  16 Pleasant Street, Quincy, MA 02169[Polly]: Went back to Massachusetts. Quincy.

[Bob]: Massachusetts. Quincy. There we served for twelve, 15 years [12 years]. And then went from there to Mineola, back to Long Island. We were there for . . .

[Lee]: That’s where Mother [Virginia] was with you?

[Bob]: Yes. That’s where Mother died [d. 1992].First Presbyterian Church of Mineola, present, 182 First Street, Mineola, NY 11501

[Polly]: Yes. Between the Quincy church and Mineola. Yeah.

[Bob]: And then were there for eight years and then went out to Mercer, Pennsylvania. We were there for six years. We went back to Greenlawn as an interim for three years. And then we came, went to Ballston Spa.

Bethany Presbyterian Church, present, 100 West Venango Street, Mercer, PA 16137, courtesy of rootsweb dot ancestry dot comSo anyway, they just lost their pastor. Two years this guy was there and just didn’t like him or whatever.

[Lee]: Where? Mercer?

[Bob]: In Greenlawn.



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

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 check the names and dates of the churches? The dates with the ~ mark reflect my guestimation. The ones without have been verified at the church websites.
  • Can you recall the date that Mother (Virginia) moved in with Bob and Polly?