Tuesday afternoon was beautiful – off Western Avenue at least. At home is was ugly with a capital U. But I wasn’t home. I was standing in the sun, warm as toast. From my vantage point, I could see the final resting places of many dear friends of Peninsula. I have been in that area too often. I was there to lay Gloria Umbarger to rest, next to her husband, Harold, who had passed away in 1978.
Not many of you would remember Gloria. She had been a faithful member at Peninsula since 1966. She would sit across the aisle from me in the second row if she were at church. She was always at church, unless she was at her condo in Hawaii or in the desert. But we haven’t seen her at church since COVID. Her mind was beginning to fade pre-pandemic, but the last couple of years have been hard for her. She never had children, but she was well cared for by her sister and nephews. When she died a couple of weeks ago she was 97, which I found unbelievable. She had worked for both the Redondo and South Bay Union School District for 33 years as the secretary to the Superintendent of Schools. She had served six superintendents before retiring in 1990.
I say all of that because most of us didn’t know any of that. I didn’t. I knew Gloria loved Jesus. I knew Gloria checked the Friday Update each week to discover the text for the upcoming sermon. And if I hadn’t included it, I would get an email asking for it. She loved the Word. She loved her Savior. When she was younger, she was on Christian radio in a small ensemble singing gospel choruses. I will always remember her for her impeccable sense of style and her perfectly coiffed hair. Tony Vula did have to rescue her at least once when she locked herself out of her bathroom….on a Sunday morning. He scooted up Highridge and saved the day. She never forgot you, Tony.
But as I stood there on Tuesday (enjoying the sunshine) I reflected on the lives of so many friends. Not many from church were at her graveside, because those who knew her well were already waiting for her in the ground. The founding generation is passing. We now build on that foundation and do so carefully, but creatively. We cannot let our love for Jesus dim. We cannot let the torch of faith go out. We must press on to teach truth in a culture which is redefining truth. So we must keep growing people to impact their world. And beyond. Just like Gloria did so faithfully.