On May 31st our family celebrated the life, ministry, and faith of John’s father, Jack Raudenbush. John spoke about his dad with his sisters, Katie sang “In Christ Alone” with her cousins, and I had the privilege of representing Jack’s years of ministry at Hawthorne Christian Academy, since I was both a student and faculty member there.
In honor of Father’s Day, I am sharing what I said at the service.
In the summer of 1990, my family received a letter in the mail with the fabulous news that a new administrator had been found to take the helm at Hawthorne Christian Academy. My siblings and I read the letter with fiend enthusiasm and laughed hysterically as we tried to pronounce his name. Was it Rod-enbush? Rad-enbush? Rood-enbush?
On the first day of school we met a giant of a man, and it never occurred to us to laugh at his name again. We quickly learned that Mr. Raudenbush was more of a gentle giant than a Goliath. He was not a mysterious man. We knew right away who was in charge, although we never knew what he was going to say next. He had no problem exerting his authority, but we loved him, because we knew that he loved us.
HCA’s new high school had only graduated two classes when Mr. Raudenbush arrived in my junior year. He embraced his new position with great fervor and restraint. I remember his example of wise leadership — he told us he would not make any major changes the first year – he would watch how things worked. However, he did institute a few things like bagel breaks, the jog-a-thon, and senior privileges.
Mr. Raudenbush led by example. If work needed to be done, he did it. He was not above any task, despite his position and experience. If there was something to be put together, taken apart, set up, or cleaned up, Mr. Raudenbush had no problem doing it. He was a great example of servant leadership. My mother told me that one of the first days she saw Mr. Raudenbush on campus he had his suit jacket off and his sleeves rolled up, and she knew immediately that he had been sent by the Lord. As I got to know him better over the years, I discovered something else about this trait: he couldn’t help it.
We’re not really sure who noticed me first: Mr. Raudenbush, or his 16 year old son John, who happened to be the “new guy” in our junior class. Early in the school year, Mr. Raudenbush asked John, “Who’s the girl in your class with the red hair that smiles all the time?” He was talking about me. By December, I was officially “going out” with the principal’s son. People teased me that my grades would improve, but anyone who knew Mr. Raudenbush knew that wasn’t true. If anything, I had ruined my GPA. But his son was worth it.
Enduring high school sweethearts are rare, but we survived college, and one day, the principal’s son asked me to be his wife. You may be interested to know that Jack and Gail were also high school sweethearts. Once John and I were engaged, Mr. Raudenbush looked at me one day with all the seriousness he could muster, and declared that since I was marrying his son, I didn’t have to call him Mr. Raudenbush anymore. I could call him “Sir.”
Four years after I walked up the center aisle of Hawthorne Gospel Church on graduation day, I walked back down that same aisle to become Mrs. John S. Raudenbush. A year after that, I became Mrs. Raudenbush, HCA’s newest 4th grade teacher. Jack was not involved in the interview process until I met with sixteen board members who wanted him to oversee the final interview. He asked questions, board members asked questions, and I answered with all the lofty ideas and inexperience I had in me. But I have the heart of a teacher, and I answered Jack’s critical question correctly: Do you teach math to students, or do you teach students math? When the interview was over, everyone stood, thanked me for coming, and politely excused me. Jack left with me so that he was not part of the deliberations. As the doors closed behind us, he didn’t say a word, but he gave me a sideways wink and thumbs up. I had done well. My pounding heart stilled a bit. I got the job.
I taught for 3 years at HCA. Jack and I shared the same mutual understanding he had with his own children when he was their dad and their principal: we avoided each other at all costs. He protected me, as he did the rest of the family, by telling me absolutely nothing about what was going on at school that I did not need to know. Not only was it none of my business anyway, but then when people asked about what was going on with this or that, I could truthfully say, “I don’t know. Go ask Jack.”
My 4th grade counterpart, Mrs. Burres, only had one year experience on me, so we learned together. I remember the two of us squirming in the principal’s office one day, waiting to be seen. We were in trouble. We had taught our students a great civics lesson about getting involved in politics by writing to government officials. As a culminating activity, the students wrote letters to school officials, calling for change in various areas. Mr. Raudenbush read their letters. He was not impressed. He said that we should be challenging our students to think about how they could bring about positive change in their families, school, and community, not encouraging them to write letters that amounted to unmerited complaints. I was horrified, not so much because I just got chewed out by my boss, who also happened to be my father-in-law, but because he was right. I had not even thought of it that way.
I also remember Mrs. Burres and I discussing with our students what they wanted to be when they grew up. I don’t know how, but we ended up talking to Jack about it. I don’t remember exactly what the lesson was about, but I will never forget what Jack said. He said that we shouldn’t be asking our students what they want to be when they grow up, we should be encouraging them to pray about what God is calling them to be when they grow up. John and I speak to Jack’s grandchildren the same way.
Teachers’ meetings were always interesting adventures. Jack always knew what he wanted to say, but he never met a tangent he didn’t like. One thing I remember him saying at every faculty prayer meeting was, “Life is hard, but God is good.” And you haven’t really been a student or a teacher under Jack’s supervision until you’ve heard this outside your classroom door: [KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK] “HELLO!” or, “GOOD MORNING!” That entrance was enough to scare the fire out of any intent teacher or day-dreaming child.
In December of 1999, John and I excitedly told Mom and Dad that they were going to be grandparents (again). As my father-in-law, Jack was thrilled. As my boss, not so much. The 1999-2000 school year was a fertile one for HCA. Three other teachers had already shared their exciting news, and four more made their announcements by February. Yes, eight pregnant teachers traded their brief cases for diaper bags that year, and Jack had to replace every single one of us. I believe it is the highest teacher turnover in HCA history.
Jack was many things to me over the years: Mr. Raudenbush as my principal, Sir as my fiancé’s father, Jack as my boss, and most importantly, he was my second dad. I would never presume to speak for Dad, but his legacy speaks for itself. If we were to ask him how we could honor his memory, I am confident that he would answer with 3 John verse 4: “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children, my grandchildren, my loved ones, my students, and my staff walking in the truth.”
Do you want to honor Jack? Follow him as he followed Christ.