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A series of essays in the Episcopal Church


Let Us Now Praise Famous Persons: A Challenge to Our Winter Reality

Let Us Now Praise Famous Persons: A Challenge to Our Winter Reality

By The Rev. John Rettger

BUD HOCH

St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Minneapolis 15 December 2004

Today we celebrate the life of Bud Hoch. He suffered mightily from a variety of illnesses for a very long time, but in spite of it all was remarkably patient, courageous and faithful. He was supported by lots of us, not as much as he deserved perhaps, but still many people did their best. The closest to him in these last years were Roxanne and Nick Larson, who lived with him and whose care was never-ending. Bud was enormously grateful and told me many times that he wanted to adopt Nick as his son, and he loved being called "Grandpa" by the Larson kids James, Dakota, Logan and MacKenzie. Other people whom he loved and who supported him include his brother Arnold, who came to visit him every day, and Louise who has many memories of Bud and his family.

Toward the end of his life, Bud received Holy Communion every week from St. Paul's, taken by Glenys and Ralph Rickgarn. He was anointed by our presiding minister today and his priest Fr. Neuhaus. He was cared for by Heartland Hospice. He died in the house that he and his parents had built after the second world war when Columbia Heights was being developed.

His partner for many years was Don Johnson, whose heavenly birthday was about ten years ago. They were different in a hundred ways: Don was edgy and funny and tactless and teasing, Bud was gentle and supportive and about as sweet and inoffensive a person as you ever want to meet. But they were inseparable, and many of us thought that after Don died, Bud never quite recovered. Grief was always just under the surface with Bud anyway: mention his mother (who died in 1970) or dad (who died in 1979), and Bud would eagerly and usually mournfully reminisce.

When Don was living they entertained with enthusiasm. This was never more true than at Christmas. There were lots of colorful decorations new and old, gaudy in the Anoka County style, with rich food, lots of it, served at a beautiful table. And there might even be a little something on the side, wine perhaps, and beforehand maybe a little nip of egg nog. Their hospitality was so natural and so gracious that you felt right at home, and wanted the moment to last forever.

Bud and Don were members of the Church of the Resurrection. It was a little church, and struggled for most of its existence. But they brought the gifts they had and offered them lavishly. Don was the head of the acolytes, and Bud was on the altar guild. They never really wanted leadership responsibility, but when there was something they could do, you could count on them to do it. As a result of their faith and commitment, Resurrection was able to support my serving as the first chaplain of Integrity/Twin Cities in 1979, a pioneering ministry, a source of controversy then and now. But they put a human face on an issue that was and is very difficult for many people, and I could never have done it if it had not been for them.

At Resurrection and at St. Paul's, Bud was best known for his enormous creativity. He was, as Louise put it succinctly, "skilled." He could cater and loved weddings and even made dresses for brides and bridesmaids. He loved crocheting and at home there were doilies everywhere, even under the candlesticks. He knew all about flower arrangement. Give him a little chicken wire and some chunks of foam and he could take a bunch of bruised gladiolas into cathedral quality bouquet.

Bud's love of things beautiful extended to music. Put that together with his love of Christmas, and his love of church, and what do you get? If you're me, an angel keeps whispering in your ear: "Don't forget the Lessons and Carols." Every year on Christmas Eve this traditional service is held in King's College, Cambridge, but it is broadcast around the world and you can hear it on Christmas Eve on KSJN. Some of you may be familiar with this service. The most stunning moment is at the very beginning, when one of the boy sopranos, aged eight to eleven, gets a nod from the choirmaster. There in that packed church, with the world listening, out of the silence with no organ accompaniment or any other support, one boy is picked to sing the entire first verse of "Once in Royal David's City."

Why did the angel want me to connect this Christmas carol to Bud? I wondered. I went to the Hymnal and read the words. Here are the words of verses 4 and 5:

For [Christ] is our lifelong pattern: daily, when on earth he grew,
he was tempted, scorned, rejected, tears and smiles like us he knew.
Thus he feels for all our sadness, and he shares in all our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see him, through his own redeeming love;
For that child, who seemed so helpless, is our Lord in heaven above;
and he leads his children on, to the place where he is gone.

We heard in the Gospel the proclamation that Christ goes to prepare a place for us, that where he is there we may come. The good news is always about new life for the weary, healing for the sick, about God being among us as one tempted, scorned and rejected. The gospel word is that the most vulnerable voice of a child can sing alone in a dark world. The gospel word is that the despair of endless struggle and then our last breath is not the end of the story. "And he leads his children on" -- the hymn challenges our winter reality. "And he leads his children on, to the place where he is gone."

Thank you, Bud, for being Christ to us.


You are welcome to submit your essays for consideration for this series. Send them to lcrew@newark.rutgers.edu Identify yourself by name, snail address, parish, and other connections to the Episcopal Church. Please encourage others to do the same.

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