Pastor's Corner

Over the River and Through the Woods…


From the ages between two and eight, I spent a great deal of time staying with my Grandmother Kathryn Shoemaker at her house in Columbus, Ohio. I viewed it as a special time: just me and my wonderful Grandmother having quality time together. I was very selfish when it came to her. Any “intruders” who crashed our special time together I would inform Grandma to get rid of them quickly. Grandma had a very kind and sweet neighbor named Mrs. Dean, who would occasionally visit. I took an instant dislike to her because she was “crashing our party!” I know this portrait doesn’t make me look good, but my time with my Grandma always felt like a special party. It was not as if I was her only grandchild. She had ten living children, and so she had the right to be sick of all the grandchildren she would be asked to babysit for or visit. But not her; every one of my cousins I know felt the same way that I did when it came to spending time with Grandma Shoemaker, that each one of us were her “favorite.”


What was her secret? She was a great person of indomitable Christian faith. In all the years that I knew her (and she came on many family trips with us as well), I never saw her once utter a word in anger or put someone down. Now she was not a frail, meek, little woman. She had a strong personality, and by her example, she brought you up to her level of faith, strength, and compassion. Kathryn had all the eight fruits of the Spirit: particularly patience and kindness (qualities that are sorely lacking in our culture of today). She had not had an easy life; her husband, “Pop” Shoemaker was an alcoholic who could never keep a job. Having ten children to take care of during the depression, without a consistent breadwinner, had to have been almost impossible. But her faithful Christian endurance and positive outlook on life held that family of eight girls and two boys together, and all of her children had great professional careers, and everyone of them, particularly my dad, Judge Shoemaker, gave all the credit to Mom Shoemaker.


The house that I visited as a small boy was not “over the river and through the woods.” Grandma lived in an old house in a rough-part of Columbus, Ohio. My family had a nice home out in the country, located outside Westerville, Ohio. When I was about seventeen, our neighbor, Mr. Radcliffe, had just lost his wife and he was going to move back to Oak Hill, West Virginia. The house went up for sale, and immediately my father, my Uncle Don , along with several of my aunts got together and bought the house for Grandma so that she could be nearer to her children, grandchildren, etc. She was about eighty years old at that time, and she would live in that nice cozy little house for the final sixteen years of her life. Her new home was three houses down from my parents, and so right before dinner, my mother would have a dish for me to takeover to Grandma. The only day I was told not to visit with food was Tuesday. Why? Because that was the day her six daughters would take time off from their busy jobs and have a special lunch with Mom Shoemaker either at her home or in a nice restaurant.


In some ways things had come full circle: where before I had journeyed to Columbus to spend time with my Grandmother, now her children had brought her a house just three doors down from our doorstep. There was a famous sermon titled, “The Kingdom of God is Like a Party.” It was always that way with my Grandma Shoemaker. I have an old black and white photo of me, probably around five, taken of me in the tiny backyard of my Grandma’s. I am smiling and standing next to a big blow-up Bozo punching bag doll. Bozo towers above me, but that little smiling boy in that photo has not a care in the world. And why would he? He was having a special “party” with his Grandma!

Pastor Fred Shoemaker

Phone: 740.507.7499