It was a great Christmas present. Late Monday night God sent his angels to usher home my father-in-law, affectionately known to us as Gramps. They took his hand while he was sleeping and together made the journey to a better home. Gramps spent 96 years here on earth and he wanted to go home to heaven. He had walked closely with the Lord for many years and had a special personal relationship with His Creator.

He had a rough life in his early years and had to quit school when he was in eighth grade. He often regretted not being able to write or spell better, but he more than made up for that with his sound business sense. After years of earning a living by selling coal and doing other odd jobs, he went to Middletown where he worked at the Olmstead Air Force base.

Wanting to go back into business for himself, he took a chance on a piece of run-down property in Sunbury where he began a water business using the spring that was there. He also ran a country store and a weekly auction until the water business became profitable. Over the years the Tulpehocken Water Company grew and he made it a very successful business. When he reached retirement age, he sold it to its present owner who has since built it into a multimillion dollar business now delivering in several states. Gramps was proud to be called the founder of the company.

During the years of transition, before moving to Sunbury, he came to really know and love the Lord. He gave up some bad habits and became actively involved in his church and in the Gideons. There are two things which really stood out about his Christian walk. First, he was a real prayer warrior. Every morning and at other times he fervently talked to the Lord and prayed over a long list of family and friends and their needs. He believed in prayer and rejoiced in many answers. Several folks have already remarked that they feel the loss of his daily prayers for them. When he was ill he apologized for not being able to pray as he had done before.

The second outstanding feature was his gift and zeal for evangelism. He was always handing out Gideon New Testaments and explaining the way of salvation. And he was able to talk to folks in such a non threatening manner that was never offensive. He won many folks to Christ over the years. It was remarkable. And when we talked about his gift he would claim that it wasn't a gift. He was just being obedient to the Lord's commands to share the Gospel to everyone. He felt that anyone could and should do this. He often said that the Lord kept him here on earth because there was somebody else left for him to win to the Lord. And he did this, even during his hospitalizations.

His final three weeks were amazing. After years of apparent good health, two hospitalizations and entrance into a nursing home gave him a chance to see all his children and grandchildren for what turned out to be the final time on earth. Then, on Monday, we were summoned to the nursing home for a meeting concerning his request to return to his apartment. When we arrived he was reading the morning newspaper and commenting about Bush and the shoe thrower. The doctor and his team then came and said that his condition was terminal. Dad asked how much time he had left and the doctor said he probably would not see the new year. Dad then rejoiced that he was soon going to his new home with friends and family. Then he began to sleep the rest of the day and he was doing that when we left for home. Later that night a nurse helped him with his oxygen mask and when she returned ten minutes later, he had gone home in his sleep. That was what he wanted. We received the call at 1 am, only 15 hours after our meeting and the doctor's announcement. Only ten days in the nursing home and then released in his sleep to heaven - a fitting move for a special man. We already miss him but we know that he is now celebrating with his Lord and his wife Mary. What a perfect Christmas present.