Monday, June 2, 2014

A wild driving day/Ruth Seabury

DAY THREE:  Today (Monday) was really an unusual day weather-wise, unlike anything we have experienced to date. That is because we were subject to erratic, sudden, unexpected, violent thunderstorms with heavy rain, almost zero visibility and high winds, which would be over as suddenly as they began, and the sun would come out, the road would be dry, and then, all of a sudden, we would hit a wall of water again. It was wild!! This happened over and over again all the way from Ludington down into Indiana and over into Illinois. Finally around suppertime, things calmed down, and it became a beautiful summer's evening, white fluffy clouds, green fields - just a day of contrasts.

We made a big decision at the start of the day NOT to take the northern route to Wyoming. We had originally planned to go north from Ludington, where we spent the night, and across the Upper Penninsula, through Duluth (where I have never been), across North Dakota, Montana, down through the Gallatin Range into Idaho and over to Alpine. It would have been a beautiful drive with a lot of new territory for us, but it was close to 1900 miles from Ludington to Alpine, so we would have been forced to go almost 500 miles a day, and some of that on roads not particularly easy driving. Ellen did not sleep terribly well last night (nor did I), so the necessity to drive 500 miles across the Upper Penninsula today seemed daunting. So we gave it up for another time. Instead we headed south down U.S. 31. That gave me the opportunity to stop in Muskegon and go to the library to get some information about Ruth Isabel Seabury.

Who is Ruth Seabury? Well, back in the 1950's she was probably the most prominent woman leader in the Congregational-Christian denomination (what is today the United Church of Christ), and she also worked for the Danforth Foundation and was one of the leaders at Camp Miniwanca that summer of 1954 when Shirley was there. Shirley's letters make it clear that Ruth Seabury made that camp a positive experience for her. She was deeply impressed by her. She was a missionary under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (the official title of the Congregational Mission Board), and had had extensive experience in Africa, India and Japan. She was an inveterate world traveler, had written several books, was a formidable intellect and an acerbic critic of shoddy theology and lukewarm Christianity. Shirley took to her immediately, and I know from reading her letters from Pittsburg, KS the next year that Shirley went to some lengths to get Ruth Seabury to come to the KSTC campus. I had also met Ruth Seabury along the way - she visited Drury College when I was the President of the Student Christian Association - and Ruth gave her imprimatur to Shirley and me getting married. Not that we needed it, but it was nice to know she approved. What I hadn't realized until I started researching was that she had died on July 30, 1955, just four weeks before we were married. I don't think we knew that at the time. And she had died in Muskegon, MI. Why? What were the circumstances of her death? So I wanted to stop in Muskegon and see if I could get some answers.

I did. There was an article in the Muskegon Chronicle on the day of her death, telling that she had just returned to the U.S. from an extensive trip through Asia, and she was en route to Camp Miniwanca when at 2am, on a Saturday, she had had a sudden heart attack and had died almost immediately. She was only 63. That must have been a shocking death for the Danny Grads and staff who had gathered at Camp Miniwanca for their training. I'm going to see what more I can learn about Ruth Seabury and see if I can pay tribute to her for the 60th anniversary of her death next summer.

Tonight we are at the Broadview Inn and Suites in Galesburg, IL, the home of Knox College, a campus I have long wanted to visit. I just had a swim in the motel pool - Ahhh! Tomorrow night should find us in Nebraska  - we have three days to get to Alpine, so "no sweat" as they say.

Ruth Isabel Seabury

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