by David Sisler
Melvin David Henry Cleve Mud Sisler.
When he was a little boy, that was the way my Dad introduced himself to an adult who asked his name. The "Melvin David Henry" part, we all understand, because that was the name given to him when he made his appearance into this world at Bayard, West Virginia, on August, 24, 1918. "Cleve" was his dad's nickname -- Grover Cleveland Sisler. But "Mud?" The only thing we can think of is someone told him if he misbehaved his name would be "Mud." Evidently the little boy had misbehaved.
When Dad was six years old, his father was killed in the wreck of a lumber train. Grover Cleveland Sisler left a wife, Stella Mae, and four children. At age six, Dad was the oldest.
Probably every father and grandfather has boasted of walking to school in the snow. Dad did. Loch Lynn Heights, Maryland, where Grandma moved her family, sits high atop the Allegheny Mountains and gets more than its share of the white stuff. It would be a given, that if youwalked to school there in the 1920s and 1930s, and most kids did, you walked through the snow. Dad swears he did it, carrying his baby sister.
Dad graduated from Oakland High School after he completed the eleventh grade. When World War II broke out, Dad served in the army in New Zealand. There he became engaged, but when he got home, he stopped in the local post office and met Mary Elizabeth Bittinger. One night in early 1946, Grandma called New Zealand, and told them that the wedding was off. So when I arrived the next year, and my brother Kyle moved in four years later, we did not speak with a British accent.
Boy Scout Troop 95 was formed in Loch Lynn when I was in high school. Dad was chosen to be its first Scout Master. One of my favorite photographs of him is of a winter camp out. The snow was probably two feet deep around our gear. We put down bales of hay and covered them with canvas ground cloths before we set up our tents. All weekend, we slept warm inside. When we broke camp on Sunday and everything was packed up, Dad took a final look around the camp site to be sure everything was in order.
The photographer snapped the camera as Dad was checking the list, getting his boys ready to return home. He was tired -- spending the weekend in the woods, sleeping on the ground, ramroding a herd of Boy Scouts will do that for you. But that really didn't show. I see a man who was proud of his position of leadership and proud of his boys.
On early autumn day in 1965, Dad loaded me, my girlfriend, Mom and most of my belongings into our fire engine red 1959 Chevrolet Brookwood station wagon and headed for Frostburg State College. It was freshman week and I was moving away from home for the first time (it was only 37 miles and I went home on the weekend, but it might as well have been the dark side of the moon). When the station wagon pulled away from Sowers Hall and headed for 117 Shenandoah Avenue everyone was crying, except for Dad. He had a silly grin plastered on his face to keep the tears back -- it is an expression I have tried to learn, but it works as poorly for me as it did for him.
Dad was proud that I chose to serve God in the ministry. He always introduced me as, "David, my son, the preacher." When my ministry moved out of the parsonage and into a private home, he would say, "He writes a Christian column," or "David is a missionary to Russia."
On Dad's 50th birthday, August 24, 1968, Bonnie and I were married. On his 78th birthday, August 24, 1996, my daughter Amy and her young man, Jack, will be married. Dad won't be here in person for the wedding. He is getting ready for another wedding and another wedding supper -- what Christians call "The Marriage Supper of the Lamb." Dad went home to be with his Lord and Savior a few days ago. He trusted Jesus with his life and his future a long time ago. His journey here is over. His race is won.
There was never a doubt that Melvin David Henry Cleve Mud Sisler loved us -- his wife, Elizabeth, his sons, David and Kyle, his daughters-in-law, Bonnie and Cathy, and his grandchildren, Jennifer, Amy, Michael, Matthew, and Jason, and Scott. But even more special than that was the knowledge that he loved Jesus. And so when we closed the coffin we did not say, "Good bye." Only, "For a little while."
I love you, Dad. See you at the Home Coming!
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 6/29/96
Copyright 1996 by David SislerAll Rights Reserved.
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