One wintry night in 1985 I knocked on the door of a west side Indianapolis house where a couple lived who had recently visited our Sunday services, paying a follow up visit in hopes of getting to know this gentleman and his wife better. It took a while for anyone to answer my knock, but at length a tall, kind looking, middle-aged man came to the door and after I introduced myself, he invited me to come in out of the cold. It was not until later that I learned that Jerry and Fran retired fairly early in the evenings since he usually was up around 4:00 a.m. to get ready to go to his workplace at Allison Turbine. They were gracious and we had a pleasant visit and I rose to my feet to leave but waited at the door for Jerry to retrieve my coat which he had hung in the closet when I had entered their living room. We must have visited another 10 minutes at the door before he remembered to get my overcoat after which I departed following a parting prayer. Later, in recalling that first visit, Jerry conveyed to me his frustration with my not leaving promptly, keeping him from precious, fast fleeting sleep time in lieu of his early rising. That would be the first of countless visits I would make to the Farley home over the next 30 years, a place where I was always welcomed and where fellowship and prayer was always in order, and never bothersome to this godly duo who had begun their married life attending Dr. Ford Porter’s Lifegate Baptist Church in downtown Indianapolis where Jerry trusted Christ and followed his Lord in believer’s baptism, Fran having already made those faith decisions.
Jerry just dropped by my office last week to visit as he has been prone to do beaucoup times through the past three plus decades. He and his wife became members of the church I pastored shortly after that first mid-winter visit to their home, and they were always a “preacher’s friend,” faithful in attendance, generous in giving, selfless in serving and always sensitive to the needs of the local church body of believers. There was nothing they would not do for you. Until Jerry retired from his day job, he was not able to get too involved in our on-going day to day ministry at TRBC, but after he retired, he was like an unpaid staff member. His mechanical skills were extraordinary. He could fix just about anything and if occasionally he ran into a brick wall in trying to solve a problem, he would “sleep on it,” and invariably before morning he would have figured out the solution and by breakfast it was probably fixed. I have thought so often that every church needs a Jerry Farley (and God has given such men to most every church I am sure), and I could never thank our heavenly Father enough for this right-hand man!
In time, Fran became incapacitated to the point that Jerry could no longer care for her at home so he entrusted her care to a nursing home facility where she would spend the last two or three years of her life, with Jerry visiting her every day making sure she was being well taken care of and assuring her of his continued presence with her. He was with her when she drew her last breath.
Sometime after Fran had passed, Jerry watched as one of my teen-age grandsons rode his bike, sitting backwards on the bicycle seat, in our church parking lot. Jerry was in his early 80’s at the time and what he saw Tim do reminded him that he had done the same thing as a youngster. He thought he could do it again, so he tried, and he did! Shortly thereafter, Jerry bought the first of several Harley Bikes that he would own and upon which he would ride from coast to coast, north to south, east to west, thousands of miles seeing the USA from a unique vantage point and living out a childhood dream that, because growing up on a farm in post-depression years as a lad with only chores and work from dawn to dusk he could only dream of motor cycles and trips to faraway places. The last “toy” that he bought was a “slingshot,” a three-wheeled, low to the ground bike that can barely seat two and that from a distance looks like a miniature Indy race car.
In all of this Mr. Farley never lost his desire or commitment to serve his Savior and to labor faithfully serving in the church, and in other churches. A church he once visited when in Florida needed a heater for its baptismal tank replaced and Jerry was the one who could and would do it. When he found out that it was not working, he would not rest until he made another trip to the sunny south to replace a part that was needed to get the heater working properly. If a family needed a ride to Virginia to attend a loved one’s funeral, Jerry was the go-to person. If something needed worked on at church or at the parsonage, call Jerry first. I can attest that, though few people were ever probably aware of it, Jerry saved our church multiplied thousands of dollars just by applying his skills for the church in jobs that otherwise would have necessitated calling a professional for help.
Now, Jerry is still living at the age of 91. In fact, before I post this, I will probably ask him to read it just for accuracy and he will probably protest my posting it, but I will probably kindly overrule him this time. All things being equal at 91 unless the rapture occurs in the not-too-distant future, not too, too long from now we’ll get the call that Jerry has joined his beloved wife and is with His Savior on the other side. His eye doctor says he is “one click” away from being legally blind. He had a fever for two weeks at the peak of the Covid-crisis but never went to the hospital and God spared his life. I am writing these few lines in tribute to Jerry realizing that he will not get any enjoyment out of any flowers we send, but though he will protest the publication of this, he may just have some realization of how very much he has meant to so many and to this grateful pastor and his wife whom he always treated as he would family. And, I want to pay tribute not only to Jerry Farley and but to all the “Jerrys” out there who keep a ministry moving, that unseen and unsung cadre of men and women who work behind the scenes doing whatever has to be done so that when the pastor mounted the pulpit on Sundays to preach, the furnace was working, the flowers were stunning, the leaky faucet in the bathroom was fixed, the front door had been put back on its hinges, the water that had leaked into the main auditorium when AT&T had been digging just outside the church wall causing a Valentine’s weekend small flood in our building was all vacuumed dry by service time, and the fire extinguisher chemicals that had been sprayed all over every square inch of the sanctuary by a 2:00 a.m. break-in on Sunday morning leaving a mess that was unimaginable, was all cleaned up by Sunday School time Sunday morning and on and on and on….
So, thank you Jerry! Thank you all who, like Jerry Farley, worked to please your Savior, to serve your church and to make sure your pastor always looked a lot better than he ever could have had he not had your unselfish, loving support. Thank You!
Author’s note: Last Friday, I had the pleasure of reading the script of this post to Mr. Farley knowing that he would not be able to read it himself and not wanting to assume that anyone else would do so. It was difficult reading (trying to keep from chocking up) but I managed to get through it with a tear drop falling into my coffee cup as I read the last line. I told him that if I were still alive when he passed and had any opportunity to have a part in his memorial service that what he had just heard was his eulogy (with any appropriate modifications necessary at that time). He did not protest, and we spent the next hour reminiscing about times past.
“His lord said unto him, Well done good and faithful servant….” (Matt. 25:23)