There was a time in my youth when I thought the woman known as Betty Crocker must have been the most beautiful female alive; then I found out that she was really a composite drawing of fine features from many women. Now, all of this is “tongue in cheek,” of course, because I really never gave Betty Crocker that much thought. Recently, though, going through a lifetime collection of my late mother’s treasured books, I found a Betty Crocker cookbook dated 1968 and was reminded of the beautiful composite non-person.
So, by now you might suspect that this post is a bit different than my regular ones. If that is what you thought, you are correct. I will get back to the most beautiful woman in a moment.
Today is my wife’s birthday, so I am going to try to surprise her with this “Happy Birthday Ellen” post. I had planned to write about “The Pastor’s Wife,” but realized that I had devoted a post to that subject in 2021. You can read it by scrolling down the archives or by pulling it up on your computer under that that title. I recommend it!
When I was a teenager, my family attended Calvary Baptist Church in Ottumwa, Iowa, where Keith Knauss was the pastor. Keith was all that you’d ever hope for in a pastor; his wife, Nellie, was the quintessential pastor’s wife. It was agreed upon by just about everyone that Pastor and Mrs. Knauss were the epitome of a pastor/wife team. They stayed in that church for 10 years, and I thought at that time that 10 years as pastor of one church was like a lifetime. How could anyone do that? Never in my wildest imaginations would I have believed that one day I would retire having pastored the same church for 40 years! Keith and Nellie set the bar, and in this college student’s mind they were the gold standard; they remained so as long as they lived. You can imagine my chagrin when, upon Keith’s passing, Nellie asked me to conduct her husband’s funeral and extenuating circumstances did not allow me the opportunity of doing so.
But, back to the most beautiful girl. I met her, in person, early in my junior year at Bob Jones University. In those days, every student was given a seating assignment in the huge dinning common where we would eat, family style, three meals a day, required. It was at one of those table assignments in the fall of 1963 that I met a freshman business major from North Carolina whose name was Ellen Beshears. She was quiet, beautiful, maybe a bit aloof (to this young man at least), but she intrigued me, and it was not long before I asked her if I could walk her to her next class after lunch. She agreed, and the rest is history. Every fall at BJU in those days they had a “Turkey Bowl,” where the top soccer teams would play for the championship. Then, there was a nice, classy “artist” series to attend in the evening, and hall monitors and dorm supervisors (Bob and Joan Taylor were supervisors in Reveal, where my dorm was) would encourage the guys to get a date for this special occasion. I tried, but Ellen already had accepted an invitation from another suitor, so I had to “get in line.” I did, and in time, I got a “yes” to my note sent through the 10 p.m. dorms-to-dorms mail system.
In 1964 we were engaged, after many walks to classes, dates to artists series, and hours spent in the “dating parlor.” On a hot August evening in 1965, in a quaint little white chapel where there was a pulpit that Ellen’s Dad preached from every Sunday (and would until he had to step back due to health issues after 55 years as pastor), we exchanged sacred vows in holy matrimony. Pastor Malcolm Neier, pastor then of Coatesville (Indiana) Missionary Baptist Church, where I would serve as interim pastor following my retirement as senior pastor 55 years later, led us in the ceremony.
It was while we were still engaged, though, that I penned Ellen the following poem, which I would later recite as part of our wedding ceremony:
“The most beautiful girl on the face of God’s earth, Is a girl named Ellen Beshears; For her beauty’s not merely a beauty of youth, But one that will outlive the years; She’s a woman who knows, a woman who cares- And one who can understand; She can cheer with a smile, sympathize with a tear, Reassure with the touch of her hand. You, sweet Ellen, are the girl I love, The first and the only one; You’ve colored my dreams, You’ve captured my heart— My entire being you’ve won! I’ll love you in life, I’ll love you in death, I’ll love you ‘till God doth us part; I’ll love you with body and soul and mind, I’ll love you with all of my heart.” And, after 57 years of oneness, it’s more true with the passing of every day. Happy birthday, Ellen. You really are “the most beautiful girl….”
“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it….” (Song of Solomon 8:7)