On July 17, my last remaining grandparent died. His name was Robert Hummel. Pop-Pop, as I affectionately called him, was born on March 2, 1915 in Fleetwood, Pa. He lived to be 100 years old.
That’s staggering. To give some context, here’s what was happening in the world when Pop was born:
- World War I was less than eight months old.
- The U.S. House of Representatives voted against women’s suffrage.
- Alexander Graham Bell made the first transcontinental call from New York to San Francisco.
- A German U-boat sank the British ocean liner Lusitania.
- Babe Ruth, at age 20, played his first full major league season, going 18-8 with a 2.44 ERA as a pitcher, and helped the Boston Red Sox win a World Series championship over the Philadelphia Phillies.
- Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company were still manufacturing Model T’s.
- The average annual income in the U.S. was $1,076.
- The average home cost $4,800.
- The average car cost $500.
- A gallon of gas cost 8 cents.
(Can we go back to 1915 standards on those last three, please?)
Here are famous people born in 1915 that Pop outlived:
- Ingrid Bergman (died 1982)
- Barbara Billingsley (2010)—June Cleaver!
- Les Paul (2009)
- Anthony Quinn (2001)
- Frank Sinatra (1998)
- Muddy Waters (1983)
- Orson Welles (1985)
Other than his age, there was much to admire about Pop:
- He remained lucid until his death, asking personal questions about his grandkids’ families and jobs.
- He continued to water-ski until he was 85.
- He was a handyman extraordinaire. He transformed nearly half of his expansive garage into a remarkable woodworking shop, where he crafted all manner of furniture, toys and keepsakes. (When I was a kid, I drew some goofy “advertising” signs—i.e. Magic Marker on colored construction paper—for his shop that said things like, “World’s Greatest Carpenter Inside!” He kept those taped to the door for decades.) He once lost a pinkie in a shop accident, but you’d never know from his man’s-man handshake.
- I never heard him curse once. When he was really upset, he’d mutter, “Aw, bullets!” or “Horsefeathers!” That was as blue as Pop’s language got.
- He was faithfully married to my grandmother for 70 years.
But more than anything, I admired Pop’s simple, steadfast faith in the Lord and his dedication to God’s Word. When it came to reading Scripture, he was like clockwork (not surprising since he handcrafted the grandfather clock that still chimes in my mom’s house). Whenever I’d come down to the breakfast table during one of his visits, Pop would always be there with his Bible open. “Hey, come here!” he’d say excitedly, as if he was reading the story for the first time. “I want to show you something.” Then he’d marvel aloud about how Moses parted the Red Sea, or how the angel of the Lord destroyed 185,000 Assyrians to save King Hezekiah, or how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego miraculously survived the fiery furnace. Still half-asleep, I’d be thinking, Yeah, Pop, that’s great. Now, where’s the Cap’n Crunch? But looking back, I see more clearly what had transpired. Pop was continually amazed by the truth of God’s Word. He loved reading about the heavenly power that had saved his life, and he wanted to share that life-changing truth with me.
Pop was a living example of Psalm 78:4, one of my favorite verses and my theme passage for children’s ministry: “Tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” Same goes for the tenet found in Deuteronomy 4:9 to make God’s saving power “known to your children and your children’s children.” Maybe he had those verses in mind all those years ago; maybe he didn’t. But he embodied them.
Near the end, Pop had physically withered away to almost nothing. A tumor in his throat had made it impossible for him to swallow solid food, and his liquid diet couldn’t sustain him. Yet a few days before he died, a family member came into his room to check on him and found him—only skin and bones at that point—kneeling by his bed in prayer. At age 100.
What a testimony.
Fittingly, Pop’s last hour on earth was spent in God’s Word. On July 17, my mom was sitting at his bedside reading the Psalms, starting with chapter 1. Just as she got to Psalm 23, he took his last breath. The Great Shepherd had taken Pop to far greener pastures.
“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” — Psalm 23:6
I miss you, Pop-Pop. It hurts that you’re gone. Badly. But I know you are now basking in the eternal presence of the Savior. Think of that. For years as a kid, I looked up to you as the paragon of craftsmanship. Now, you are worshipping at the feet of the Master Carpenter. He has scars on his hands, too, willingly endured for you and me. Thank you for faithfully declaring his love for me all those years. I look forward to the day when I see you again in glory, worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ side by side.