Two Great Men, Two Passings

This week brought news of the death of two men who, under any definition of the word, easily qualify as heroes.

The first is Dr. Richard Kroeger, who, with his wife, Dr. Catherine Clark-Kroeger, helped begin Christians For Biblical Equality, the nation’s primary Evangelical feminist organization. Kroeger was a PCUSA pastor,teacher, seminary professor, writer, and inspiration to hundreds of students fortunate to have been given the opportunity by God to sit at his feet. His commitment to the Bible as God’s Word was unshakable; his conviction that the Gospel liberated women and men to live and serve freely, apart from gender-based restrictions, was the result of intensive study, worship, and prayer. His work will stand forever, and his reward in Heaven is assured. Please pray for his family, and for the work of Catherine Clark-Kroeger, who has lately devoted herself to the cause of domestic violence in the Christian home. Theirs is a light that shines brightly, magnifying the Lord Jesus and scattering, by His Word, the forces of darkness and hate, domination and hierarchy. There aren’t enough men like him.

This morning I received word that Jim LaFortune, who taught both of my sons at Moscow Jr. High School, succumbed to the glioblastoma multi-forme — brain cancer — that doctors discovered about, if I recall correctly, about a year ago. At that time, Jim, easily the most popular teacher in town and a man beloved by everyone who knew him, was given three weeks to live. Three weeks turned into three months, then six, and this man’s spirit and zeal for life, already evident in his every step, eventually carried him through a much longer life expectancy than doctors had initially thought possible. Just a couple of weeks after his first brain surgery, I saw him at the fair — shaved, scarred, shaking, and smiling with such unabashed joy that it brought me to tears.

His diagnosis came less than a month after I greeted him at Moscow’s Rendezvous in the Park in 2009 — as Jim and his beautiful wife, Kathy, got up to dance in the rough grass below the bandstand, I remarked to my husband what a wonderful smile, what an obvious enthusiasm for life, Jim showed. He once called me his favorite Christian; he thought was a great school board trustee. I can’t imagine I deserved it, but Jim was, without question, my favorite teacher and a man who brought grace, wisdom, joy, and a searing intelligence to everything he touched. He taught Spanish and Earth science, but I know that his students learned much, much more from Jim than present-tense conjugations and basic geology. His son is a friend of my son, and there are very few people in Moscow who didn’t know Jim or Kathy LaFortune.

People like Jim make small towns more vibrant and more rich, and I wish with all my heart that he wasn’t gone.

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