At 98 quiet Jim was the oldest man of her congregation, but I will remember him for what he meant to our ministry here. In this parish family his death was the end of an era making January 18, 2014 a significant date in our history, the final chapter of the Last Patriarch.
He had more in common with the ancient fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob than most of us knew. For one, his birth name given to him by his parents Sigried and Lientze (later changed to Jim and Caroline), was Moses Zilverberg in the fall of September 9, 1915 on a wintry Canadian day. Even then plans and dreams started to shape his destiny as one of God's men, husband, and of course a father. He was young and dashing at 24, which truly caught the eye of a beautiful, strong Wisconsin girl named Helen. It didn't take them long to seal the deal; they were married June 15, 1939 in North Prairie, and their love affair continued for the next 74 years!
During that time there was a name change for the patriarch who like his father wanted to be known as James that was nicknamed to Jim. There also were some children! Twelve of them, unique and loved by their special parents. By the way it just occurred to me that I have only known Jim in his nineties, so to learn about his offspring was an amazing thing. In order their names are: Shirley, Mary, Betty, Grace, William, Thomas, Beverly, Michael, Bonnie, David, Steven, and Timothy.
The school bus story is almost as fascinating as a patriarch himself. The vehicle became an item in 1966. Jim worked on it for about a year. Then drove it to Grants Pass. Eight of the kids went for the ride that became their home when parked in Oregon. The other four kids had already grown up and left "home." So, the school bus was the residence for many years after that.
When the Zilverbergs went to church at St. Paul's they were welcomed with open arms! It had to be difficult to say no to an instant Sunday School with their own bus. I am sure all of them blended into the new congregation very well.
One of the most memorable things about Jim was the way he cherished going to church. The Zilverberg pew was the second row on the pulpit side, in case you're wondering.
Jim had trouble hearing, and it wasn't always exactly clear to him what was happening or being said anyway. But he never complained at the door when he left. Usually he just gave me a firm handshake and said, "Pastor, you can have the rest of the day off." What a kind supportive remark from the Last Patriarch.
When I last saw Jim he had fallen out of bed. He looked like Rocky II with his eyes so swollen and red. But he still had that firm handshake with his confident smile. He was a strong man. As a machinist, engine repair man, innovator, and inventor (which he had to be to build a bus into our house) Jim did what he had to do to provide for his family and go to church every Sunday. He will be missed for his remarkable faith in Christ. Farewell, to a true leader among men, Moses a.k.a. Jim Zilverberg, the Last Patriarch.
See you in church.
Your pastor and friend,