The Greatest Gift of All: Life

 His smile said much and his words said even more, but good deeds during his“three score and ten” life trumped them both.

Alzheimer’s finally had its way with Hal Rowe recently, but during the seven-year ordeal, he was talked out of little–and had his way with much–in a life that inspired, delighted and encouraged.

The captivating smile of Hal Rowe

More than five hundred people gathered at his beloved Bacon Heights Baptist Church in Lubbock for a memorial service bathed in rich memories of one who did all he could for as many as he could for as long as he could. The sanctuary was awash in “Hal Rowe stories,” none richer, though, than one of his final acts of kindness that tied a ribbon around an exemplary life. Nearly four years ago, he gave away a kidney to an acquaintance.

When Hal learned that Randy Parsons faced a bleak future of blindness and dialysis without a kidney transplant, he offered “a perfectly good kidney.”

Family members agreed after medical professionals assured them that it was “Hal talking – not Alzheimer’s.”

Alzheimer's is a lonely road to walk. Hal Rowe brought sunshine.

He wanted the world to know that having Alzheimer’s didn’t rob him of his ability to help, and that Jesus’ “doing unto others” instructions didn’t stipulate “unless you get sick.” In fact, he urged doctors to take a portion of his liver while they were “in there.” Friends believe he would have given the other kidney away, too, had he known of a need.

At the funeral, laughs and tears got equal time. Words, music and videos provided warm remembrances. His admission of nervousness during his marriage proposal to Joyce–his wife of almost 50 years—was recalled. Under a tree at Howard Payne University, their alma mater, he jammed an engagement ring onto her finger without saying a word.

“Hal, I’ll marry you, but please put the ring on my other hand,” Joyce said.

“I’ve never done this before,” Hal stammered. “Besides, do you want a proposal from a 210-pound football tackle or a 130-pound poet?”

A deacon for several decades, he taught fifth-graders in Sunday School for more than 40 years. “Mr. Fix-It” was the “who-you-gonna-call guy” for hundreds of widows and widowers. Whatever was broken or needed replacement, he was the man, relentlessly taking on all projects.  Some of ‘em even a former football tackle shouldn’t tackle.

He was immersed in work—even as a pre-schooler–at his dad’s service station in Temple, where he and Joyce were high school sweethearts.

A natural salesman, he sold Bibles during summers of his college years. Some earnings went for that engagement ring.

He worked in retail for many years, and with a school-teaching wife, invested steadily in rental properties, all kept up by “Mr. Fix-It.”

Rowe always had time for others. Someone recalled the day he misdialed a church widow. The respondent was not to be spared Hal’s warm spirit. “How’re you doing?” he asked. She expressed frustration about failure to sell her house.

If you figure that Hal bought it over the phone, you’d be right.

An outstanding college football player, Hal passed on a chance to play professionally with the Dallas Cowboys. Instead, he opted to teach in Comanche during Joyce’s final college year.

Soon, they were off to Lubbock, where she was an oft-honored teacher and Hal spent most days—and many nights – giving his life away.

A member of the church orchestra, he “saxophoned” birthday greetings by phone to widows and widowers for many years.

A couple of years ago, as his memory started to fail, he told Joyce he wanted folks at his funeral to be fed. He had a full meal in mind, but settled for Blue Bell ice cream cups at the exits. (Pudgy during his adult life, the ice cream lover claimed to be a “recovering anorexic.”)

What a model for others! Beloved by his wife, family and friends, he was an unwavering Christian stalwart. Even when his twenty-year-old son was killed in an auto crash caused by a drunken driver, his faith was strong.

Hal personified Corrie Ten Boom’s quote: “The measure of a life is not its duration but its donation.” When he died February 19, that’s really all he needed to do that day.

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Comments/inquiries: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site:

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