Olin and Grace Villers | The Morganton Years
Olin Villers was a tall and somewhat heavy man who sat near the pulpit, so that he could hear the preacher. Sitting close to him was his wife Grace, because, I suppose, that’s what they had always done. They would sit like it was Christmas Eve in a July sanctuary – hip to hip. Grace wore the hats of the 1940’s and 1950’s to worship and looked small next to her husband. Sometimes during the Prelude, she would crane her neck, and with a lick of her fingers, followed by an extended reach, she would tame Olin’s white hair. Olin was with Grace, and Grace was with Olin, and that’s the way I remember them.
The first time that I visited them at their home, Grace gave me their life story told twice – once to me and then, because he wasn’t always tracking, shouted at Olin. Love stories when shouted lose a certain je ne sais quoi.
By the end of my visit, Olin wanted to give me his golf clubs, because he thought they’d help my ministry. I tried to explain to him that ministry on the golf course may be important, but my staying married was more important! Somehow, I knew that leaving Beth at home with two small children, while I used up the college education money on golf, was an act that seemed to lack both intelligence and a moral compass. I tried to persuade Olin to keep his clubs, but he said that there “would come a day of grace.” I ended up carrying his clubs from his garage to my garage. I also carried them from Morganton to Durham. After some years, the day came for my first golf lesson, which began with the instructor saying, “You do know that they make newer technology.”
Olin had a heart that was old technology, and it was failing. Dick Morgan, who was the Parish Associate, and I drove together to the hospital and entered the Intensive Care Unit. There was Grace wearing one of her hats and holding Olin’s hand. A doctor, who was a member of the church, gave us the look that Olin was not long for this world, but Grace was not having it.
The ICU is a place with beeps, buzzes and green-screened monitors that measure life. When Grace would yell into Olin’s ear, his oxygen, pulse and cardiac rhythm all responded. Grace was not looking at the monitors, but at the one whom she loved. She saw some hardline love that told her to say, “Olin, sweetie, if you have to go, I’ll be all right. If it’s too hard, you go. I’ll be fine.” With that, Olin instantly floated sweetly into the heavens.
I carried Olin’s clubs from his garage to my garage. I then carried them from Morganton to Durham and now to Nashville. Come by my house! I’ll show you some dusty Daiwa golf clubs that have “Olin Villers, Mimosa Hills CC” taped on the shaft. I will tell you some stories about him. I suspect that there was a day when he golfed by himself, but I just can’t see him without Grace.