The First Day of Retirement

Today is the first day of my retirement. I am 71 years old, and I will attempt to retrace the history of my working career.

Other than mowing lawns for 75 cents, attempting to sell the Grit newspaper door to door, and pumping gas and washing cars in a service station operated by my father [customers would pull up to the pump and say, “Give me a dollar’s worth], it all began in the cotton fields of Northeast Arkansas in the late 1950s. I may have been 12 years old, but no older.

In 1959, my family moved 14 miles from Rector, Arkansas to Kennett, Missouri, where I continued to work in the cotton fields, picking and chopping. We were paid $3.00 per hundred pounds to pick. I can’t remember what chopping paid, but I now own the last farm where I worked.

In 1960 I moved from the fields into an air-conditioned grocery store, Walsh’s Big Star, beginning as a sack boy, also known as a carry-out. I worked in that store for four years, through high school, for 50 cents per hour. I did take two brief breaks to check out other careers. I worked for two weeks in an automobile repair shop. The owner didn’t tell me up front what my pay would be. When the two weeks were up and he handed me five dollars, I figured out that the pay scale was 29 cents per hour. I decided that was not my calling and went back to groceries, working briefly at the IGA before returning to Walsh’s.

As I neared high school graduation, Bill Walsh raised my pay from 50 cents per hour to $50 per week. This was a good thing, because Judy Miller and I were planning to marry on June 14, 1964. Between the two of us we had about $60, and our rent would be $35 per month for a small house owned by a local doctor, Dr. Cash.

About two weeks after our marriage, we decided to move to Stockton, California, where I would enroll in Western Apostolic Bible College. I was not immediately successful in finding work. I did not belong to a union, and that was a requirement for employment in the grocery stores. Eventually I was hired by Pop Stoltz, who operated a janitorial service. I received my first paycheck six weeks after we arrived in Stockton.

Before I had worked long enough to earn my first check, Judy and I were down to less than three dollars. One of my responsibilities was to clean the suite of offices at the Libbey-Owens-Ford [LOF] glass plant, located in Lathrop, California. As I emptied the trash one evening, I glimpsed something green. It was a $20 bill. I reported it to the office manager, who assured me that anyone who lost $20 would be sure to notice it. He told me, however, that I could keep it for one week. If no one reported the loss, I could keep it. No one ever did. In today’s market, that $20 would be worth $156.59. It tided us over until I received my first check.

After working for Pop Stoltz for only a few weeks, I checked with the employment agency in Stockton for job opportunities. Burt’s Shoes, located on Main Street in Stockton, had an opening. I applied and was hired. Burt’s was part of the nationwide chain operated by Edison Brothers Shoes, with headquarters in my hometown, St. Louis, Missouri. I call St. Louis my hometown because I was born there.

Edison Brothers also operated Leed’s, Baker’s and Chandler’s. Salesmen were required to wear suits (not sports coats and slacks) and ties. Wing tip shoes were preferred. I had only one suit, which I had worn to our wedding.

My birthday occurred shortly after I went to work at Burt’s. On the day Judy gave me my birthday gift, she took me behind a door in our small apartment. There hung a suit. She had made it by hand.

I should point out here that Judy never worked a full time job in our 46 1/2 years of marriage. Instead, she turned our home into an income producing resource by baby sitting, ironing, and making clothing for other people. For instance, she made all the ladies’ dresses for the choir at the school I attended. (By the way, Judy reminded me for years that one of the choir members still owed her about $3.00 for her dress. You know who you are.) In terms of financial benefits, I’m sure Judy’s frugality contributed more to our economic wellbeing than if she had worked full time outside our home.

My job as a ladies’ shoes salesman paid minimum wage plus commission. I was part time, but with Judy’s help, we were able to make it through my first year in school. Edison Brothers had developed an approach to selling called Multimatic. When a customer pointed out the kind of shoe she wanted, the salesman presented four pairs: the shoes requested, two similar pairs, and a fourth pair that was completely unlike the requested shoes. For example, if she wanted a dress shoe, she was presented with three styles and, perhaps, one pair of house slippers. We did not ask women the size of their feet. We measured them. When our customer stood before the mirror to admire her shoes, we also presented her with matching handbags, if possible. If not, a bag that contrasted in some way would do. If the color of the purse was not precisely the same as the shoes, we could assure them that due to the distance between the purse and her feet, no one would ever notice.

I became adept at Multimatic and at selling what we called findings. These were various straps and bows that could be attached to the shoes to make them look like a second pair. I was also enthusiastic about selling shoe care items, like a special spray for patent leather shoes. My passion was driven by the commission that could be earned.

I learned to be very patient with my customers. One lady said to me, “You have the patience of Job!” I really did not, but I did have the patience required for the job.

After completing one year in school, I decided that I had all the education I needed. Judy and I returned to Kennett, where my father was pastor of the First United Pentecostal Church. Judy and I got involved in the work of the church, but we still needed income. To supplement his income, my father carried out various projects related to building construction and repair. I worked with him to earn the money we needed. It may have been while I was crawling around under a house and on its roof that I remembered my true calling. Judy and I moved back to California, Burt’s took me back, and I enrolled in school again.

I continued working at Burt’s during my second year in school and into the beginning of my third year. In addition to my job as a shoe salesman, I was given the responsibility of the window man. This means I arranged shoes and handbags in the display windows so customers could view our products before entering the store. The job paid an additional $15 per week.

At some point during my career with Edison Brothers, the company made the decision to close Burt’s. Employees would be transferred to Leed’s, located across the street. Leed’s sold higher priced shoes, so this was a good thing. But in the meantime, the assistant manager at Burt’s, Ron Tachera, was moved to Leed’s while Burt’s was still in operation. Ed Simas, Burt’s manager, would stay in place until the move was completed. This meant Burt’s needed an assistant manager. Mr. Simas recommended me to the regional manager, Mr. Balmaz. He interviewed me on the telephone and promoted me to the position of acting assistant manager.

During my last year of college, I was still working for Leed’s. Judy and I lived in an apartment house located at 349 East Wyandotte Street in Stockton. It was a large old house configured into four apartments, two up and two down. We had moved into one of the upstairs apartments upon our return to Stockton for my second year in school. As time went by, Mr. Nelson, the owner, asked if we would be interested in managing the apartments. If so, we could move downstairs into the largest apartment for $50 per month. We would be responsible for lawn care. We accepted his offer.

One day while I was at work, two men came to our door. They were selling the Family Record Plan. For $70, we would receive a photo album and certificates we could use to have studio photographs made. The company targeted homes where young children were present. We had no children yet, but it was clear to the salesmen that Judy would soon present me with our first. Judy bought the plan, but the lead salesman sold her on something else as well, the idea that I should quit my job at Leed’s and work with them selling albums and photos. He told her I could earn two bills per week. We assumed this meant $200.

The training for my new job consisted largely of being told to look for signs young children lived in a home, like tricycles and various toys on the lawn. Salesmen were also given leads, provided, I supposed, by some government agency who kept track of babies born. I worked for the Family Record Plan for two weeks and earned $18 by selling the plan to a fellow who had worked with me at Leed’s. I don’t remember anyone else I convinced to buy this product.

So now I was out of work, with a wife to support and a baby on the way.

Several other students at Western Apostolic Bible College worked at Libbey-Owens-Ford, the same place I had worked as a janitor. These students were employed, however, by the company itself. The pay was excellent, including even retirement benefits. Openings were available. I applied and was hired. For the rest of my final year in college, I worked full time, swing shift. This enabled me to support my family and to buy our first new car, a 1967 blue metallic Plymouth Fury III, for $3700. Students were happy to ride to work with me.

After graduation, we returned to Kennett, where I worked as co-pastor with my father. It was not possible for the church to employ both of us full time, but Dad co-owned Rector Feed and Seed in Rector, Arkansas with Donald Thompson. Dad and I traded off. On the days he worked at the feed and seed store, I worked at the church and vice versa. I earned $60 per week, with no retirement plan.

At the General Conference of the United Pentecostal Church in 1967, my father responded to an appeal made by J. T. Pugh, Director of the Home Missions Department. He challenged pastors to respond to the need to plant churches in cities without a church. Dad received a call following the conference inviting him to plant a church in London, Ontario, Canada. He accepted this challenge, leaving Judy and me to wonder about our future. We would not go with my parents to Canada. There was some talk about me becoming the pastor in Kennett, but I was not prepared for this responsibility.

After returning to Kennett from Stockton, Judy and I had thoroughly renovated the Sunday school department at our church. We incorporated Center of Interest, the latest development, championed by J. O. and Mary Wallace. Brother Wallace was the Director of the General Sunday School Department of the United Pentecostal Church.

Not long before Mom and Dad’s departure from Kennett, the Wallaces visited our church and observed the operation of the Sunday school program. Brother Wallace was looking for a Director of Promotions and Publications for the General Sunday School Division. He offered the position to me, and I gladly accepted. Judy and I moved to St. Louis in March of 1968. I met Brother Stanley Chambers, General Superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church, in his office. He informed me that my salary would be $125 per week.

That is the last time in this post that I will reveal my specific salary.

My new job involved producing the Sunday school magazine for the United Pentecostal Church and traveling with the Wallaces to conduct Sunday school training workshops called Operation Demonstration. We conducted Center of Interest and Team Teaching training in local churches, with attendees coming from other area churches. The “demonstration” part involved not only teaching, but also going out on the streets and knocking doors to invite people to Sunday school. Judy participated with me in my work.

In 1968, the United Pentecostal Church did not yet produce a Sunday school curriculum for all age levels. I was invited to produce and write a complete curriculum for junior high students. I accepted. The pay was four dollars per lesson.

In 1969, Word Aflame Publications came into being. This was the vision to develop an entire Sunday school curriculum for all ages, developed and written by those whose shared our beliefs. I was asked to serve as the editor of the Junior High level. I was not the only writer; I assigned others to help me with this responsibility. We produced visual aid packets, trying to be as original and creative as we could in order to effectively communicate with this age group. I remember including a Resurrection Plant in the packets. Google it.

I resigned my position in December 1970 and accepted an invitation by Ron Simmons, pastor of the First Pentecostal Church, located in Maplewood, Missouri, to serve as Minister of Christian Education in this historic church, the first Oneness Pentecostal church to exist in St. Louis. Not only did Judy and I renovate the Sunday school program, the church also operated a fleet of highly decorated buses that combed the neighborhood on Sunday morning, bringing in many children. Gary Gleason was also working for the church, and the two of us would work on the streets on Saturdays to invite children to Sunday school. We tried to be as creative as we could, like dressing up in clown suits and, in general, acting goofy. It worked. On one Sunday in particular, euphemistically called “Heaven Sunday,” we had a reported attendance of 700 for a service held on the football field of a Maplewood school.

In 1972, Ron, Gary and I formed a trio called The Watchmen. We recorded two LP albums and also sang on two albums recorded by the General Home Missions Department of the United Pentecostal Church. All together, we recorded 25 songs. We traveled, singing in local churches, at special meetings, and twice at the general conference of the United Pentecostal Church. In the meantime, I continued producing promotional materials for various departments at our headquarters.

In 1974, Gary accepted the call to serve as pastor of the United Pentecostal Church in Oregon City, Oregon. I received a call from W. C. Parkey, the founding president of Gateway College of Evangelism, who was returning to the presidency for the second time. He invited me to serve as the Director of Christian Education for the school. I accepted and went to work for the fall semester that year.

Shortly before the semester’s end, I had a phone call from W. I. Black, superintendent of the Missouri District of the United Pentecostal Church. He asked if I were interested in pastoring. I was. Brother Black told me the First Pentecostal Church in Dupo, Illinois was looking for a pastor. I learned much later that Ed Harper, the former pastor of the church, had suggested that Brother Black should call me.

We went to Dupo to “try out,” as they say. The church elected me, and I resigned my position at Gateway College, taking the pastorate early in 1975. When I received the call from David Ham, a member of the church’s pulpit committee, to inform me that I had been elected, I grabbed Judy, and we danced all over our apartment on Keeven Lane in Florissant, Missouri, just across the road from the college.

Dupo was located about 15 minutes from downtown St. Louis. We moved in a dump truck belonging to one of the church members. The membership of the church increased by four immediately upon our arrival. Our daughter, Sharon Kay, had been born on November 13, 1966, and our son, Mark Alan, was born on March 13, 1970. In 1970, November 13 and March 13 were both on Friday.

We remained in Dupo until 1982. For a couple of years, I had the impression that I should return to Bible college work. I told no one, not even Judy. That was a big mistake. I didn’t know where it might be. I didn’t think of Stockton. That was still about 2,000 miles away, just as it had been in 1964. So I created something called Word Institute and offered extra Bible classes to interested people on Saturdays.

I can’t reproduce here all the details about our pastoral work, but I should mention the radio work I did, because some of it did produce additional income. While I was still working for the First Pentecostal Church in Maplewood, the United Pentecostal Church operated bookstores, one of which was located in the headquarters building in Hazelwood, Missouri. The bookstore bought one hour of time on a St. Louis FM radio station, KRCH, every Sunday morning. An employee of the radio station played records provided by the bookstore and advertised the store’s products. Judy and I listened to the programs and enjoyed them. When the bookstore decided to discontinue this program, I talked to Ron and suggested that it might be a good idea for the church to take over the program to advertise our services. He agreed. I served as the DJ from 7:30 – 8:30 on Sunday mornings. Shortly after we took over this program, KRCH was sold to Bartell Broadcasting, the call letters were changed to KSLQ, and the format was changed from easy listening music to rock. The new manager called me to his office and suggested we extend our program another thirty minutes. The entire ninety minutes would be free, as a public service. KSLQ became the number two station in St. Louis, and for about three years I hosted this program. The music format was largely what at that time was called Contemporary Christian Music. It was a successful venture. The church gained several new members who first learned of the church through the program, called Hymns of Praise. One year, when the Missouri District of the United Pentecostal Church offered a free trip to Israel for the person who raised the most money for Sheaves for Christ, I solicited contributions on air. The response was sufficient to send me to Israel free of charge.

When we moved to Dupo, Ron took over the DJ duties on the radio program. The previous pastor in Dupo had a thirty minute radio program on Sunday mornings on WCBW, an FM station located in Columbia, Illinois. I continued that program and added another one hour program, called Afterglow, following our Sunday evening service. It wasn’t too long before the station management approached me about converting their daily morning programming, from six to ten o’clock, Monday through Friday, to gospel music. It had been easy listening. I worked with them to create recordings of my voice introducing the songs. The station paid me for my services. Eventually, however, WCBW was bought by another company and converted to an all Christian format. The new company asked me to work a live shift, Monday through Friday, from six to ten each morning. I was paid for my services.

In May 1982, Kenneth Haney called my home. I had known him when I was a student in Stockton but had little contact with him after I graduated in 1967. He asked if I had ever thought about Bible college work. I acknowledged that I had. Brother Haney invited Judy and me to fly to Stockton to look at the school, now named Christian Life College, and to preach at the local church. Keep in mind that I had told Judy nothing about my interest in teaching in a Bible college. I can’t comment on this now in more detail, but I advise all men who believe God is leading them to share this with their wives so it will not be a surprise to her. The two of you can pray about this together well in advance.

After our trip to Stockton, I believed God was directing our steps and accepted Brother Haney’s offer. We spent 25 years there. I served as executive vice-president and chairman of the department of theology for 19 1/2 years. When Brother Haney was elected as general superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International, he asked me to serve as president of the school. I did this for 5 1/2 years, while still serving as the chairman of the department of theology.

Not too long ago, I looked through the Christian Life College yearbooks. I was missing about four of them, but I estimate that during our years in Stockton I was privileged to teach around 2,000 students, many of whom are now involved in a wide spectrum of ministries: pastors, teachers, missionaries, district superintendents, district secretaries, and headquarters staff. I thank God for the opportunity to invest a major part of my life in training others for the ministries to which God has called them.

In 2007, I resigned my work in Stockton, and Judy and I moved back to St. Louis, Missouri. From the first year of its operation, I had served as an adjuct professor at Urshan Graduate School of Theology, owned and operated by the United Pentecostal Church International. Before our return to St. Louis, I had accepted an offer from David K. Bernard, president of the seminary, to serve as a part time faculty member. I described what I was doing as semi-retirement. This description was not accurate for long.

Brother Bernard asked me to also function as chief academic officer beginning with the 2009 school year. For 2010, he also requested that I would serve as dean of administration, along with my duties as academic dean and assistant professor.

In the Spring of 2009, Judy was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, which took her life on January 16, 2011. I cannot adequately describe here the impact of this experience on us. Judy was a woman of faith who knew that upon her passing she would be in the presence of Jesus. I know that is true, and this gives me great comfort. The last week of her life, Judy said to me, “I want you to remarry. You need a wife.” I could not imagine remarriage. We had enjoyed such a blessed relationship, and I couldn’t comprehend the possibility of that happening again.

During the time of her suffering, Judy’s well being was my first priority. I accompanied her to every treatment and rarely left her side. I did teach my classes, and I thank God for the excellent, supportive staff at Urshan, especially Gayle Yoder, Marjorie Truman, and Ashley Chancellor, each of whom did everything possible to lighten my work load. May the blessings of our Lord rest upon them.

I remember the day I first prayed that God would direct my steps about the possibility of marrying again. This prayer request was answered on June 13, 2013, a Thursday. Susan and I have written our story, which was published in the Pentecostal Herald, since renamed Pentecostal Life, the official magazine of the United Pentecostal Church. I will share a bit of that story with you here.

On that day in 2013, I was in my home office preparing to write an article for the Pentecostal Herald. Before I started, I prayed that God would direct my steps in writing. I also told the Lord, “You know that the Ambassadors of Harmony concert is coming up on Saturday, and I would appreciate it if, when I’m finished writing this article, You would tell me who I could invite to go with me who would enjoy the concert.”

The Ambassadors of Harmony is an all male a capella choral group consisting of about 150 members. I had learned about them while still in Stockton, and I was delighted to discover that they were based in St. Charles, Missouri. All members volunteer their time, and their singing is beyond description. The Ambassadors of Harmony are four time international champions of the Barbershop Harmony Society and offer concerts each year in June and December.

It took me about an hour and a half to write the article. When finished, I opened my email program on my computer to send the article to the magazine editor. The first thing I saw on the screen was the words, in bold, black letters: Susan Fuller.

Susan had not sent an email to me. We had a common acquaintance, Larry Mazyck, who had been a student of mine at Urshan and who attended the same church as Susan, New Life, in Bridgeton, Missouri. In a Greek class I taught, Larry requested prayer for employment. He was from the east coast and had been able to work online, but that opportunity was no longer available. Larry had also requested prayer at New Life. When he secured an excellent position in his skill area, Larry sent an email to everyone on his list to let them know. Susan responded to congratulate him and did something she never does. She clicked on “reply all.” She thought why did I do that? Well, it doesn’t matter.

But it mattered. When I saw Susan’s name on my computer at the precise time I had asked God to let me know who I could invite to the concert, it gave me the courage to send her a text message. The message said, “Would you receive a call from me? Daniel Segraves.”

Susan’s husband, Robert Fuller, had passed away in 2008. He had a long history of ministry in the United Pentecostal Church and at the time of his death was serving as the organization’s editor in chief. Susan thought she would never remarry. As in my case, she and Bob had enjoyed a wonderful marriage of 41 years, and she couldn’t imagine it could happen again. I’ve often heard her say, “I couldn’t believe I could hit the jackpot twice!”

When Susan received my text message, she was driving to an evening prayer meeting. The technology on her car informed her that she had a text, but revealed only my phone number. I still have the California number, which she did not recognize, and her practice was to not respond to unknown numbers.

In addition to the prayer meeting she attended that evening, Susan had experienced an unusual visitation of the Lord in her home during the day, as she prayed for a specfic mission field. She sensed that a major change was about to happen in her life, so she thought the Lord might send her as a missionary. She had worked at the headquarters of the United Pentecostal Church for 32 years and had recently retired. She was willing to do whatever God wanted her to do, but she was concerned about the bugs she might encounter doing missions work in a foreign land. She now says she was delighted to discover God was going to give her the “love bug.”

When Susan got home that night, she looked at her text message and saw that it was from me. We knew each other, because Bob was my friend, and they pastored the church in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada while my parents founded and pastored the church 25 miles away in London. But Susan couldn’t image why I would want to call her. She assumed I was interested in Bob’s 15,000 volume library, so she responded to my text to say that I could call. I didn’t have her phone number, just her email address, so I texted again to ask for it and to ask when I could call. She sent me her number and said I could call right then.

When I first heard Susan’s voice, I knew good things were about to happen. We talked about twenty minutes, and I didn’t ask about Bob’s library. Since then, others have observed that what I was interested in was the librarian, not the books. Susan had heard the Ambassadors of Harmony, and she said she would love to go again.

Our first date was at the concert on June 15, 2013. Nine days later, I asked her if she would marry me. She said, “Yes, I will.” We were married on September 28, 2013, right before the general conference of the United Pentecostal Church. We got a couple of honeymoon nights in at the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton, Missouri, then spent the rest of our honeymoon at the general conference, enjoying the many congratulations of our friends.

After our marriage, we learned that in the early twentieth century, it was not unusual for newly married couples to spend their honeymoons at general conference.

For Susan and me, we’re living under God’s richest blessings. After almost five years, we still marvel at how God has brought us together and the love He has given us for each other.

I continued to teach at Urshan after we married and retired on July 1, 2018.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.