In this time of year, between observing days for mothers and fathers, Abundant Aging bloggers are enjoying the exercise of reflecting about the lives of individuals who have aged ahead of us. We have even gone as far in our tributes to name them “aging heroes.” I recently had the opportunity to help lift up one of my aging heroes at a United Church Homes event.
Diller Legacy Leadership Award
Before I get to naming this latest aging hero, let me share with you a new honor that was announced at the May Board of Directors meeting of United Church Homes: the Diller Legacy Leadership Award. The award is named after the late Rev. Robert Diller, who began his service on the Board of Directors in 1945. Over the next 31 years, he helped move the organization from a single location that served 125 residents to include five communities serving over 800. From his Board leadership to his staff positions, including being named the first president and CEO of United Church Homes, Rev. Diller is being honored with this new award.
Rev. Dr. Paul Kiewit
Back to the aging hero: The Rev. Dr. Paul Kiewit received the first Diller Legacy Leadership Award on May 9, 2018. Paul first contributed to the organization through his church when he was 17 years old. Many years later, his parents lived out their final years at Chapel Hill Community in Canal Fulton, Ohio. In the intervening years, he visited many parishioners who were residents of Chapel Hill during his ministry in three congregations in eastern Ohio. In the 1990s, after his retirement from pastoral ministry, he joined the Board of Directors, serving as the chair. Since then, Paul has served as the chair of the boards for 22 of our HUD housing communities, marking his relationship with the organization for over seven decades and his leadership surpassing the 25-year mark. Additionally, in 2001, together with his late wife, Dorothy, Paul moved into Kroft Commons at Chapel Hill Community. Donor. Family member of residents. Pastor to residents. Board member and chair. Resident. These all help to describe his deep relationship with UCH.
In the midst of the celebration dinner earlier this month, the Rev. Kenneth Daniel, president and CEO of UCH, was able to completely surprise Paul as his three children and their spouses joined the Board for the honor. We thanked Paul for his leadership in the context of UCH’s mission, his dedication to the church and his exemplary witness as someone who has been able to age abundantly.
Not only was Dr. Kiewit the senior pastor of the church where my dad was one of the associates during my teen years, 20 years later, he was pastor emeritus and member of the congregation to which my spouse and I were called to serve in Canal Winchester, Ohio. The support that he shared as the pastor emeritus to us was grace-filled. In fact, it was his initial encouragement that led to our call in Canal Winchester. Today, I call him “pastor” and he responds with “pastor,” a respectful bit of humor acknowledging the varied roles that we have exchanged over the years.
There are many noteworthy points that need to be mentioned when referencing Paul’s career. In addition to the four congregations he served while in “active” ministry, there were others that received his pastoral attention as interim in “retirement.” He is the founder of the organization Hope Homes, which is a ministry that provides care and support for adults with developmental disabilities, inspired and challenged by the $5 donation of one of the members of his congregation in Akron, Ohio, 50 years ago. Together with his late wife, Dorothy, he supported the work at the Family Village Farm near Vellore, India, another UCC-related ministry providing homes for children and work for older adults. He has helped the residents at Chapel Hill connect with this ministry and for the past several years, Chapel Hill residents collectively sponsor a child at the farm.
Paul and Dorothy led a group to the Middle East in 1983 of which my parents and I were participants. They helped to show me the value of travelling not just as tourists, but to connect with people who live and work in those places so different from our own settings. This was my first international travel and it laid the foundation for me to engage in the world.
During the years that I served as his pastor, Paul was a member of our church’s stewardship committee. His experience of raising money in the context of faithfulness was invaluable to the congregation. Within that work, he was able to share his wisdom in appropriate ways supporting my role as pastor and helping me, and the rest of the committee, grown and learn.
I give thanks for the many ways in which our lives have crossed paths over the past 40 years and the myriad opportunities during which he gently offered encouragement, support and affirmation. I can only hope that in my days post-active ministry, I can be as supportive and grace-filled in using my gifts honed during my professional career. I hope to be able to support younger leadership whose turn it will be to carry the vision forward.
Thank you, Paul, for your dedication and faithfulness. You continue to be an aging hero in my life and for many others who have the opportunity to know and continue to learn from you.