A Great and Good Man

“When the sun goes down below the horizon, he is not set; the heavens glow for a full hour after his departure. And when a great and good man sets, the sky of this world is luminous long after he is out of sight. Such a man cannot die out of this world.” Beecher

Sunday, October 25 marks the 12th year since my beloved grandfather, Rev. Kenneth R. Bertholf, passed away. This saying was on the cover of his funeral program. It seemed so fitting. But when I created it and his obituary, I struggled with trying to condense 92 years into a few paragraphs. How can one do justice to a whole lifetime on a single piece of paper?

Grandpa Ken was born in Tekoa, WA on April 28, 1905, one of ten children. He was quite an athelete and especially loved baseball … the Braves. He was also a country musician. He had a wonderful bass voice, and played the fiddle, guitar, steel guitar and harmonica. (Would playing the washtub in a kitchen band also count?) He was an old time lumberjack, short order cook, insurance salesman, vitamin salesman and carpenter.

When he was 29 years old, he became a Christian and felt called to be a minister of the Gospel. He married my grandmother, Blanche Payne, in 1935 and they spent the next 46 years planting, building and pastoring churches around the northwest.

But these are only public and general details “about” my grandfather. They don’t tell you about the kind of man he really was …

As a young child, I lived with my grandparents on a church campground in the mountains of beautiful northern Idaho for two years, and spent every summer with them until I was a senior in high school. I have wonderful memories of long, lazy summers in their home. Almost every evening after dinner, I would sit on my grandpa’s lap to hear stories from God’s Word, the Bible. Grandpa loved the outdoors and took my brother and me on long hikes in the woods on Sunday afternoons. He showed us the needles of different pine trees; some had two, some had three, and some had five separate needles. Then he would run them through his mouth, and no matter how many strands it started with, they would all form one strand, one complete needle. He wondered at this simple miracle. He whittled us whistles out of sticks and told us we should never try to outrun a bear! He taught us the parts of the flower and how to blaze a trail through the woods. He used to jump over picnic tables and kick the tops of doors well into his 60’s. We played math games and made snow angels and went sledding. I’ll never forget his silly Indian talking and dancing. He always had a huge garden and we loved the fruits of his labor! But by far our favorite activity with Grandpa was sitting at his feet while he sang his cowboy songs with his guitar and harmonica.

Yet even more important than these more intimate family things, was the fact that Grandpa loved people to Jesus. He was always the center of attention; children and young people flocked to him. He always had a silly joke or a silly song or a silly face. He made people laugh and feel comfortable. You always knew when he was in the room. He had a special love for those who didn’t know Jesus and led many to Christ over his lifetime. It was his passion. Through his sacrifices of time and salary and worldly possessions, God used him mightily to change the lives of thousands of individuals and families. His life was always focused on others.

My grandfather was always the one unchanging presence in my life. As a child, he gave me the stability I needed in my very unstable world. After his passing, I felt rather alone and adrift … unanchored. I had so depended on his predictability and steadfastness for my strength. Grandpa had become my father image. Because of him, I knew that God, my heavenly Father, was wonderful and loving. But I have remembered what he taught me about God: that He is the only one from whom I can draw lasting strength and peace and direction. Because my grandfather loved and mentored me every summer, I grew up to realize that God alone was the one immovable and unchanging force in my life.

Grandpa was 92 when he died; he said that 92 was old enough to die. He was ready for heaven. I will always carry a part of Grandpa Ken inside me. I especially miss him at this time of year. But I remember what he taught me and who he pointed me to.

Kenneth Ross Bertholf … a great and good man.

“Let this be for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.” Psalm 102:18

Published by Candy Troutman

I offer services in the areas of public speaking, personal finance coaching, social media management, content creation/copywriting, personal & faith-based mentoring & small business coaching.

6 thoughts on “A Great and Good Man

  1. Loved this Candy, you definitely loved the man. Aren’t those solid Patriarchs a blessing to us all? Thanks for sharing.


  2. mOm ~

    What a lovely and honoring post. Isn’t it wonderful to have a place to write these things? I just want to make sure his life is honored and remembered after we’re gone.

    I remember your silliness, mOm. You taught us all those silly songs and we still use some of your silly phrases and accents. I’m silly, too, and I hid it a lot, too. But now I’m just all out there. LOL Glad you’re enjoying your doggies.


  3. Yes, I have only great memories of him. My best picture memory of him is of him sitting in his rocking chair, beside the big picture window in our home that he built in Mtn. Home, ID, with his Bible open on his lap and he is either meditating on it or reading it. This was an everyday occurrence.

    His showing love to Mother also was a picture imprinted in my mind and an attribute that I wanted to have in my marriage. He stopped her a lot as she walked past him and they embraced and kissed. It showed us kids how to show love to our spouses. It also showed us that they loved each other.

    Later when they lived in Boise, a picture of him with his crossword puzzle book while watching his beloved Braves on TV (with Mother) is also etched in my mind.

    Dad picked up kids from all over Mtn. Home for Sunday School and church and when the car got too full, he went out again to get more…this every Sunday. Even as a kid, I liked Dad’s preaching and usually listened instead of daydreaming.

    We loved our Sunday afternoon short trips to the mountians, Anderson Dam, Hot Springs, or Bruneau Sand Dunes.

    The church couldn’t pay enough to pay all the bills with our big family, so Dad worked at the local lumber yard. He was active in trying to get rid of the slot machines in Mtn. Home, and partly because of his efforts, they were removed. This was mainly because of some kids he picked up every Sunday. The dad was gambling away all their money, so they were very poor. Dad helped them all he could.

    How we loved singing along with Dad as he sung his cowboy songs. We all had our favorites. He surprised us as he got older, when he began singing songs we’d never heard before…from his past. What a mind he had even when he was 92. He recalled all the names of our entire family when he prayed. I’m afraid my mind is not going to last that long.

    I believe that I inherited the following from him: His music abilty, his silliness, and his square feet.

    I tried, most of my life, to hide my silliness from my husband(s) and kids. Actually, I don’t think they know how silly I am even today. Now I can be silly with my dogs and they don’t care. My husband now sees it as I have finally let it show at times. I’m just a silly person.

    Now I know how hard a time Dad had to find shoes that were comfortable. He hated to shop for shoes and always wanted to wear his “old, finally wore in” comfy ones. Mother wouldn’t have it. I remember his size…triple E, a size that was foreign to me. Now I know what he meant. It was because of his high instep, which I have. That is why I only wear Crocks. It’s the only shoe that doesn’t hurt the tops of my feet. Poor Dad. They didn’t have them then. Now, that doesn’t speak about how ugly my square feet are, but I can let that pass, hiding them in my Crocks, which many people think are also ugly. Dad wore socks all the time, so we rarely saw his ugly feet.

    Mother chose his clothes and matched everything for him. He wore what she prescribed. He always looked sharp in his suits.

    Because of his lack of administrative schooling, he was never allowed to be more than a pastor. He was a wonderful counselor and could have been a counselor to other pastors in the conference, but his administrative ability didn’t allow that. But he was a pastor above all pastors…everyone loved him, he loved everyone, he had a heart for the lost, he was an encourager, he was very resourceful, he had a special love for children, he loved his family, he was a wonderful father, he was a servant, he was a vegetable gardener (he used any sized plot to grow beets, turnips, radishes, lettuce, onions, etc. (which is why I love raw turnips to this day), he also loved flowers (especially Petunias) and planted them around the house and church, he built churches and parsonages…he could do anything, and did.

    I don’t know of anyone who could top him…my wonderful, unforotten Dad, who is in a wonderful place now…heaven, with my wonderful, unforgotten Mother, who helped him be who he was. I am happy for them.


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