A Tribute to Calvin E. Springer

Although we are saddened by the passing of Rev. Calvin E. Springer, we rejoice in the life he lived.   July 21, 1929 ~ January 13, 2019 

Besides being a long-time FGEA Member, Springer served as FGEA's sixth President,1972-79, presiding over a time when FGEA expanded in many ways. Springer served FGEA in a multitude of ways (including as Vice President), constantly promoting the work of the Lord across our churches. He was the first to travel and minister as President on a "full-time" basis, travelling as an evangelist who served many churches. Reaching across boundaries, he renewed and expanded FGEA's fellowship with other organizations and was fond of saying, "You guys are my kind of people."

During his tenure, FGEA opened permanent offices in Houston, TX at the expanding facilities of Midwest Bible Institute, FGEA's school. He also initiated and oversaw the building of a new dorm to house students there. 

Below is a tribute that was written by his daughter, LeAnn Wilde, and read at his memorial service in Rockdale, TX, January 17, 2019.

"Tribute to Poppa" by LeAnn Springer Wilde

Calvin Springer grew up a farm boy, the first of four children. He thought he would farm and raise livestock, but God placed a calling on his life at a young age that altered his course as well as the course of many other lives. When he told his mother about this sense of God’s calling, she told him she knew.

His parents were hard workers, and Dad seemed to have a strong work ethic hard wired into him. His Dad raised produce which they sometimes took to Austin to sell. He and my Dad would sleep on the banks of what is now Lady Bird Lake and sell their produce. His Dad also had an ice route where he delivered large blocks of ice to customers. The outer walls of the old Rockdale ice house on Mill Street where they got blocks of ice to sell are still visible. Until the end, Dad called his refrigerator the “ice box.” 

Dad graduated from Milano High School where he played on the basketball team. He tells of riding his horse Dixie to school. He recalls having to give a speech on atoms and said all he knew about atoms was when his Dad would say “Come on boys, let’s get up and “at ‘em.”

After graduation from Milano High School, Dad went to the Apostolic Faith Bible College in Baxter Springs, Kansas. After Bible College, he and some minister friends travelled in the 1950s conducting “tent revivals,” a popular form of ministry in those days. 

Dad’s first new car was a Bel Air Sport Coupe he bought in the 1950s. After church in Rockdale, some of the young people were going for a ride in his car. He invited a young lady named Doris McCoy, to join the group. She accepted. While he was travelling in tent revivals, Doris was working as a telephone operator in Rockdale. They stayed in touch during this time. Dad eventually proposed to her, and they were married on June 25, 1952 at the Rockdale Apostolic Faith Church. Dad was almost 23 and Mother was 19. They travelled together for a brief time in tent revivals before accepting their first pastorate in Spearman, Texas. While there, they found wonderful life mentors and gained friendships that lasted a lifetime spanning several generations. I was born in 1959 near the end of their Spearman pastorate. I was their only child. They would have welcomed another child, but God saw fit to grant them only me. I like to think they realized they hit perfection on the first one and just stopped. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

He was born in 1929, just in time for the Depression. Like so many people at that time, his family was poor. But as a child, he didn’t feel poor. He was blessed with a family rich in love and happiness and faith. Dad would talk about when he was a child, the Sears & Roebuck catalogue had 3 types of overalls: good, better, and best. He really wanted the best, but they were not an option. He didn’t like it when the little buttons on his overalls would come off on the rub board. I’ve heard Dad say “you only want to be poor once.” Thankfully, he and my Mother practiced the virtues of tithing and saving and reaped the goodness of God’s blessings in their lives. 

Dad was born in southeast Milam County in an area called Elevation. I had heard him speak of it, and on a birthday or two of his, we drove through the country while he reminisced and showed us where he was born and some of the places he lived. I looked online to see if there was any reference to Elevation, Texas. The Texas State Historical Association website says Elevation was built as a switch on the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway, which was constructed through the area in 1881. The community is said to be named for the rise on which it is located. It had a population of 12 in 1990 and again in 2000. It reminds me of the verse in Job 8:7 that says “Though your beginning is small, yet your latter end should greatly increase.”

One of Dad’s favorite rolls in life was being Poppa. His 2 granddaughters, Annie (or Ann-Alex as he called her) and Caroline were his daily sunrise. When he got up in the morning, he would touch each of their pictures as he walked past them and pray for them. He would comment about all the fingerprints on those pictures. I treasure those prayers and those fingerprints. Dad did many significant things in his life, but to me, he did nothing more significant than pray for his family and live a life consistent with his faith.

Dad was a coffee drinker and went faithfully for years to meet with other Rockdale coffee drinkers to socialize and solve world problems in general. Since last March when he no longer drove, I would either take him to McDonald’s or more often deliver coffee and cookies to him. Especially in the last several months, he found the coffee and cookie delivery to be one of the highlights of his day. Annie remembers as a young child the times her Poppa picked her up from school. He would reach down and grab a cookie and say, “Want a cookie?” Then when they were almost home, he’d reach down, grab another cookie and say, “How about one more for good measure.” We considered him the real cookie monster.

Dad liked to whistle, reflecting the happy person he was. If he was ever down, I don’t think I knew it. He was probably the most grateful person I’ve known. Even as his mind slowed and communication became somewhat limited, he still showed gratitude expressing appreciation for his house, his chair, a good bed, and a loving family. Just this last Saturday, Caroline heard him sitting in his chair saying “Praise God, the Lord has been good.” Like the words of the beautiful hymn Blessed Assurance, he truly praised his Savior all the day long.

It was an honor to be a “preacher’s kid.” I have great respect for ministers and the ministry because of my parents’ attitudes. Mother and Dad worked as a team. Dad could not have served his calling as he did without my Mother’s faithful participation. Together, they have loved and served people from many walks of life creating a real sense of family in the churches they pastored. During the so-called “hippy days” of the late 60s and early 70s, hippies started coming to our church in Wichita. I watched my parents bridge a gap in our church congregation between this loveable group of young people and the establishment members of the congregation by loving them all the same. These two generations learned to love each other in a way I’ll never forget.

Caroline was with Dad shortly after Christmas, and he was looking out the window not talking much. His conversation had become mostly short statements. After just sitting for a while, he made the comment “How does God love us so much when we can be so unlovable?” Though he didn’t communicate like he used to, he remained perceptive. I was reading the day’s Proverb to him recently, and at the end, he said “That’s good heart knowledge.” On his 89th birthday, when Caroline asked him what 89 year old wisdom he had for us, he recited Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” When Annie asked him what piece of advice he had or if he could tell anything to anyone, what would he say, he said “Keep loving Jesus.” On Saturday before his passing early Sunday morning, he said a prayer with us. Though conversation lessened, he never seemed to want for words when he prayed.

I wish I could record the many kind and gracious words that have been said about Dad. My family and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Caroline remarked that there was a consistency running through the comments. That is a reflection of the consistency of Dad’s life. One friend said Dad was one of about 6 people he knew who was of the highest integrity. Two different friends have told us that at times, they would ask themselves, “What would Calvin do.” .Another dear friend said he just couldn’t grieve for Dad. Though we mourn his physical absence, our sadness is overshadowed by a God-given joy We have a hope that lies beyond the grave believing the words in 1 Corinthians 15, “Death is swallowed up in victory…O death where is your sting, O grave where is your victory.”

Hebrews 12:1 talks about how we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. I feel like Dad has now joined that great group. Dad’s brothers Leland and Douglas preceded him in death, and now the “Springer Boys” are together again. If God needs anyone to build, dig, or paint anything in heaven, the Springer Boys are on it. This line up of 3 hardy boys was blessed with one sister, Aunt Dottie, who brought a sweetness and gentleness to her family of brothers. From the stories I’ve heard, I’m grateful Aunt Dottie survived all their childhoods.

Annie and Caroline called my Mother Ganny or Gan. Over the last two or three years, Dad often said, “When I go to see Gan.” We could see Dad’s mind and body weakening over the last weeks. He was ready. I stayed at his house Saturday night in case he tried to get up during the night. He decided to go to bed around 7, which was early for him. He seemed restless, sometimes calling to me in the living room. One time in the late-night hours he called to me, and I hurried in to see what he needed, and he said, “Now you relax.” I had to smile. He’d set up on the side of the bed a couple of times and I would help him back under the covers. The third time he did this, I went to help him, and as I covered him up, he simply looked up, and his arms so gently and intentionally crossed over his chest, he took some short breaths, and went Home. I called to him, but God was calling him, too. 

It’s hard to sum up a life so well lived, but Dad lived a life of humble obedience to God’s will and purpose for him. You’ve probably heard him say “it’s been a good journey.” It really has been, and the best is yet to come. Acts 20:24 speaks so well of his life and ministry – But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Thank you for your presence today. My family and I can never adequately express our gratitude to you. We treasure your love and kind words.

And finally, Dad and I had a saying when I was a little girl in Wichita. He would say “We are still,” and then I would say “buddies.” We are still and will always be buddies.