Snow: Ode to an icon with a sense of humor

April 27, 2013 

Sometimes, God, in his wisdom creates a W.W. Finlator. And the world is better for it.

One of the greatest gifts to come my way was my friendship with him and his remarkable wife, Mary Lib.

The minister’s life was celebrated recently by a lecture series at Pullen Baptist Church in Raleigh, where he served for 26 years. But his evangelism was not limited to his church or even the community. He was to North Carolina liberals what the Pope is to Catholicism.

I was not a member of his flock, but in our personal association, I was a devotee of his remarkable and steadfast sense of humor. I cite a few examples.

The Finlators once accompanied my wife and me on a trip to Canada.

Just before joining the tour group, Bill said, “Now, A.C., there’s no necessity to inform the others that I’m a preacher. Because if you do, we’ll miss out on a lot of good jokes.”

He was the darling of the tour group. Once when we stopped to visit some scenic sight, Bill and Mary Lib were late getting back to the bus.

As he climbed aboard and came down the aisle to his seat, instead of apologizing profusely, he smiled sweetly at everybody and said, “You folks sure missed a good movie.” Everybody laughed. Only he could have pulled that off.

Times were tough for the couple during an early pastorate in Elizabeth City, where they endured blistering hot summers in an un-air-conditioned house.

One sweltering day, Bill left his air-cooled study at the church to go home for lunch and found Mary Lib drenched from the summer heat. A born romantic, he greeted his wife cheerfully with the first line of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

Mary Lib, done in by the heat, replied with a sigh, “Really, Honey, I’d rather you wouldn’t.”

As we all acknowledge, no marriage is perfect. But from my observations, theirs came as close as any.

I remember only one criticism of him from Mary Lib.

Both voracious readers, the Finlators enjoyed reading in bed. But when he became sleepy, he’d turn off his bedside light and say to her, “My friend, Flicka,” meaning, “Flick off the light.”

Only a few days before his death, he summoned my wife and me to his bedside, where he greeted us cheerfully.

During our conversation, I told him that at least three of my relatives had visited Israel and had been re-baptized in the River Jordan. Each brought a vial of water from the river for A.C.

“Bill,” I said. “What in the world am I to do with that Jordan water?”

“Well, my friend,” he replied, “The first thing you do is put a pot of water on the stove. Bring it to a boil and pour those vials of River Jordan water in and boil hell out of it.”

Thanks for the memories, Bill. We miss you terribly.

Fat wallet

Thanks, guys, for your suggestions on how to deal with my fat wallet. Joe White of Rocky Mount recommends a tote bag.

“Now all my ‘stuff’ can ride along happily with me, available at any time and convenient, whether the next stop is at the Y, the post office or the bank,” he writes.

“ I just wish my sense of masculinity (whatever that may be) hadn’t got in the way and kept me from doing this five years ago.”

Cruel April

A couple of fans have suggested that when poet T.S. Eliot wrote, “April is the cruelest month of all,” he had the Internal Revenue Service in mind.

Not so. From T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” the work is so intense and complex that I have no real idea of what its thesis is.

To me, this April, after a long, cold winter, has been so breathtakingly beautiful, it seems that letting it go amounts to downright cruelty.

That’s especially true in Raleigh, one of the prettiest places on Earth during April. To me, April is Nature’s “Hallelujah Chorus.”

It brings to mind Edna St. Vincent Milay’s lines:

O world I cannot hold thee close enough! …

Lord I do fear

Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or

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